Leigh Sales was unable to hide her emotions on Thursday night when she signed off as host of ABC's 7:30 for the final time.
"It has been an absolute privilege. Thank you for having me, goodnight," she told viewers as she held back tears, with the cameras catching her wiping her eyes as the credits rolled.
Leigh has been hosting the show since 2010 and revealed in February this year that she would be leaving the show after the federal election, saying she wanted to spend more time with her young sons.
Viewers shared their heartbreak on Twitter with one user writing, "Every night, Mon-Thu, my family’s turned the TV to ABC. Your work has inspired exclamations of surprise, shouts of frustration (at the politicians), and smiles, too. You’ve left us not only more informed but also wiser. Thank you, especially, for holding our overseers to account."
"Brilliant you, a tear came to my eye too," another said. "Thank you, Leigh, for 12 brilliant years and bringing so many stories that touched all the emotions and for holding power to account. Enjoy the next phase, I'm looking forward to it."
"Thank you Leigh Sales," a third added. "Absolutely brilliant journalism, delivered without fear or favour. Your interviews with famous people made us feel the warmth as if we were all old friends. We cannot adequately express our gratitude. Best wishes and hope we see you on screen soon."
"What a great example of what journalism should look like. Firm, respectful, very very well prepared and always professional yet authentic," yet another fan wrote.
When she announced her departure, she told viewers she wanted them to hear the news from her personally.
"There's nothing wrong, other than I just feel a strong sense of it being time to pass the baton to the next runner in the race and to take a break," she explained.
"At the end of an election cycle feels like a good time to move on to something new at the ABC. I hope it's been obvious that I've always approached this job with one goal – and that is to ask frank questions of people in power, without fear or favour, that a fair-minded, reasonable person with some common sense watching at home might like to ask if they were sitting in my position."
She continued: "I've tried to shut down and call out bulls**t, hold powerful people to account, expose lies, incompetence and exaggeration in all political parties and all issues and present facts even when they're unpopular or inconvenient."
"I have truly tried my absolute hardest on behalf of you at home to do that every single time I've sat at the desk. Anchoring 7.30 has been the most amazing job and I'll never stop being grateful for the opportunities it's given me."
In April, it was revealed ABC's award-winning investigative journalist Sarah Ferguson will be taking over from Leigh.
Leigh said she welcomed handing the reins to "a journalist of Sarah's rigour and experience".
"I look forward to finishing up and joining the viewers of Australia to see where she takes it next," she said.
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