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Exclusive: Deborah Knight finds the best of both worlds at Nine

NewsKevin Perry
  Deborah Knight with Inside Story host Leila McKinnon.  image - supplied/Nine

Deborah Knight with Inside Story host Leila McKinnon.
image - supplied/Nine

Deborah Knight is getting the best of both worlds at the moment as she hosts live breakfast television while also travelling the world to pursue her love of journalism and a good story.

After parting ways with Ten in late 2011, Knight was quickly recruited by Nine, initially just serving as a newsreader. However it wasn’t long before the popular host was presenting Financial Review Sunday and taking charge of Weekend Today after Leila McKinnon took maternity leave.

Knight was recently confirmed as the new permanent co-host of Weekend Today along-side Cameron Williams, while former host McKinnon will pursue a role in the Nine Newsroom.

“I really enjoy working with the Weekend Today team" Deborah told me when I spoke with her recently. "It’s a really fun show to work on” 

Tomorrow night on Nine’s Inside Story, Knight will present a special report on the 2013 Nairobi Shopping Mall siege. For three days it was world news: A bloody siege by Muslim extremists at an exclusive shopping mall in the heart of Kenya’s capital city. Hundreds of shoppers were forced to run for their lives including five Australians, yet less than two years later many have forgotten it ever occurred.

“I know when the anniversary of the attack happened last year I mentioned it to a few people who follow news events and they kind of had a vague memory of it, but it was wasn’t really top of mind. I suppose it’s a reflection of the fact there has been a lot of terrorist attacks that have occurred since then.”
  Security footage from the  Nairobi Shopping Mall siege.

Security footage from the Nairobi Shopping Mall siege.

The one-hour special features some incredible never before seen footage capture by the 100 security cameras located inside the Mall, the camera’s recorded every brutal moment of the siege from start to finish.

“A lot of it was a bit too graphic for broadcast, we had to be a bit selective in what we put to air. But, it was extraordinary.” 

Australian viewers have already sat through two TV specials this week focused on the Lindt café siege this week, sparking controversy that the participants were being exploited to tell their story, but Knight feels it can also be therapeutic for trauma victims to share their experiences. 

“I definitely think there is an element of that and also an element of being able to talk to other people who have been through that experience. When we were in Nairobi it was really great to see the gentleman who had done the rescuing to speak with the people he saved because they had the shared experience. No one else could fully understand what they had been through apart from themselves. I think it helped them to fully understand what they had been through and gave them a better comprehension by telling their story. I think they were focused more on the positive than on the negatives.”

Among the hundreds terrorised by the Somalia gunmen were five Australians. Tragically, one of those Australians, architect Ross Langdon, died in a hail of bullets, clutching his partner, Dutch-born Elif Yavuz, who also perished.

But the other Australians would survive ... and how they did it is truly remarkable.

Melbourne woman Sarah Williamson tells how her father helped save her and a group of five others, eventually leading them to safety after they hid for seven hours in a storeroom.

“He pretty much saved her life and the life of all the other people who were in the store with her because he has training on how to deal with terrorists attacks.”

Another couple, Nick Laurie and Heidi Edwards, tell of their escape to freedom after lying low in a stairwell to cheat certain death.

“They were both law students working in the aid sector, they are married now and they both think that their relationship and their connection has grown stronger through being through that experience together.”

We also hear from other expats, including mother-of-five Katherine Walton, saved by a perfect stranger as she hid under a table in the middle of the mall with her three daughters. 

“I feel really fortunate to be working on Inside Story because it is a great show and definitely doing some long form journalism. It’s so great to have that time to spend with people and to travel to where this attack happened. I am a journalist first and foremost so to be out there telling the story, meeting them, interviewing them and having the time to tell this story in a program rather than a short three or four minute news story was really, really wonderful. It’s a terrible story but we tried to focus on a lot of the positives as a result of it.”

Inside Story - Terror in the Mall

Thursday, February 12 at 8.30pm (after The Block) on Nine