Deborah Knight on being a ‘disappointing’ choice to front Today

New Today presenter Deborah Knight is concerned she is a disappointing choice to front Nine’s flagship breakfast show.

Not for viewers, for whom she has always been a popular fill-in on the weekday program, and a popular host of the weekend show. Not for her bosses, who speak of her only in glowing terms.

Today hosts Deb Knight and Georgie Gardner at Melbourne Park.Credit:Luis Ascui

But for the gossip reporters who treat raking over the minutiae of the hours between 6am and 9am on Nine as a blood sport, Knight's relatively normal family life with graphic designer husband of 20 years Lindsay Dunbar and three children Darcy, Elsa and Audrey is unlikely to fill their pages.

“The gossip pages were, perhaps, disappointed I got the role,” she said, ahead of the new line-up returning to air on Monday.

“I don’t have that interesting a life; I am a mum, I do the school run, I have young kids. My husband and I are pretty stable. We offer a pretty normal existence.”

Today will be hosted by Georgie Gardner and Deb Knight in 2019, with Tom Steinfort reading the news.

The same period saw Lisa Wilkinson’s dramatic exit from Today over a pay disparity dispute before she popped up on rival Network Ten, the return of Georgie Gardner to the co-host chair; and rumours of a rift between her and Stefanovic.

Steady through the turmoil was Knight, sitting beside Stefanovic in the wake of Wilkinson’s departure, leading the program over summer and weathering the scrutiny that came with it all.

She acknowledged those challenges and said it was important to remain focused through the turmoil.

“I just try to focus on the job at hand and try not to let the surrounding chatter impact me personally,” she said. “I just try and focus on doing the very best job I can do.”

The show’s new executive producer, Steve Burling, who took over from Mark Calvert in the midst of the turmoil before creating some of his own by running a broom through the on-air presenting line-up, is equally as perplexed by the level of scrutiny the show faces.

“Some sections of the media … it is extraordinary that there could be half a dozen negative comments and the Daily Mail or another news outlet turn that into a column,” he said.
“I don’t understand the obsession, clearly it provides clicks for these news outlets.”

Burling will be hoping the changes he makes to the program please those who spend their careers obsessing over the show, even though, he says, the changes are minor.

“It will be different, any students of Today will certainly notice some changes like fresh graphics and we have a fresh soft set with an open lounge setting,” he said. “There are small little things but at the end of the day they aren’t things that are critical to the direction of the program.”

Perhaps the biggest change, and the one Nine, the owner of this masthead, seems eager to play down as much as possible, is the fact that for the first time in the show’s history the two main presenters are female. Knight and Gardner will be co-hosts, with Tom Steinfort reading the news.

But the significance of having two female presenters, both over 40, is not lost on Knight.

“It’s a big thing to have two women presenting the show,” she said. “I think Australian TV, and Nine, is reflecting the state of the media in this country.

“There was a time, 20 years ago, women over a certain age were considered out to pasture and we still have a way to go, but Australian society and Australian media is reflecting the fact that we are a bit more sophisticated.”

Further boosting the show’s female contingent is new entertainment reporter and proud Indigenous woman Brooke Boney.

The team gathered together in Melbourne for the first time on Saturday with a day of camera rehearsals on Sunday before the show returns on Monday.

The Today show hosts at Melbourne park on Saturday.Credit:Luis Ascui

Today will broadcast from the Australian Open in Melbourne as part of Nine’s coverage of the tennis before returning to Sydney in two weeks.

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