Journalist Mike Willesee dies aged 76

Australian television journalist, interviewer and presenter Michael Willesee has died aged 76.

Willesee hosted ABC’s Four Corners from 1969 to 1971, before joining Nine’s A Current Affair when it launched in 1971.

Throughout his television career, which spanned 50 years, Willesee also worked at Seven where he presented a current affairs program, Willesee at Seven.

After the program was axed in 1982 he began to produce documentaries for the network.

Willesee was inducted into the TV Week Logies Hall of Fame in 2002.

Nine has been approached for comment.

“The word legend is somewhat too readily conferred in modern times, but it describes Mike to a tee,” Nine CEO Hugh Marks wrote in a note to staff. “He all but invented current affairs television in Australia at the ABC in the 1960s. Then later at Seven and Nine he moulded the medium into an art form of which for decades he remained the prime and most skilful exponent.

“His particular skills as an interviewer are unarguably the stuff of legend. Most famously the ‘Willesee pause‘ where Mike deliberately allowed many seconds of silence to pass before his next question. He knew the power of silence, or a slight quizzical tilt of the head, would usually cause a hapless interviewee to fall into the mistake of speaking to fill the dead air. This ‘gotcha’ technique came to represent Michael Willesee at his brilliant best.

“When others spoke too much, he said only what was necessary – the short, sharp question which everyone was thinking, but no-one dared ask. He had a mind as sharp as a steel trap and a sense of humour as cheeky as his smile.

“But across the craft he always shone like a beacon.

“So many aspiring – and practising – journalists have learned so much from Mike. And everyone who practises journalism in Australia is in his debt.

“Mike was a modest and humble man. A big friendly bear of a man who worked hard, and back in the day, played even harder. But he was always a gentle man. Generous and caring of others, his presence would always light up the room.

“Michael Willesee will be sadly missed but fondly remembered by all of us at Nine and across the media generally. Especially those who were fortunate enough to come into his orbit and to regard him as a friend.”


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