Statement from Hugh Marks CEO of Nine:
His death has robbed us all of a trailblazing pioneer of journalism, the likes of whom we’ll likely never see again.
Our deepest condolences go to the whole Willesee clan at this time, including Allison Langdon and her husband, Mike Willesee Jnr.
The word legend is somewhat too readily conferred in modern times, but it describes Mike to a tee. 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.
Friday, March 1, 2019