Legendary reporter Mike Willesee dead

 

VETERAN journalist Mike Willesee has died age 76.

The former A Current Affair host had been diagnosed with throat cancer in 2016 and struggled with the loss of his voice.

One of Australia's most respected journalists, Willesee began his career on the ABC's

This Day Tonight and then joined Four Corners.

From there he became the host of A Current Affair and was credited with discovering Paul Hogan on the Channel 9 show.

Willesee was a prominent figure in Australian broadcast news from the late 1960s, as a journalist and then a presenter of several top-rating shows.

He fronted a number of memorable current affairs programs, including Willesee At Seven and Willesee.

Mike Willesee
Mike Willesee

One of the journalist's most iconic interviews was with John Hewson, the Liberal Leader vying to be prime minister, in the lead-up to the 1993 election.

Ten days out from the poll, Willesee peppered the politician with questions about his proposed Goods and Services Tax - including a simple one about the cost of a birthday cake.

The birthday cake questions, or rather Hewson's embarrassing inability to clearly answer them, were credited with costing the Liberals the election - which had been dubbed unlosable.

He notoriously conducted a live phone interview on air in 1993 with two children who were being held hostage by their father. The decision sparked significant public backlash.

Newsreader Brian Henderson and TV journalist Mike Willesee at Channel 9 studios in 1987 Pic Geoff Henderson.
Newsreader Brian Henderson and TV journalist Mike Willesee at Channel 9 studios in 1987 Pic Geoff Henderson.

He regularly filled in for Jana Wendt on A Current Affair during the show's golden era. On one night in particular, he spared controversy by appearing to host the show while intoxicated but later insisted he was on heavy medication.

Willesee was inducted into the TV WEEK Logies Hall of Fame in 2002 and despite stepping back from the limelight, continued to make the odd small screen appearance.

He was an occasional interviewer for Channel 7's Sunday Night program from 2012, sitting down with prominent figures from billionaire James Packer to then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Two years ago, he revealed he was battling advanced throat cancer in an interview with ABC's Australian Story.

 

Mike Willesee
Mike Willesee

"I was getting sick and I had a lot of pain in one side of my jaw. It was cancer. The prognosis wasn't very good. Six to 12 months," he said.

Willesee married wife Carol Brent in 1976, with the couple welcoming their first daughter Amy that same year. The couple went on to have two more children, Lucy and Jo.

He was battling advanced throat cancer in an interview with ABC's Australian Story.



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