Legendary newsman Garrick Utley, who worked as a foreign correspondent in his over 40 year long career in over 75 countries including Vietnam and the former Soviet Union, passed away Thursday night after a two year long bout with prostate cancer, according to his wife Gertje. He was 74 years old. He was also a former anchor at NBC Nightly News and a moderator for the Sunday news program Meet The Press between the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
A graduate of Carrleton College, Garrick studied in California at the Army Language School before moving to Berlin to study East-West relations. He got his first break in TV news in 1963 when NBC’s John Chancellor, who worked for Utley’s father Clifton, hired him as an office assistant. He became a correspondent for the Vietnam War the following year because, as his wife put it, “they didn’t have a journalist there.”
After 2 years in Saigon, he became the network’s bureau chief in Berlin. He covered a number of stories for the network including the Soviet invasion of Czechslovakia while in Berlin as well as return trips to Vietnam to cover big events of the war such as the Tet Offensive in 1968 and the eventual pullout of U.S. troops from Saigon in 1975. Beginning in the early 1970s, Utley anchored the weekend edition of NBC Nightly News in New York until 1973. He returned to correspondent work, first as NBC’s bureau chief and senior European correspondent and then as the network’s chief correspondent.
Utley represents an era in TV news that isn’t readily visible on today’s news landscape. The divide is visible in the latter half of his career after leaving NBC News in the early ‘90s. He moved on to ABC News for a brief period, working as the network’s chief foreign correspondent before going to CNN as an anchor and correspondent. While at the network, he became best known for anchoring its coverage of the 9/11 attacks.
CNN Editorial Director Richard T. Griffiths said of Garrick that he “was relentlessly curious, passionate about storytelling.” The man who replaced him in the anchor chair at NBC, Tom Brokaw, called Utley “the complete gentleman.” A term of the legendary newsman that some could argue is not as prevalent in television news at the time Garrick Utley passed away as it was when he began in the industry.
After leaving CNN in 2005, he moved on from the world of television to become a professor of journalism and broadcasting at SUNY Oswego. He also served as a board member for multiple philanthropic organizations including the Council on Foreign Relations and Public Radio International as well as his alma mater Carleton College.
Garrick Utley had no children during his 40 year marriage with his wife Gertje when he passed away in his 74th year of life. He was showered with countless honors in his long career, including the Edward R. Murrow Award and the Peabody Award. It is plausible that, during the peak of his career, he could have been a steady voice in cable news. But he chose to let his work speak for itself. That is the best thing to take out of his death as we move on in our lives.
Editorial by Brian Ault