Friday, February 21, 2014


My friend Garrick Utley died this week.  He was 74.  The cause was prostate cancer.

Garrick was the very model of a television journalist.

First, his curiosity knew no bounds.  He was as passionate about music and art as about politics and economics.

He was always well prepared.  His formal education at Westtown School and Carleton College supplemented what he must have absorbed at home as the child of two respected journalists, Clifton and Frayn Garrick Utley.  He was fluent in Russian, German and French, eloquent and elegant in English.  He never stopped learning, never stopped reading, never stopped hearing, and most important to his colleagues and his students, he never stopped teaching and never stopped sharing.

Even though he was often appalled at the changes in contemporary journalism, particularly the substitution of talking heads, interminably blabbing far from the scene for working reporters at the scene, he never lost hope for news.  He taught his trade proudly and humbly to students he encouraged to ignore all invitations to despair, but to get involved and to do their reporting the right way.   

At 6 foot six, Garrick stood, literally, head and shoulders above the crowd, but his manner, like his formidable intellect, was inviting not imposing.  In his classic trench coat or blue blazer, he looked like a model foreign correspondent, but he reported like an all-terrain-vehicle.  If that meant mud on the coat or scuffs to the blazer, so be it.  He had faith in good editors and good cleaners.  He made sure you knew how much he loved his wife Gertje.

He covered more big stories in more storied places than almost anyone of his generation, but like all the best newsies, he cherished the next one, not the last, biggest or best ones.

He made time for colleagues and students, even when he knew his time was running out.

The NY Times supplied an excellent, far more complete obituary.

During his days in London for ABC News, he always kept his office door open to transient visitors.  His invitations to guest teach by Skype to his classes at SUNY Oswego were a delight.  His questions were always intelligent and focused. 

He listened superbly.

He was a great man and a good one. 

Gosh, I miss him.


  1. Very sad news. He was a joy to work with.

  2. Your remembrance and tribute speaks masterfully of a life well lived and a man well loved.

  3. He was not the only one appalled by babbling talking heads.