NEW YORK – Garrick Utley, a former anchor for NBC News who for many years was one of a rare breed in television news reporting, a full-time foreign correspondent, died Thursday night at his home in Manhattan. He was 74.
He died of prostate cancer, his wife, Gertje Utley, said.
From the battlefields of Vietnam and Iraq to the Soviet invasion of Prague, Utley was a forthright interviewer of troops and commanders in the field and of presidents and diplomats in the halls of power.
Fluent in Russian, German and French, he reported from some 75 countries in a multifaceted career that included 30 years at NBC. He was a bureau chief in London and Paris for the network, chief foreign correspondent, weekend news anchor and substitute for John Chancellor and Tom Brokaw on “NBC Nightly News.” He also hosted magazine programs and moderated the Sunday morning program “Meet the Press.” He later worked for ABC News and CNN.
Utley began his career auspiciously, rising from office clerk to Vietnam War correspondent in one year. In 1964 he became one of the first network reporters based in Saigon, joining newspaper and wire-service correspondents. Like some of his colleagues, he strived for meaningful reporting, offering longer perspectives on political issues and battlefield developments and bringing a little-known war home vividly to Americans.
In 1968, Utley covered the invasion of Czechoslovakia as Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces crushed the so-called Prague Spring political reforms. He covered the 1973 Yom Kippur war, interviewed the Nazi leader Albert Speer in 1976, reported on the Cold War from Berlin and Moscow and, in 1987, interviewed the dissident physicist Andrei D. Sakharov as he emerged from years of internal exile. He covered a summit of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Mikhail S. Gorbachev in 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall that same year and the Persian Gulf war in 1990.
Utley loved opera and for years was the host of the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on PBS.
Serious television reporting has largely been replaced by “interminable talking heads,” he told the New York Times in 2004, when he joined a State University of New York graduate program in international relations in Manhattan.
“Since television can now report live from anywhere in the world, television reporters sometimes become color commentators who narrate news events rather than carrying out in-depth news reporting.”
Utley was born in Chicago Nov. 19, 1939, to Clifton Utley, an NBC radio and television commentator, and Frayn Garrick Utley, a broadcast reporter for CBS and NBC and a Chicago civic leader.
After Army service and graduate studies at the Free University in Berlin, Utley joined NBC in Brussels in 1963 on the recommendation of Chancellor, a family friend who became his mentor.
Besides his wife, he is survived by two brothers, Jonathan and David.