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B.C. radio legend George Garrett dead at 89


Legendary Vancouver journalist George Garrett has died. He was 89 years old.

A fixture on local airwaves during five different decades, he retired in 1999 after a more than 40 year career with CKNW, during which time he was known for breaking big stories before anyone else, often going undercover to get a scoop.

He posed as a tow truck operator in 1978 to expose a scam. That story and his coverage of the B.C. Penitentiary riots earlier in the decade earned him acclaim, as did his work covering the case of child serial killer Clifford Olson in the 1980s.

Various profiles of Garrett over the years have highlighted his deep connections with sources – particularly police – as well as his kindness and empathy.

In 1992, he was beaten by rioters while covering that year's Los Angeles riots. He was taken to hospital by bystanders, then returned to his hotel to file a story while still bleeding from the mouth.

Garrett won numerous honours for his work, including lifetime achievement awards from the Jack Webster Foundation, the BC Association of Broadcasters and the Radio Television Digital News Association.

"Nobody broke more stories in B.C. than George Garrett," said Ethan Faber, News Director for CTV News Vancouver, who called Garrett "a giant" of journalism in the province.

"The thing I respect most about George is he was tough but also incredibly kind – what a smile," Faber continued. "He proved that those two traits don’t have to be mutually exclusive – in journalism or anywhere else."

Garrett's son Ken also went into broadcasting, before dying tragically in a canoeing accident in 1987. In Ken's memory, George supported generations of future journalists by establishing a scholarship for broadcasting students at BCIT, Ken's alma mater.

CTV News Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim was one of the beneficiaries of that scholarship, and says she "quite literally" owes her career to George Garrett.

"George was a giant in our industry, but never acted like one," Karim said.

"He inspired generations of broadcasters with his scrappiness and humility and took the time to connect with young reporters, even though he had been retired for decades when I started at CKNW. It was equally thrilling and terrifying to get an email from him out of the blue, sharing his thoughts about a story you’d done."

CTV News anchor Nafeesa Karim and legendary journalist George Garrett at the Webster Awards in 2022.

In retirement, Garrett also helped run the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society, providing rides to patients throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

In 2022, he was diagnosed with cancer himself, and shared the experience with then-CityNews reporter Martin MacMahon, who now works for CTV News Vancouver. 

"George Garrett set the standard for broadcast journalism in Vancouver," said MacMahon. "The fact he’s still talked about decades after his retirement illustrates just how influential he’s been."

"Beyond his journalism, George’s work co-founding the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society has helped ease the burden for so many individuals and families during their most difficult moments."

At the time of his diagnosis, Garrett asked well-wishers to show their support by donating to or volunteering for the Cancer Drivers Society

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim Top Stories

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