Webster Awards

Neetu Garcha is pictured in a publicity still provided by Global B.C. in Metro Vancouver. The popular broadcaster hails originally from Penticton.

One of B.C.’s brightest lights in broadcast journalism is Neetu Garcha. She’s a credit to our industry.

Unless you’re new to Penticton, you’ve probably known this for years.

The Penticton-born broadcaster has made a name for herself in Metro Vancouver with Global B.C.

She was most recently on Global B.C.’s morning show, but has since been taking on other anchoring and reporting roles at the station.

Along the way she’s made stops with Global Okanagan and then Global B.C. in Victoria. Her first full-time gig after university was in radio at 980 CKNW in Vancouver.

Many long-time Pentictonites remember her humble beginnings when she volunteered for the old Giant FM.

“I was Miss Penticton at the time and a community ambassador. It was (announcer) Dennis Walker who encouraged me to take along a tape recorder to parades and special events. I’d walk up to mayors and city councilors and interview them,” she said in a phone interview from Vancouver.

A Pen-Hi student at the time, she was still uncertain as to her career ambitions. She flirted with aviation, teaching and nursing. Everything always led back to journalism.

Her Global B.C. colleagues are a mixed bag, some are from metropolises, others grew up in small towns and cities.

Garcha said there were benefits coming from a smaller city.

“It gives you a better understanding of how communities of various sizes operate,” she said. “We cover conflict and the most devastating times in people’s lives — wildfires, floods, natural disasters. What I’ve learned is how smaller communities, which don’t have the resources that Metro Vancouver has, all rely on one another during hard times. They look out for one another.”

The biggest learning curve in moving from the valley to Metro Vancouver was paid parking and traffic.

The pandemic hasn’t been a significant challenge because most of her time is spent in the studio where on-air personalities are safely spaced out. Every safety precaution is taken, then doubled. It’s harder for working journalists out on assignment, she said.

Of her years in journalism, her proudest moment was covering the Syrian refugee crisis from the front lines in Greece in January 2016. She travelled there on her own time and when she returned to B.C., she pitched a successful four-part series to her producers.

“Journalistically, it was an experience that was second to none. It changed my perspective on so many things, issues that we cover in a multilingual, multicultural Canada.”

She includes Walker and former Penticton Vees broadcaster Ryan Pinder on a long list of mentors who helped her along the way.

As for big-name broadcasters who she admires, she loved Oprah Winfrey when she was a little girl and more recently Belle Puri from the rival CBC — “a trailblazer who helped swing open the door for women of colour.”

Like those of us in print, Garcha believes in holding the powerful accountable.

She also tells others to treat news sources the same way you check labels in a supermarket.

“Be your own journalist, double check sources and make sure you read the story. Don’t share something on social media if you’ve only read the headline. Make it a rule that before you share something, read the full article.”

And, while I had her on the phone, I couldn’t resist asking something many of us in our newsroom have wondered.

Is much-loved meteorologist Mark Madryga as cool as he seems on TV?

“Oh my gosh, he’s even cooler. He’s truly the optimistic ball of energy that you see on camera, a great person to work with on and off camera.”

James Miller is managing editor and director of content for The Penticton Herald. Email: james.miller@ok.bc.ca