From reporting on the 2017 BC wildfires and covering the BC Green and BC NDP election-night headquarters in 2017 and 2020, to travelling to Greece in 2016 to be on the front lines of Europe’s refugee crisis – Global BC’s Reporter/Anchor, Neetu Garcha, presents stories that not only reflect her passion for her work but also demand change and answers.
“Your hard work and dedication will speak for itself but it’s also important to set the bar high for yourself and only ever compare your journey with yourself,” says Global BC Reporter/Anchor, Neetu Garcha. From reporting every day for nearly three weeks straight on the 2017 BC wildfires where she witnessed firsthand the way communities come together in times of crisis, and covering the BC Green and BC NDP election-night headquarters in 2017 and 2020 respectively, to investigating into some Subway restaurants in the Lower Mainland that led to employees receiving compensation they were owed by their employer, travelling to Greece where she was on the front lines of Europe’s refugee crisis, and producing a series she filmed in Haiti at a school built by volunteers and its connection to an elementary school classroom in BC – her passion and curiosity is limitless – and it is beautifully reflected through her stories that demand change and answers. Neetu has covered everything from crime and politics to breaking news and international crises. “I’m drawn towards stories about social justice and equality, politics and local connections to international crises.
I appreciate any opportunity to hold a person in a position of power to account and push for answers,” says the Penticton-born. Given her vast experience at such a young age, it comes as a surprise that Neetu never really dreamed of becoming a journalist. “Near the end of my high school years, I had no idea where my path would take me. I considered pursuing a range of careers from becoming a pilot, a nurse and a teacher,” she reveals. But fate created a path for her. Around that time, she was exploring broadcasting and volunteered at an independently owned and operated country music radio station called Giant FM in Penticton. “My role was primarily to help with the afternoon radio show but my passion seemed to be in helping the news department,” recalls Neetu, who later came to realize that is where her passion for journalism was sparked. Additionally, her title as Miss Penticton back then also gave her a push towards the broadcasting field. “While at events as a local ambassador, I would regularly walk up to politicians, with my crown and sash on, and my radio recorder in hand and start asking them questions and pushing for accountability on a range of issues. I would send that tape back to the station where the reporters there would use it to file stories. I didn’t know at that point, I would go into journalism, but everything seemed to point in that direction, including my passion to conduct interviews whenever an opportunity presented itself.”
Neetu recently started her new role as anchor of the weekend Global News Hour at 6pm. She is thrilled to also be back to reporting during the rest of the work week and filing stories for the news hours on weekdays. “I feel thankful to be a part of such a well-respected and talented team of journalists and am excited for our new chapter under the leadership of our new News Director, Bhupinder Hundal, who is known for his ability and drive to foster cross-cultural connections and ensure representation exists throughout platforms and positions,” says the beautiful broadcaster, who has been in the Global News family since she graduated from BCIT’s Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She has worked previously for Global Vancouver Island and Global Okanagan.
In January 2016, Neetu travelled to the island of Lesvos in Greece. She witnessed families and individuals of all ages fleeing primarily Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, and arriving to the shores of Greece on inflatable rafts in those cold, dangerous elements, fleeing extreme poverty, political persecution and deadly violence, for a better life. “My four-part series for Global News included a first-hand look at the migrant crisis with insight from Canadian volunteers on-the-ground in Lesvos, the stories of some of the refugees I spoke to and the so-called ‘life jacket graveyard’ in contrast with a real graveyard with the bodies of those who didn’t survive the crossing. Journalistically the experience was second-to-none,” she describes.
Looking back at her time in Haiti, Neetu says she first travelled to Haiti to volunteer with the Hamilton, Ontario-based organization called Live Different in 2012. “I have vivid memories of the earthquake-ravaged capital of Port au Prince and the unimaginable amounts of heartbreak, destruction and injustice. With a group of volunteers, led by members of the communities we were welcomed to in northern Haiti.” Using locally-sourced materials, resources and construction methods they learned how to build a school, working with some of the parents of children who attend. “That trip changed my life and my outlook on life. I reflected a lot on the importance of ensuring any efforts to help those less fortunate needs to be well-thought and ensure effective long-term sustainable change; seeing how many well-intentions people and groups can easily cause more harm than good. I remember reflecting a lot on how we are all truly a global community and how much we can learn from each other and how the ability to change our perspective and be open to learning from those with a different world view and life experience can be a superpower,” she discloses.
She returned to Haiti with Live Different in 2015, this time as a reporter and anchor at Global Okanagan News, based in Kelowna. “I packed my own camera gear with me for my trip, filmed interviews and footage while there, and came back to pitch a series which was focused on the efforts of Canadian volunteers, their experiences, some of the students at the school and how critically important education is to ending the cycle of poverty,” mentions Neetu, who went again in 2017 to see that the school had grown significantly and work was well underway for a centre for trafficked children. She hopes to return again to Haiti, through Live Different, when it’s safe to travel again after the pandemic is over.
The young journalist believes that one of the most challenging parts of the job is access. “We always have questions for specific people in particular positions of power, the decision makers who can really answer to certain problems the public deserves accountability in relation to, but we are often unable to direct those questions to those individuals. During the COVID-19 crisis this access has been further limited because of the need to keep our colleagues and communities safe, less reporters are physically present at news conferences, many briefings are virtual and each reporter who manages to get through to ask a question by phone is usually given one question and a follow up,” she explains. On the other hand, she claims that one of the most satisfying parts of the job is when our journalism effects change. “Whether it is money being raised for a grieving family in need of support or a charity championing an important cause as well as legislative changes to for example preventing and investigating money laundering in Canada and employees who were denied fair pay receiving the compensation they’re owed.”
Last year, despite the challenges faced due to the COVID-19 crisis, Neetu states the pandemic taught her a lot about the importance of patience and being present. “Especially when the future is this uncertain, those tools are like a superpower. What I ‘hope’ the pandemic has highlighted is that we are all human, regardless of skin colour, ethnicity, class, religion, cultural background or identity, we are part of the same human race and a global community.”
The Global News reporter recently did an interesting piece on navigating name diversity and announced on-air her decision to say her name as per the authentic Punjabi pronunciation. Like many others, Neetu used the anglicized version since her childhood to fit it. But it created a lot of inner conflict within her until she decided it was time for her and people around to say her name the right way. The response to her decision has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. “It seems to have struck a chord with a number of people from a range of backgrounds and ethnicities. I’ve heard from educators all over the world who reached out to tell me they showed the video to their students and have been asking how their students want to be addressed,” she shares. Her colleagues and friends have been very encouraging and have taken the time to learn how to say her name correctly in their day-to-day personal interactions and on-air. “I have never felt more authentically myself in every facet of my life,” says Neetu, immensely proud of leading this change.
Her advice to anyone going through the same internal conflict is “own your name, identity, heritage and story. Everyone’s situation and comfort level is unique but if this is something you truly are grappling with like I was and want to do, take the leap! I have never felt more in line with who I am as a person. I hope the level of support for this change and the number of people who have put in the effort to learn how to say my name correctly, is encouraging.”
Talking about her heritage, Pentiction-raised Neetu was incredibly fortunate to grow up in a loving home and remain very close to her family. She is incredibly inspired by her parents who immigrated to Canada from India, leaving behind their families, friends, education and home, to build new ones and start a family. “The sacrifices they’ve made for my siblings and I and the opportunities this has provided us, inspires me to work hard like I always saw them doing throughout my life.” She is motivated by the support and guidance she received throughout her life from her late grandmother, who she calls Bibi. “She was the strongest, most selfless, giving, kind and warm person. Even when I was a child, I recall thinking to myself how I knew I was living out the best days of my life at that time because Bibi was in them. I know I have a very special angel watching over me now,” expresses Neetu.
Before concluding, Neetu shares her message to youth or those interested in following her path is: “Be unapologetic about your goals by being an undeniable fit for the newsroom/organization you want to work for and advocate for yourself and what you think is right. Mentors and role models are important but know your path is unique and own it. Lastly, know your “why”. What is at the core of why you want to go into this career path? What motivates and drives you? Always be led by your own “why” not someone else’s.”