The Legend that was Warren Barker



Courtesy of MICKLEBLOG

August 29, 2021


March 3, 1967. In the cramped newsroom of CKNW, the clock ticked towards 12 o’clock and the radio station’s noon newscast. With a minute or two to go, the phone rang. A young Cameron Bell picked it up and a voice said: “This is GS. Tell Warren: ‘Bennett convicted.’” Bell passed on the cryptic message. Warren Barker, the station’s news director/news reader, shot into action. He leapt up on his chair and onto the desk. Reaching behind a stack of tape recorders, he grabbed a particular file and raced out of the room. CKNW’s familiar news intro went on at the stroke of noon, followed by a brief silence, as Barker settled into his seat. Whereupon, mere moments after the verdict came down, he told listeners: “WAC Bennett has been found guilty in high court of the slander of George P. Jones, former chair of the BC procurement commission.” As Bell looked on in astonishment, Barker proceeded with a note-perfect recap of the trial, reconstructed on the spot from his meticulous file.

A few years later, in the wee small hours of Nov. 9, 1971, a stripper was finishing her “bottomless” act at Vancouver’s Club Zanzibar. Under cover of the final drum roll, someone in a false wig and moustache went up to a patron and shot him through the head. The same bullet wounded two other patrons. When the lights went up, three bodies lay on the floor and the killer was gone. While most of the city slept, Warren Barker was already at work, preparing the coming day’s news coverage. He heard the police radio calling every available car to the Club Zanzibar.  Barker got on the phone to reporter Scott Dixon, sleeping peacefully at home. “Are you doing anything?” Barker barked. “Not really,” the groggy Dixon replied. “Would you mind heading downtown to the Club Zanzibar?” Dixon arrived in time to see the place crawling with cops and ambulances carting away the victims.  His on-the-spot report left all media outlets in town playing catch-up on what remains one of the city’s most sensational – and still unsolved — killings.

During those golden days of journalism, with its vast newsroom of crack reporters and editors, the Vancouver Sun was far and away the best paper in Western Canada. Yet “every hour on the hour” the Sun’s assignment editor dutifully switched on the paper’s tinny, transistor radio for the regular news report on CKNW. With only a handful of reporters, ‘NW covered the city so thoroughly that the resource-rich Vancouver Sun relied on its newscasts to help keep tabs of everything that was happening. Woe to the editor who forgot to tune in.

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  1. A real legend in the news radio business, always great listening to him. Those were the days when NW was top dog, compared to what it is today, a mere shadow of its former self.

  2. Absolutely the best radio news director there ever was. What ever I learnt about BC politics and current affairs I learnt by listening to Warren Barker and Jack Webster.


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