Newfoundland and Labrador broadcasting icon Geoff Stirling dead at 92

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Newfoundland and Labrador broadcasting icon Geoff Stirling was being remembered Sunday as a trailblazer who instilled confidence in the province’s residents with his larger-than-life personality over his half-century career.

Television station NTV said Sunday that Stirling, the man who founded the outlet, died over the weekend. He was 92.

Stirling, born in St. John’s, N.L. in 1921, is known for having founded multiple media outlets in Newfoundland and Labrador, including the Sunday Herald in 1946 and the province’s first provincial television station — CJON-TV — in 1955. It later became known as the NTV network.

He also started the first FM radio station in Newfoundland, now known as OZ-FM.

John Steele, president of Steele Communications in St. John’s, N.L., said Stirling was a man who “marched to the beat of his own drum.”

“He was a trailblazer. He was a guy who always thought outside the box,” said Steele of his former broadcasting competitor, adding that he first met Stirling as a child. “How many people have an influence for 50 years? He sustained it all that time. It’s quite remarkable.”

Stirling was eccentric, but he wore it on his sleeve, said Steele. He said Stirling practised mysticism and studied with gurus in India at one point.

“He wasn’t afraid to go out and explore the world and bring it back to (Newfoundland and Labrador),” said Steele, adding that Stirling was also the first to introduce 24-hour television in North America. “He was a guy that instilled confidence in Newfoundland and Labradorians.”

Steele said Stirling once wrote a letter to John Lennon.

“He said, ‘You said to come together, well here I am.’ And he left his name and number. John Lennon got in touch with him,” he said, adding that Stirling ended up conducting a series of interviews with the former Beatle.

“Everybody’s got a Geoff Stirling story.”

Steele said many residents of Stirling’s home province feel a special connection to him.

“If you’re not from here, you probably don’t totally understand that. But in Newfoundland and Labrador, he was larger than life.”

As news of Stirling’s death became known Sunday, people took to Twitter to voice their condolences and praise for his contributions to Newfoundland and Labrador.

“RIP Geoff Stirling. A true Newfoundland media icon and pioneer,” tweeted a person who posted under the name Steven Davis.

“The loss of a great NLer,” tweeted a person who posted under the name Terry McDonald. “A media visionary, and seeker of truth, unafraid of the slings and arrows. RIP Geoff Stirling.”

Outside of Newfoundland, Stirling was involved in broadcasting enterprises in Quebec, Ontario and the United States. A radio station he founded in Montreal eventually became CHOM-FM and remains a popular classic rock station in the city.

Stirling is a member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador.