Utley attended Carleton College before enrolling at the Army Language School and eventually earning a Fulbright, which he used to study East-West relations in Berlin. He traveled the globe ever since, starting his journalism career as an NBC office assistant in Brussels before stepping in front of the camera. He opened NBC's Vietnam bureau at the dawn of the Vietnam War.
Utley, who spoke several languages, left the Vietnam news desk a few years later to cover other regions, reporting everywhere from Berlin to Berlin to London. Still, he returned to Vietnam to report on any major events in the conflict. In his time at NBC, he also moderated Meet the Press and served as the weekend anchor for NBC Nightly News. In 1996 he moved to ABC but left soon after to become a contributor at CNN, where he co-anchored the network's 9/11 coverage.
In 2005, the "quintessential foreign correspondent" retired from news to become an adjunct professor at SUNY Oswego. He had already been named president of SUNY's Neil D. Levin Graduate Institute of International Relations and Commerce the previous year. But if former coworker Al Roker is to be believed, Utley still didn't accomplish all his goals: the legendary newsman, said the meteorologist, had once dreamed of being a country singer.