R.I.P. Peter Lord
Peter Lord, one of New England’s top environmental journalists and the Providence Journal’s longtime environmental reporter, has died after a protracted battle with brain cancer. He was 60.
Lord, of South Kingstown, covered just about every major environmental story in Rhode Island for more than three decades and took his intellectual curiosity and lucid writing style to such far-flung topics as whales in Alaska, an oil spill off the Shetland Islands and global warming.
In a business replete with healthy egos and diva-like self regard, Lord was a humble man with a grand passion for his job and people. He was a great reporter and an even better person.He cared little for the awards that journalists love handing out to each other. For Lord, the story and the telling were all.
“Everybody who knew him liked him. He was passionate about his family and passionate about the environment,’’ said Jean Plunkett, a former ProJo editor who worked closely with Lord on two of his best series, a six-part 2001 investigative series about the public health implications of lead paint on children, and a 2005 series about the history of conservation on Block Island.
Lord served in many roles as a ProJo reporter, including chief of the former West Bay bureau and on the Providence night staff. But he made his reputation as an environmental reporter and as a fine mentor for young journalists. He also taught journalism at the University of Connecticut, his alma mater, and at the University of Rhode Island.
Lord always had time to help young reporters and was very generous with his time and knowledge.And he was active at the Metcalf Institute at URI.
Journalism, especially in Rhode Island, has become a business that too often values gotcha journalism, and those prize-mongering never ending so-called `investigative ‘stories. He didn’t care much about the `news’ that dominates Page One too often these days; the latest state lawmaker jammed up on DUI or who won Powerball.
What Lord cared and wrote about were the things that really should matter to our citizens and our media outlets. He cared about the water we drink, the air we breathe, the toxins that threaten our children, the sewage and oil we dump into our beloved Narragansett Bay, the magnificent species that inhabit our oceans and the open spaces that should be preserved for our children and grandchildren.
Lord was that rare reporter equally at home on big developed stories and breaking news. He did a masterful job on the North Cape oil spill that threatened Rhode Island’s coast.
In the autumn of 2010, before he became sick with the brain tumor that would eventually kill him, Lord was shifted from his environmental beat to coverage of politics, specifically the U.S. House elections. He wasn’t happy about it and thought it represented a twisted priority on the part of his editors. But he covered the election without complaint and did a creditable job. He was also instrumental in coverage of the famous Cranston Lland Deal mess in the 1980s during the administration of disgraced Gov. Edward D. DiPrete.
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said it best this afternoon when he said that Lord was a man of great integrity who reported his beat without fear or favor.
Lord had a wonderful dry sense of humor. He was a Red Sox and Boston Celtics fan and enjoyed boating. He was a reporter, even as he got on in years, who never mailed it in.
“He was a guy who worked hard and treated everybody well. He always wanted to do his best work,’’ said Plunkett. “He didn’t have a big ego…..I don’t know anyone who didn’t like him.’’
Lord was very proud of his close-knit family. He leaves his children, Katie, Jimmy and Ben, and his lovely wife of 36 years, Mary Ann Lord, a retired public school teacher.
The old chestnut that the cemeteries are filled with people who couldn’t be replaced does not apply in Lord’s case. In our cozy state Lord was truly one who makes a mockery of that cliché. He will be sorely missed by all of his friends and colleagues and, indeed, the people of a state that he informed so well for so long.