SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Peter Lord was the essence of what every journalist should be – fair and honest and an inspiration to his readers, coworkers and students. The award-winning journalist died Wednesday after a battle with brain cancer at the Village House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, in Newport. He was 60 years old.
Lord, of Matunuck, started at The Providence Journal in 1979. Three years later he was assigned to cover the environment – an assignment that he developed a national reputation for – writing ground breaking stories on everything from the conservation on Block Island to the Shetlands oil spill to the health impacts of lead paint.
A compelling story-teller, Lord had the ability to break down complex issues for readers. His elegant writing enabled a reader to understand the threat to Rhode Island’s coast by the North Cape oil spill and the danger of global warming.
While he was a master at the environment beat, he was also versatile. During his 30 year career at The Providence Journal, Lord served as chief of the West Bay bureau and on the Providence night staff. In November 2010, he was assigned to cover the U.S. House elections. Although the political beat was not one he preferred, Lord continued to provide exemplary reporting.
Lord had a presence in the newsroom of The Providence Journal that will be missed. People were instantly drawn to Lord, a quiet man with a dry sense of humor. As news spread of their colleague’s death, the journalists of the state’s daily newspaper gathered in the newsroom Thursday evening at 75 Fountain St., Providence to remember their friend.
Columnist Bob Kerr says though the staff knew Lord was ill, his death still hit the heart of the newsroom.
“It’s an incredible loss,” says Kerr.“He gave the Providence Journal so much credit. He had a presence in the newsroom that you appreciate.”
Investigative reporter Jim Hummel, of the Hummel Report, remembers he first met Lord as an intern 31 years ago for The Providence Journal.
“Pete was the guy you knew was going to get the job done without a lot of theatrics,” Hummel says. “He was such a talented guy. You just don’t have people like that anymore.”
Martha Smith, retired Providence Journal columnist and feature writer, remembers working with Lord at the West Bay bureau.
“Pete was the epitome of the old-school journalist,” she says. “He was meticulous and unflappable; every story was complete and reader-friendly. Pete was also a good and loyal friend who had a big heart and a warm sense of humor. I’ll always remember his silly giggle when he heard a good joke.”
Lord had a passion for his job that he passed onto future journalists. After he graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1973 he taught journalism classes there. Later, for 12 years, he taught various courses at the URI, where he earned a master’s degree in marine affairs. His course feature writing quickly became one of the most popular journalism classes.
“Every journalism department in the country should have a Peter Lord,” says Prof. Linda Lotridge Levin, former chairwoman of the URI journalism department.
“He brought to the classroom highly regarded practical experience in the field of journalism. The students loved him,” Levin says.
As an educator for many on environmental issues, Lord was well respected among the different agencies he communicated with.
Just two weeks ago, the Rhode Island Natural History Survey recognized Lord and his work with its 2012 Distinguished Naturalist Award.
Lord also served as board member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and director of Institute for Marine and Environmental Journalism at the University of Rhode Island.
“As a long-time Rhode Islander involved in conservation issues first with Save the Bay and now leading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency New England efforts, Peter was always admired,” states Curt Spalding Regional Administrator. “His stories educated all of us on important work and topics. He was always fair minded in approaching complicated issues, and he always posed the right questions to get to the core of the story he was writing.”
Later this month, the New England EPA will honor Lord with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lord leaves behind a wife and three children.
An environmental journalism scholarship at URI has been established in Lord’s name. A public memorial service for Lord will be held Sunday, April 15, at 2 p.m., at URI’s Edwards Auditorium.