Robert Pear, a health reporter who spent four decades as a correspondent for the New York Times, died on Tuesday following complications from a stroke, the paper revealed in a memo to staff Wednesday. He was 69.
“We are heartbroken to tell you that Robert Pear, one of the all-time great New York Times journalists and the dominant figure in Washington health care reporting, died peacefully at Montgomery Hospice in Maryland shortly after 9 p.m. last night. Robert suffered a stroke last week,” executive editor Dean Baquet and Washington bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller said in the memo obtained by TheWrap.
“It is hard to overstate the impact that Robert had on The Times. The phrase ‘We have HEALTH by Pear’ was uttered hundreds of times in front-page meetings, to the relief of a generation of executive editors,” they continued. “It meant you had an exclusive to lead the paper, a rock-solid story that would send the competition scrambling. Robert owned the A-head, to use a phrase from the past.”
Baquet and Bumiller also announced that the paper would retire the health slug from the Times’ URL in his honor “because it can only be by Pear.”
In an obituary published Wednesday, colleague Sam Roberts called Pear an “almost sphinxlike” presence in the Times’ Washington bureau.
“His reporting — exacting, authoritative and closely read, particularly in Washington — spoke volumes,” Roberts said. “Allan Dodds Frank, an Emmy Award-winning business journalist, described him in an email as ‘the most important reporter in Washington you have never heard of.'”
The Times reported that Pear’s byline had appeared more than 6,700 times in the paper, with his last piece published on April 20.
Born in Washington in 1949, Pear became gripped by President John F. Kennedy’s assassination when he was 14, according to the Times. He recorded every moment of television that weekend on a reel-to-reel tape recorder and collected an archive of newspaper coverage from across the country. He went on to become fascinated with policy, politics and the personalities that drove them, and later embraced journalism as a way to turn natural nosiness into a career.
Pear is survived by his younger brother, Douglas.