Fiji Sun publisher and chief executive officer Peter Lomas passed away on Wednesday at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva after suffering from a short illness.
Fiji Media Association (FMA) general secretary Stanley Simpson said in a statement the association was saddened by Lomas’ death, described the late Lomas as a giant of journalism and media development in Fiji and region.
He said Lomas was one of the last surviving old school ‘newspaper man’ of the Pacific, someone who lived and breathed the news business and practically lived his life in the newsroom.
“He lived a very private life, more comfortable in the newsroom than out in public,” Simpson said.
“In 2001 Lomas shifted from mainstream media to take up full-time role as media development training coordinator for the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA).
“He used his connections and international networks including at UNESCO to help channel funding and training opportunities for the media in the Pacific.
“He leaves behind a legacy of modernising and improving content at a number of major newspapers in the Pacific – including the Samoa Observer, Solomon Star, Elijah Communications in the Cook Islands and his final home at the Fiji Sun,” he said in a statement.
Lomas had more than five decades of experience in Fiji’s media industry that took him to New Zealand, Australia and throughout the Pacific.
Younger brother and TV personality David Lomas said Peter was his mentor who introduced him to journalism.
“Older journos and all those with Pacific connections will know Peter for his years as editor of the regional current affairs magazine Island Business and later as publisher and editor of the Fiji Sun.”
He was also at times editor and/or publisher of the Honiara Star, the Cook Islands News and the Samoa Observer.
Peter was born in Dunedin and worked in New Zealand on the Evening Star in Dunedin, starting there while at school at Taieri High School.
He later worked at Wellington’s Dominion, Sunday News, Fiji Times, the first Fiji Sun and the Melbourne Herald.
David Lomas said Peter, along with his late wife Nina, was a key member of the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) that helped with the training of almost every journalist in the Pacific for many years.
“He was a proud Fiji citizen who firmly believed in and installed in young journalists the ABC of journalism – accuracy, balance and credibility.”
Samoa Observer Publisher Muliaga Jean Malifa and Editor-in-Chief Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa expressed sadness at his passing.
“Peter played a key role in training our reporters when he was with us, he was passionate about journalism as a profession and worked with our staff teaching them about the trade during his time here,” said Muliaga.
“Sincere condolences to his family on his passing this morning [Wednesday], his influence in terms of journalism training extended beyond our shores to other island nations as well,” he said.
As managing editor for the Fiji Sun, Peter Lomas gave voice to ordinary folk in the streets so shoe shine boys and the bean sellers at the bus station saw themselves in print for the first time.
Sports, especially rugby sevens and soccer, were what sold papers in the early 80s and Peter head hunted and trained some of Fiji’s best known sports journalists.
In 1987 military soldiers stormed and shut down the Fiji Sun office in Lami as the paper hedged too close to the truths behind the events that led to the coups.
Fiji Sun Editor Nemani Delaibatiki told Stuff NZ Peter Lomas and Nina spent time in the Cook Islands amalgamating Television, Radio Cook Islands and the Cook Islands Times and Herald.
They also helped the Solomon Star expand its services in newspaper and broadcasting sectors.
Nemani said after rejoining the Fiji Sun 15 years ago, Lomas continued his mission to create and secure access to training opportunities for journalists and other media workers.
Daughter Losalini Lomas said her dad continued to work even on his hospital bed checking emails and journalists working to deadline.
Those of us who had the privilege of learning and working alongside Peter Lomas at the Fiji Sun are forever indebted to this humble unassuming giant who inspired courage, taught us to seek the truth and be bold enough to publish it.
Peter Lomas was 74 years old and leaves behind two daughters, a son and two grandchildren.
He will be interned alongside his late wife Nina in Suva on Tuesday morning.