Whitcomb, Robert

views updated

Whitcomb, Robert




Home— Providence, RI. Office— Providence Journal, 75 Fountain St., Providence, RI 02902.


Providence Journal, Providence, RI, vice-president and commentary editor. Also worked as a reporter and feature writer for the Boston Herald Traveler, news editor for the Wall Street Journal, financial editor for the International Herald Tribune, managing editor for Brown University's World Business Advisory, editor of Health Care Horizon, and consulting editor for Manisses Communications. Co-host,Truman Taylor Show,1994—.


Twice awarded first prize, Associated Press, annual press awards for New England editorial writing.


(With Wendy Williams)Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for America's Energy Future on Nantucket Sound, PublicAffairs (New York, NY), 2007.

Also contributor to periodicals, including Newsweek, Washington Post, Weekly Standard, New York Times, and Cape Business Magazine.


Robert Whitcomb, editor of the Providence Journal, is a scion of an old New England family—his ancestors were among the first settlers of the Cape Cod towns of Barnstable and Falmouth—and he is intimately familiar with the tangled web of New England politics and society. In the book Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for America's Energy Future on Nantucket Sound, Whitcomb and his coauthor Wendy Williams look at an environmental struggle from an innovative angle: through the eyes of an energy developer, opposed by monied interests who want to keep the shorelines of the Cape pristine. "It's extremely fashionable to say you're a conservationist, say you're an environmentalist," he told Monica Trauzzi in an interview published on the Environment & Energy Publishing Web site, "but when push comes to shove, if it means any sort of cutting away of luxury or privilege, then the game changes and the rhetoric changes." "A lot of this book," he concluded, "is really about a sense of entitlement, where people think if they've got a big house, a big summer house on an expensive stretch of coast that they own everything to the horizon."

Cape Wind is set, stated New York Times contributor Robert Sullivan, on "Horseshoe Shoal, about five miles off the coast of Cape Cod, where, in 2001, an energy developer named Jim Gordon proposed what he still hopes will be America's first offshore wind farm, an array of 130 turbines, 440 feet tall, that would create 468 megawatts of electrical energy." "Offshore wind farming is not a particularly radical endeavor; … offshore wind farms have been successfully implemented in Europe," Sullivan continued. "In March [2007], Spain managed to get twenty-seven percent of its total energy supply from wind." The problem is some of the wealthiest and most famous individuals in the United States, including Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, historian David McCullough, mining executive Douglas Yearley, and Catherine Mellon and her mother Bunny Mellon, heirs to a banking fortune. "Why? One word: NIMBY," explained a reviewer for the PopMatters Web site. "Well, five words: Not In My Back Yard."

Not all wealthy individuals who live in the area oppose Cape Wind. "There is an incorruptible pro-Cape Wind state senator whom the Alliance lawyers and dirty tricksters cannot unseat. There is a Lehman Brothers investment banker named Theodore Roosevelt IV, who summers on the Vineyard and is gung-ho for Cape Wind. ‘My wife hates my position,’ he admits," stated Weekly Standard contributor Alex Beam. "P.J. O'Rourke's friend and neighbor, former New Hampshire congressman Charlie Bass, supported Cape Wind—on principle. ‘He's a man of conviction, he just does this stuff sometimes’ is how a lobbyist explains Bass's aberrant behavior. Jack Welch is a traitor to his Nantucket neighbors. He supports Cape Wind because General Electric makes the turbines." "One high-profile resident, former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, vocally opposed Cape Wind at first," the PopMatters Web site contributor continued, "but later changed his position when he realized how weak the arguments were against it. ‘The problem really is NIMBY-ism,’ he admitted. ‘It bothers me a great deal that I find myself in that position.’"

Critics praised the job the two journalists did with the Cape Wind story. "Williams and Whitcomb, both with good Cape Cod credentials, are open in their advocacy for Gordon's vision of a Nantucket Sound full of offshore windmills, noiselessly whirring," stated Gregory McNamee in the St. Petersburg Times. "The story the two writers deliver, laden with enough political intrigue to keep a John Grisham fan happy, is a real curiosity, for in it the true environmentalists wear business suits, while the in-name-only ones wear deck shoes and yacht caps." "As a satire of class conflict and the political system in general," declared a reviewer for the Bostonist, " Cape Wind is excellent. The authors find the juice in endless council meetings and lawsuits. Some of the real-life characters are reduced to cardboard cutouts to serve the author's purposes, but that doesn't mean the book isn't entertaining and informative. If anything, it should get you to learn more about the project and make up your own mind because the need for renewable energy is only going to grow." "In all," concluded Laura Vanderkam in the American Magazine, " Cape Wind is a fun read, and a fun way to learn about renewable energy. If all the stories on this usually dry topic featured tales of meat hook accidents and characters with comic names, more Americans might pay attention."



American Magazine, May 11, 2007, Laura Vanderkam, "On Nantucket Sound, Environmentalists Find an Alternative Use for Their Energy."

Boston Globe, July 5, 2007, Nan Goldberg, "An Entertaining Look at Power and Hypocrisy."

Bostonist, May 29, 2007, review of Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for America's Energy Future on Nantucket Sound.

E, September 1, 2007, Jim Motavalli, "Mighty Winds," p. 58.

Huntington News, May 29, 2007, David M. Kinchen, review of Cape Wind.

Library Journal, March 15, 2007, Eva Lautemann, review of Cape Wind, p. 91.

New York Times, May 28, 2007, William Grimes, review of Cape Wind; June 17, 2007, Robert Sullivan, "Air Power."

Publishers Weekly, March 12, 2007, review of Cape Wind, p. 47.

St. Petersburg Times(St. Petersburg, FL), June 10, 2007, Gregory McNamee, "Hypocrisy, Blowin' in the Wind: Clean, Green Wind Power Seems Like a Natural for Nantucket Sound, but a Surprising Array of Celebrity Opponents Has Deflected the Plan, Say the Authors of Cape Wind. "


Barnstable Patriot Online,http://www.barnstablepatriot.com/ (December 3, 2007), Edward F. Maroney, review of Cape Wind.

Environment & Energy Publishing,http://www.eenews.net/ (December 3, 2007), Monica Trauzzi, "Wind Power: Author Robert Whitcomb Takes Humorous Look at Cape Wind Debate."

Glimpse Foundation,http://www.glimpsefoundation.org/ (December 3, 2007), "Robert Whitcomb."

Globalist,http://www.theglobalist.com/ (December 3, 2007), "Robert Whitcomb, Editorial Page Editor, Providence Journal."

PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (December 3, 2007), review of Cape Wind.

Weekly Standard,http://www.theweeklystandard.com/ (December 3, 2007), Alex Beam, "Wind, Sand, and Stars; or, The NIMBYs of Nantucket Sound."