The Download: The Eagle-Tribune and Lantigua
In 1988, the Eagle-Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize for its relentless coverage of Willie Horton and the Massachusetts prison furlough program. The paper published nearly 200 stories detailing how Horton, a convicted murderer sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, was able to walk away from prison on a weekend furlough and rape and assault a couple in Maryland.
The newspaper is now focusing its attention on Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, running story after story on the colorful and controversial politician perhaps best known for his refusal to give up his job as a state legislator when he was elected mayor. He eventually relented under pressure from Gov. Deval Patrick. The reporting is a return to the paper’s aggressive style from the Willie Horton era, a muckraking approach that was briefly interrupted by a “civic journalism” phase when the Eagle-Tribune spent more time trying to spotlight Lawrence’s assets than expose its problem-filled underside.
The stories on Lantigua just keep on coming. Last weekend, the Eagle-Tribune reported on the cozy relationship between Lantigua and the city’s nightclubs. On Wednesday, it reported that the mayor and his girlfriend, who also works at City Hall, received federal fuel aid for the apartment they share even though their $145,000 combined income disqualified them. Thursday’s story had Lantigua promising the fuel aid funds would be returned. By today, there was little new to report, but the paper ran another story saying the antipoverty agency that awarded the fuel aid was bracing for an audit next week.
The mayor, who is reportedly under state and federal investigation (the Globe broke that story), has become a polarizing figure in Lawrence. As head of the School Committee, he voted to launch a search for a new superintendent rather than hire the woman who has been serving as the acting superintendent for the last two years. Samuel Reyes, another school committee member, lashed out at Lantigua for providing the deciding vote in the 4-3 decision. “The mayor wants to ruin our city,” Reyes told the Eagle-Tribune. “Now he wants to ruin our school department.”
The Eagle-Tribune is owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. of Birmingham, Ala., a privately held company that has TV, newspaper, and website holdings. In Massachusetts, the company owns the Salem News, the Gloucester Times, the Daily News of Newburyport, the Andover Townsman, and the Haverhill Gazette.
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