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.”

Lantigua had no comment for the Eagle-Tribune’s School Department story. In CommonWealth’s most recent issue, the mayor tells Gabrielle Gurley that he doesn’t speak to the Eagle-Tribune much any more and complains about unfair reporting. “We know that the people we represent could care less about what’s printed now,” he says.

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.

                                                                                                                                                                       –BRUCE MOHL   

BEACON HILL

Is new state Auditor Suzanne Bump proving her doubters wrong?  Mike Lake, who ran against Bump in last year’s Democratic primary but subsequently joined her transition team, takes on the question with veteran policy analyst Charlie Chieppo, who backed Bump’s GOP opponent, in this installment of CommonWealth magazine’s new video conversation feature, “Face to Face.”

Another day of testimony from Steven Topazio, another bad day for his one-time mentor, Sal DiMasi, in the former speaker’s federal corruption trial. This particular bad day had DiMasi’s own handwriting all over it.

Minority groups are being proactive during redistricting process, WBUR reports.

The Berkshire Eagle says the House probation bill is sound, but that the governor should control the Probation Department.

The Eagle-Tribune, in an editorial, takes issue with the Boston Foundation’s suggestion that soda and candy receive state subsidies. The newspaper says the lack of a sales tax on food items is not the same as a subsidy and warns of a nanny state out of control.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Two firms have submitted bids for the naming rights for Haverhill Stadium. The firm’s names were not released, but the minimum bid is $25,000 a year, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Bridgewater town councilors voted to ban attorneys who live or practice in town from serving as town counsel, a move one dissenting councilor said was aimed at removing the current town counsel whose legal opinions some officials don’t like.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Add cash flow mathematics to the list of things freshmen House Republicans don’t believe in.

The president of the Andover League of Women Voters explains to Keller@Large her decision to resign her post in protest of the national League’s attack ad on Sen. Scott Brown.

The IRS wants to tax contributions made to politically active nonprofits. George Soros and the Koch brothers weep.

ELECTION 2012

Mitt Romney tries to rid himself of the health-care albatross around his neck with a wide-ranging speech laying out his position on the Massachusetts reform law (for it) and its national ObamaCare offspring (vehemently against it). The Globe says it did little to assuage doubters on the right. The National Review says the speech was the most articulate defense of President Obama’s national health care reform that has been given yet, and that’s not a good thing to conservatives or for Romney.  A Washington Post analysis argues that Romney is not “agile” enough to deal with the fact that “his biggest achievement is his biggest liability.” USA Today asks, “Is a heart attack in Texas different from a heart attack in Maine?” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page attacks Romney for the second day in a row. The Christian Science Monitor report is here. Political wiseguys Todd Domke and Dan Payne breakdown Romney’s speech on Jim’s Braude’s Broadside show.

Setti Warren hits the campaign trail in Pittsfield.

Republican campaign strategists target Reps. Niki Tsongas, John Tierney and William Keating.

Before cap-and-trade was socialism, it was a Republican free-market theory. Therefore, most of the 2012 Republican presidential class has a cap-and-trade problem.

FISHING

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released an initial report on a study of the catch share and sector management rules that show a mixed bag for commercial fishermen. Meanwhile, US Reps. Barney Frank and John Tierney and Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown sent a letter giving Commerce Secretary Gary Locke three days to release the rest of the report by the special master.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Governing magazine questions whether spring training is really the economic bonanza communities in Florida and Arizona say it is. The story’s focus is on Florida’s Lee County. Even though Lee County has high unemployment, a precarious budget, and public workers are taking pay cuts and furloughs, the county is building a baseball stadium where the Boston Red Sox will play 18 to 20 spring training games a year. CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan laid out the deal two years ago.

The New York Times delves into Donald Trump’s most lucrative income stream — the licensing of his own name to under-capitalized development projects.

Sign of the times. Two well-known funeral homes in Haverhill merge, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

EDUCATION

The British government wants to seize a confidential oral history project on Ireland’s Troubles from Boston College.

Outgoing UMass President Jack Wilson talks with Emily Rooney about the job he’s leaving and the one he’s taking as interim president of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

The Lawrence School Committee votes 4-3 to search for a new superintendent rather than  giving the job to the woman who has led the schools on an acting basis for the last two years, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Teachers at the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School in Orleans form a union, making it only the second charter school in the state with one.

Springfield turns 375 and the Springfield Republican says the milestone is a good opportunity to teach kids about local history.

TRANSPORTATION

The Globe reports that Transportation Secretary Jeff Mullan has handed out raises to 17 managers despite saying two months ago that tight times dictated a freeze on salary bumps for top-level public sector officials.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Evergreen Solar, the troubled company that was once the star of the Patrick administration’s green energy program, may go belly up.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey has filed a motion to prevent OpenCourt, an experimental web site operated by WBUR that livestreams Quincy District Court proceedings, from allowing public access to the archives, claiming it could endanger victims and witnesses and taint jury pools. The motion came after months of talks with all parties, including the district attorney’s office, to settle questions before the experiment went live. Via Media Nation.

A Suffolk County correction officer is suing the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department because he says his superiors harassed him after he disclosed he had been a victim of clergy sexual abuse, the Globe reports.

SPORTING NEWS

A Weymouth man is facing charges related efforts to hawk a bundle of ill-gotten Red Sox memorabilia, including a stolen base. The Patriot Ledger reports the suspect allegedly duped Sox icon Johnny Pesky into autographing a purloined center field marker sign and falsely told the auction house he was selling his memorabilia cache to finance his (nonexistent) sick son’s cancer treatment.