Stanton Hopeful For the Future of Investigative Reporting

Aug 14, 2013

For sportswriter-turned-investigative reporter Mike Stanton, finding a good lead -- on one occasion in the '90s, at least -- didn't require more than a visit with his friends in the Providence Journal's sports department.

"Paul Kenyon, our golf writer, said, 'Hey, Bill Clinton's coming to Rhode Island and Arthur Coia's going to him present him with a golf club made by a local craftsman,' because his publicist just called here. And then a few weeks later, I read in the paper that the Justice Department was investigating racketeering at the Laborers union, and I put two and two together, and we wound up doing stories on that." (Coia resigned as head of the Laborers in 1999.)

Stanton shared the anecdote as part of an interview being broadcast Thursday morning on RIPR.

The long-time investigative reporter at the ProJo, 55, is leaving the newspaper to teach journalism at the University of Connecticut. After coming to the Journal as a sportswriter in 1985, Stanton's assignments over 28 years ranged from covering the Red Sox during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series -- when a ground ball hit by Mookie Wilson squirted by Bill Buckner -- to probing a string of corrupt public officials and quintessential Rhode Island boondoggles.

Stanton says he doesn't know whether the Journal will fill his position, but he expects the paper to maintain its traditional commitment to watchdog reporting.

More broadly, in a time of tremendous upheaval for media companies, he says he remains hopeful for the future of investigative reporting:

"I think a good analogy might by the Navy," he says. "The old big aircraft carrier model has kind of changed. Now you need to have kind of the swift, mobile attack cruisers .... The new generation certainly has not lost their appetite for news. Journalism school enrollments are up; people want news."

Stanton, the author of the Buddy Cianci biography The Prince of Providence, says he was recently asked by Cianci's WPRO producer if he would appear on Buddy's show. "I kind of laughed and said I would think about it," Stanton says. "I haven't heard back from her; I assume either Buddy chickened out or he's sharpening a fireplace log." (That's a reference to an infamous 1983 assault that effectively ended Cianci's first tenure as mayor.)

With his last day on Fountain Street set for Friday, Stanton says he'll continue to make his home in Cranston and plans to keep writing about the Ocean State, including such subjects as hedge funds, the 2014 race for governor, and a possible comeback attempt by Cianci.