The Eagle Room in Boston City Hall was packed. Kevin H. White, the city's four-term mayor, had scheduled a press conference Jan. 10 to announce a new housing ordinance.
But this time there were no free Danish pastries. This time a burly security guard insisted on seeing press identification. And this time the questions were not about housing, but about the beating the mayor has taken recently in the national press.
''I don't know what warrants that kind of coverage in the Moscow edition of the New York Times,'' he quipped, adding with characteristic wit that ''I'm sure (Soviet leader Yuri) Andropov is now trying to find out who Joie Prevost is.''
The ''coverage'' in question was a front-page piece in the Sunday Times (which circulates internationally and is seen by Kremlin officials) the day before. It reported that two of the mayor's top assistants (Director of Consumer Affairs Joanne Prevost and her husband, chief fund-raiser Theodore Anzalone) were living in a $250,000 house in the city's North End, which Miss Prevost had bought for $1 in 1981. Raising questions about the legality of the transaction, the article reported that the house had been purchased through a ''straw'' owner who was later given the city's permission to develop a nearby waterfront site.
That story is but the latest in a flurry of national attention. City officials note that the Times ran six stories in December (one on the front page) detailing the corruption investigations now plaguing the mayor. Last month ABC did a segment on national television. This month NBC followed suit, and stories appeared in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Time, and Newsweek.
Why the flap?