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On one wall is a picture of the two columnists with halos above their heads.

On another hangs a black T-shirt with yellow writing that says, “If you’ve got nothing nice to say come sit next to me.” The overall effect is of shoulder-slapping, all-in-good-fun chicanery.

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, a heavily trafficked sports bar in Fenway Park’s shadow. Curtis, being a public figure who was once married to another public figure, has appeared in the Track often. I ask Curtis if he’s worried that someone will make a call and twist our lunch into something unseemly: My god, I saw Chet Curtis at Game On! Six years ago, when Curtis and Channel 5 anchor Natalie Jacobson were in the midst of their divorce, the Track ran a story about Curtis having dinner with a gaggle of young babes at a restaurant near his Marina Bay home. Dating Machine.” Curtis’s dates, it turned out, were his two daughters, his niece, and his niece’s friend.

We’re seated in a deep booth in the back, but people still fix him with stares. The Track printed a retraction, but the damage was done.

“A lot of people think it’s funny when something is in there,” says Curtis. It can be hurtful publicity.” Some 15 years after the Inside Track began, Fee and Raposa have burned a lot of people in this town.

So it’s not surprising that of the dozens of sources interviewed for this story, most insisted on anonymity.

This wouldn’t be a problem in New York or Los Angeles, where celebrities are like fake boobs—everywhere, and on constant display. A., gossips can fall back on Julia Roberts shopping at True Value, Colin Farrell eating with his fingers.

Here, where celebrities tend to be not that famous, you have to work harder to make them interesting.

Halfway through lunch with Chet Curtis, it occurs to me that maybe we should have eaten someplace more private. This is how gossip starts—which is what the NECN newsman and I are here to talk about.

People tend to notice famous newscasters, especially at places like Game On! We’re discussing the biggest, pretty much the only, mass-media rumor mill in town—the Boston Herald’s Inside Track, written by Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa. And this is how it happens: Someone sees you having lunch, pulls out a cell phone, and, as the Gals implore at the end of each column, drops a dime to them. “But I might be if you were a woman.” He’s only half-joking.

“They’re the evil hybrid of how journalism is done.” It’s unlikely that many professional gossips would be wounded by such charges—You think we’re too mean? A spate of recent incidents, though, suggests a more damning criticism can now be leveled at the Gals: They’ve grown lazy, arrogant, and complacent, and their work has suffered for it.

Because while the Track has never been held up as a paragon of thorough and balanced journalism, the last few months have seen the column hit new lows.

Today, if recent Track columns are any indication, Boston is in the midst of a gossip drought.

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