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“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.

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Fee and Raposa took over from notorious Herald columnist Norma Nathan in 1991—a woman who set the standard for bitchy, bellicose gossip.

Before stepping into their present roles, Fee was a city editor at the paper and Raposa a business reporter. For years now, Boston’s gossip pipeline has seemed to flow directly and consistently onto the desks of Gayle and Laura. The Track’s near monopoly, in turn, has resulted in an unseemly scrabble from those looking to ingratiate themselves with the Gals.

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.

Given such scintillating content, the fact that important people still feel compelled to read the Track six times a week seems to be a product of habit as much as anything else.

“I usually hold my breath when I turn to the Inside Track each morning,” Senator Ted Kennedy writes in an e-mail, a canned comment indicating he does no such thing. They’re all about the juicy story.” The Gals’ relentless Lowe-bashing might look like pit bull tenacity, an admirable quality for any gossip columnist, but it also smacks of desperation, as if they continue to pick at the pitcher to spare us yet another item recalling the hilarious antics of the Queer Eye quintet.

One victim calls the column “a protection racket”—you scratch my back or I might bite yours—but Rose, who has a good relationship with the Gals, is more diplomatic. “It’s not the money-and-bribe relationship they have in New York.

The big thing is having photos or giving them scoops so that you can call in a favor later on when you need one.

“If not, they can hurt you.” For a rookie muckraker, getting people like Rose on your side can mean the difference between a good column and an empty one.

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