Three or four times a year, the Boston Herald comes up with an easy answer to the arduous question of what to put on the front page. The editors follow a formula, reliable, predictable and simple. Just fill in the blanks:
___, the city’s/state’s (pick one) czar/czarina (pick one) of ___, has been running up exorbitant tabs at posh resorts and swank hotels in the Caribbean/ Hawaii/ Austria (pick one) instead of attending to taxpayer business.
During a stay at the ___, according to public records, ___ spent $110 wining and dining ___, head of the ___. The menu features such chi-chi fare as fire-roasted lobster with pine nuts and scallop-encrusted steak. Even a cheeseburger costs $24.95.
___ justified the trip by claiming ___ has promised to open a ___ in the city that would generate $__ million of economic activity every year. But ___, dragging her two/four/six (pick one) toddlers through a local Burger King yesterday, voiced outrage.
“Why should ___ get to travel to ___ when I’m stuck here?” she demanded. “Let him/her (pick one) see how the rest of us gotta live. Ya know?”
Put together a front page featuring the word “JUNKET.” Bake for 15 minutes. Serve when ready.
Today it’s Julie Burns, the city’s “$100,000-a-year arts and tourism czarina,” who, reporter Michele McPhee breathlessly tells us, “has traveled to Austria, Taiwan, Chicago and Philadelphia, but has yet to ink a deal due to her globe-trotting.” Burns has been on the job for only eight months. And, gee, why on earth would a tourism “czarina” be traveling, when she could, you know, be signing documents or something.
Then there’s this: according to McPhee, “most” of Burns’ junkets haven’t cost the taxpayers a dime, since they’ve been paid for by private groups. But hey, she traveled while on city time.
There’s also the matter of a proposed Montreal-to-Boston bicycle tour, which isn’t a done deal, but which was the subject of her trip to Austria. McPhee gleefully reports that Burns is worried the bike tour won’t happen if the Herald were to reveal it. And City Councilor John Tobin, who ought to know better, helps out by saying Burns should be bringing movies to Boston rather than cyclists. (Hey, John: Why not both?)
All of this is wrapped up with the front-page headline “PAGING JULIE JUNKET!”
This is the very definition of a non-story, fueled mainly by class resentment and the hope that readers are too stupid to understand why a tourism “czarina” can’t do her job holed up at City Hall all day. Enjoy.