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I’ll admit it: Reliable Source columnist Lloyd Grove’s apologia for his embrace of the gossip trade in the Aug. 19 Washington Post Magazine brought tears to my eyes. I’d failed to understand how Sisyphean the life of the Style section’s dirt-disher truly is and how much labor he expends to roll the tattletale rock up the Hill of Copy four days a week! (It helps when witty Post White House scribe Dana Milbank sends pungent postcards from Dubya’s ranch vacation to fill up space.) But one bad aftertaste from Grove’s piece stayed with me long after I’d moved on to Outlook. Oftentimes, the revelation of one’s blatant ethical lapses creates a new compassion for the errors of others. But New York Daily News colleague Mitchell Fink’s exposure of Grove’s April 2000 Reliable Source plug for girlfriend Amy Holmes turns out to be the Post columnist’s rationale for even more fervent scandalmongering. “Never again,” he writes, “would I be squeamish about my job.” There is some honor among gossip columnists, however. Grove also reveals that Fink let him draft a written response, dictated by Holmeswho, we note in classic Reliable Source fashion, is about 20 years Grove’s junior. Richard Byrne