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Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

Speak up! Comment on the WORD at


Feedback and suggestions--printable and otherwise--always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

How to buy a car (especially if you've never done it before)

By Seth Bracken

April 29, 2009 | Like most projects, when buying a car it's best to start with the Internet, says Zachary Call, Ford sales associate.

Consumer Reports,, and Kelly Blue Book are the tools that any would-be car buyer needs to master before buying a car. And while there are about as many different cars as there are people, there is a formula of sorts to successfully buying a car, Call said.

Step 1: Read car reviews. There are plenty of criteria that you need to decide on. Do you want a sedan, compact car or something larger? There are safety ratings, customer reviews, performance ratings and the option to compare different makes and models.

Step 2: Make a budget. For a typical five-year loan with an average credit rating, every $1,000 adds $20 a month for the payment. For example, if you buy a car for $10,000 your payment will be around $200 a month. Don't forget that the price on the sticker is not how much it will cost to drive away. There are documentation fees, sales tax, dealer's fees, plus the extra cost for a warranty. These fees will be about $1,000 for a car around $10,000. A five year or 100,000 mile warranty will add about $15 every month onto the payment.

Step 3: Go online to look at prices and models. Autotrader, KSL and Craigslist are all great places to get a feel for prices on cars compared to mileage. On you can enter in the make, model, mileage, whether you want an automatic or manual, or you can do a general search.

Keep in mind that Internet prices are almost always cheaper than the prices on the lot because it's much more competitive online so dealers will list the lowest possible price in most cases. So before going to look at a car, make sure you have checked the price online and make sure you do a price match.

Step 4: Shop around. Kelly's Blue Book lists a suggested retail price for cars based on mileage, make, model, extra features and condition of the car. It's important to know the approximate prices because cars sales people will always try to make as large a profit as possible.

Step 5: Test drive the models that you are interested in. Don't let the sales people get you to commit before you are ready. Test driving is not a commitment. Carfax is a history of each car and most dealerships will provide the Carfax sheet for free. This report will tell you how many owners the car has had and about any accidents that it may have been in.

After deciding on the cars that you are most interested in, look for the best buy possible, don't feel rushed, there will always be cars to buy. But really good buys can go fast, so when you do find the right car, don't be afraid to act.

Most dealers will help you find the best interest rate and set up a loan for you. However, Call said sometimes dealers will not be perfectly honest and you should look through all of the stipulations of the loan before signing anything.

Before going in to sign the papers, decide whether you want a warranty or not. It's a personal decision but if something breaks, you could save quite a bit of money. On the other hand, the car could be just fine and you could end up paying about $1,000 for nothing but the piece of mind of knowing that if something were to break, you wouldn't have to pay for it.

Some cars are still under the manufactures warranty, usually if they're less than 4 years old.

And while car dealerships generally don't sell cars that have a history of accidents, some will sell what are called customer buy backs (CBB). These are cars that were bought, had a problem and weren't able to be fixed by the dealer within 30 days and the manufacturer had to buy the car back. After fixing the car, they can be sold again by certified dealers. So if the price of a car is surprisingly low, and it seems like a deal that's too good to be true, it probably is.

Some dealers price the cars too high so they have lots of wiggle room and some list the lowest price possible. But you never know about the price, so do your best to get the sales person to go as low as possible. That's why it's important to know the prices of other like models with similar mileage. Tell the sales person about lower prices and ask if they can come down to price match. Don't forget that the dealership is a business and will try to sell the car at the highest price possible.

"We're here to make as much money as we can," Call said.

The other option is to buy a car from a private seller, maybe from an ad in the newspaper, on or another web site. However, extreme caution must be used because some sellers won't be honest and there is more responsibility for the buyer to have the car checked out to make sure there aren't any problems and the car will pass safety emissions tests.

When buying a car take your time and do your research and you'll do just fine.



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