The Truth About Cars » 40 MPG The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:00:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 40 MPG EGR-equipped Buick Regal Hits 40 MPG Thu, 10 Apr 2014 10:00:56 +0000 EGR Buick Regal Gets 40 MPG

The current Buick Regal is an excellent car. I know, because I have one parked in my garage (it’s sweet). Still, it could be better- and the guys at the SouthWest Research Institute (SWRI) have figured out a way to enhance the mid-range Buick so that it produces fewer harmful carbon emissions and gets better fuel economy.

Can’t beat that!

Far from being pie-in-the-sky thinking, however, the motivation for building this 40 MPG ultra low-emission Buick Regal comes out of necessity. Namely the 2025 CAFE regulations that will force automobile manufacturers to achieve a 54.5 miles per gallon EPA rating across their product range. At the same time, the EPA is also expected to release new, more stringent emissions standards in a bid to improve air quality and save lives. Those two factors mean there is considerable industry focus on improving both emissions and fuel efficiency without incurring huge R&D costs- and the EGR system built into the SWRI team’s 2014 Buick Regal might play a big part in that.

EGR, for those not in the know, stands for exhaust gas recirculation. In the case of the Buick Regal tester, the 2.0 Liter engine was modified so that exhaust from one dedicated cylinder is run with a rich mixture of fuel and air to reform hydrocarbon fuel into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The reformulated exhaust gas is then cooled and looped into a patented mixer where the exhaust gasses are mixed with fresh air before going into the engine intake. “By running one cylinder rich, the excess fuel is reformed into hydrogen and carbon monoxide,” added Chris Chadwell, manager of SWRI’s Spark Ignition Engine R&D section. “The in-cylinder reformation slightly reduces the carbon dioxide and water vapor while producing large volumes of carbon monoxide, which is a good fuel, and hydrogen, which is an outstanding fuel. That provides an octane boost and a flammability boost, and extends the EGR limit of the engine.”

It’s all pretty trick stuff, in other words- and it’s not that far away from being a production-ready piece. Let’s hope the next generation of Buick Regals- heck, let’s hope they build a new ROADMASTER!- has enough slick SWRI stuff on it to still be legal, then. In the meantime, you can check out an under hood shot of the SWRI EGR-equipped 2014 Buick Regal, below. Enjoy!




Source | Photos: SWRI; Originally published on Gas 2.

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QOTD: Time For An End To Manufacturer Measured MPG Numbers? Fri, 02 Nov 2012 16:44:51 +0000  

Click here to view the embedded video.

TTAC’s inbox was inundated this morning with reports of Hyundai’s revised mileage claims, which remove a number of its vehicles from the 40 MPG club.

According to Hyundai

Procedural errors at the automakers’ joint testing operations in Korea led to incorrect fuel economy ratings for select vehicle lines.

Maybe it’s time for a new way to measure fuel economy standards?

Over-inflated MPG numbers aren’t the exclusive domain of the United States either. Fuel economy numbers in Canada are widely inflated to the point where the advertised numbers bear zero relation to real world figures, thanks to a combination or arcane test methods and shady “imperial-to-metric conversion practices”.

The irony of the Hyundai case is that independent tests have corroborated the Elantra’s mileage claims. Popular Mechanics re-created the standard testing procedure, did their own version of the test and their Elantra (presumably a press car) delivered 34.1/47.6 MPG city/highway. Our own Jack Baruth rented an Elantra that had seen better days, and found the mileage consistent with expectations – even though it was slightly below the advertised 40 MPG rating.

There’s nothing scientific about the resulting 35.5-ish MPG rating, but based on the way I drove it, the mileage and abuse the poor little car has suffered, and the entirely adequate performance from the engine and transmission, I’m giving “Consumer Watchdog” a thumbs down. Had I purchased this Elantra, I wouldn’t feel cheated in any way. They promised 40MPG under ideal conditions, and I’m getting 35-36MPG in conditions which were far from the test lab.

The gripes surrounding fuel economy testing, whether it’s the test procedure, the self-reporting by the OEMs or their failure to match up to real world conditions, are enough to prompt calls for a change in the way things are done. Tell us how you’d change things below.

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Wall Street Journal Misses Its Mark With The Dart Wed, 19 Sep 2012 16:15:33 +0000

It’s the kind of mistake that only a blogger (said with a contemptuous sneer) would make. The Wall Street Journal reports that

“U.S. regulators rated a new Chrysler Group LLC compact car with highway fuel-economy of 41 miles a gallon, a move that fulfills a key element of the company’s 2009 federal bailout and cleared the way earlier this year for majority owner Fiat SpA to increase its stake in the Detroit auto maker.”

They got it wrong.

To hear the WSJ tell it, you’d be led to believe that

“Italy’s Fiat took control of Chrysler in 2009 after agreeing with the U.S. government to help the U.S. auto maker produce a line of new fuel-efficient on cars based on Fiat designs. Fiat was originally given a 20% stake in Chrysler, and was allowed to increase its holding for achieving certain goals, one of which was helping Chrysler produce a car that goes at least 40 miles on a gallon of gasoline.”

The WSJ isn’t technically wrong – one of the stipulations was for Fiat to help Chrysler produce a 40 mpg car. But it had nothing to do with 40 mpg highway, the Dodge Dart Aero, or even the current fuel economy regulations as we know them.

As our Editor Emeritus Ed Niedermeyer reported back in 2011, the requirement, as stipulated by the U.S. government, was for Fiat to produce a made-in-America car that got a combined 40 mpg unadjusted. This means, crucially, that the combined figure is calculated using the pre-2008 fuel economy calculation standard that led to inflated fuel economy ratings. How much of a difference does this really make? Ed laid it all out unsparingly

“40 MPG combined unadjusted translates to almost exactly 30 MPG combined on the “adjusted” EPA test cycle which is used to produce window stickers for vehicles currently on the market. This is hardly a benchmark for a meaningful “Ecological Commitment” in the sense that a significant number of currently-available mass-market cars currently achieve this standard, and the cleanest vehicles on the market exceed it by dramatic amounts. According to the EPA, at least 11 2010 model-year “compact cars” currently achieve the 30 MPG combined adjusted standard. At least six “midsize sedans” achieved the magic number for the outgoing model-year, as did two “upscale sedans,” two convertibles, two station wagons and three SUVs (although the SUVs are all derivatives of the Ford Escape Hybrid).”

The WSJ uses the 2013 Dodge Dart Aero as its example, but the Dart Aero isn’t the sole model to get the 40 MPG unadjusted combined figure – the base 1.4L 6-speed manual car returns 32 mpg combined, while the automatic 1.4L returns 31 mpg combined, which would place them above the 40 mpg unadjusted cutoff value. The Aero models get 32 mpg combined with either transmission. Meanwhile, Darts with the 2.0L 4-cylinder get 29 mpg combined with the manual (just missing the mark) and 27 mpg with the automatic.

While Ed already explored the inside story of how a few word choices effectively torpedoed any chance for meaningful advancement in fuel efficiency, (while giving Marchionne & Co a free slice of Fiat), the “40 MPG meme” is still alive and well. For all the darts that the WSJ has thrown at the Obama administration, one would think that they’d be the last entity to let the Dems dodge their well-aimed crosshairs on this issue.


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Fiat 500 Finally Gets The 40 MPG Brass Ring Mon, 10 Sep 2012 13:00:58 +0000

A couple tweaks have finally pushed the Fiat 500 to the magical 40 MPG mark – but only on manual-equipped version.

While automatic transmission 500s stay rated at 27/34 mpg city/highway, the manual versions get a bump to 31/40 mpg, up from 30/38 mpg. According to Fiat, the new rating comes from a taller final drive ratio and some undisclosed aerodynamic tweaks.

With 40 mpg becoming the de facto “round-number-fuel-economy-rating-that-sounds-good-in-ad-copy”, it was essential that Fiat avoid the embarrassment of being 2 mpg short. Oh well, at least it’s not 40 mpg CAFE…

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Question Of The Day: What Was Your Worst… Automotive Prediction? Tue, 31 Jul 2012 15:02:55 +0000

I saw the future as clearly as day.

The Honda CR-Z. A beautiful machine that would finally marry that elusive dream couple, sport and fuel economy, for less than $20,000.

It had to be a hit. Just had to…

Maybe it was my daily commuter that blinded me to the oncoming reality. A 2001 Honda Insight has been my faithful commuting companion for over 3 years and 45,000 miles. 55 mpg average. 63 MPG in the latest run, and all the fun one can have while plowing through the winding one lane roads of North Georgia.

Gee Steve? Who would not scoop up a car that only seats two, drives slower than most, and offers a seating position somewhere between an old Porsche and a new casket?

The CR-Z had plenty to offer me and about 2404 enlightened buyers for the first half of 2012. I get the reality now. Two seat cars are the automotive version of the ‘not-so-big-house’. Everyone says they want one. But when it comes time to choose between the well made 1600 sq. ft. house, and the 3200 sq. ft. McMansion, nearly everyone picks the porkers.

But still, I get vexed and flustered thinking about it. 6-speed. 40+ MPG potential. Fun to drive. The perfect party for the road, which no one bothered to even consider an RSVP.

Oh well… guess it’s time to admit I blew that call. But how about you? What was your worst prediction when it comes to cars?

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Chevrolet Spark Misses The 40 MPG Mark Fri, 20 Jul 2012 17:56:22 +0000

Glancing at its diminutive footprint and tiny engine specs, one would expect superlative fuel economy from the Chevrolet Spark, right? Wrong.

According to GM Inside News,

the Spark with manual transmission [is rated] at 32 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, while the four-speed automatic will wear ratings of 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway

This is in a 2,200 lb car with a 1.2L 4-cylinder engine. I’m not one to invoke bygone tin-cans like the Honda CRX HF in the name of fuel efficiency and the pox that modern cars are on our landscape, but GM must be able to do better than this, given what they’re working with. If not, then why bother at all with the Spark? The Cruze and Sonic make this car look like a farce.

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Dodge Dart Gets “Aero” Package To Break 40 MPG Mon, 30 Apr 2012 13:47:52 +0000

Looks like the Dodge Dart will apparently break 40 MPG adjusted in the end…but you’ll need a special option package to do it, just like its chief domestic rivals, the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze.

We weren’t invited to the launch of the Dart, but reports from the event state that the 1.4L MultiAir turbocharged engine with the dual clutch transmission will return 27 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. Dodge will release an “Aero” package that will help them return “at least 41 mpg“. No word on what the 6-speed manual will return, or the 2.4L engine for that matter, but the base 2.0L “Tigershark” will get 25mpg/36mpg with the 6-speed manual. We’ll have our impressions as soon as we get our hands on one.

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900 Miles And Runnin’: Searching For Truth In A Rented Elantra Sun, 18 Dec 2011 18:13:28 +0000

Sometimes the stars align. Last week’s article about the “Consumer Watchdog” Elantra fuel-economy press release had ruffled some feathers and aroused my personal curiosity regarding the Elantra’s alleged thirst. And then — wouldn’t you know it — I found myself with a chance to run South and visit a few friends. The time frame was short. Had to be there and back in 36 hours, covering about 435 miles each way. And the nice people at Enterprise were willing to rent me a 2011 Elantra for a two-day stretch at a total of $50.36.

This was my math: (900 miles/23.5 mpg) * $3.18 = $121.78. That would be the cost of running my Town Car. A mythical 40mpg Elantra plugged into the same equation would cost $71.55. Difference of $50.23. Clearly some sort of sign, right? Might as well rent the Hyundai and conduct a highly non-scientific test. Along the way, we’d ask the usual questions: How well does the Elantra hold up in rental service? Is this the class killer some people want it to be, or the mid-packer described in TTAC tests up to this point? Can’t this thing go any faster? What time is lunch?

Thursday, 1:59 PM EST, 7.8 miles: On the road just like I’d planned — and promised. My initial impressions of this 27,200-mile car hadn’t been positive. My personal experience with Hyundais of the past decade has been that they show signs of wear more readily than the equivalent Toyota or Honda, and this 2011 Elantra didn’t look to be an exception. The multiple rock strikes on the bonnet were all rusting and bubbling, the grey-fabric seats had obvious wear marks, the dashboard appeared to have some fade to it in spots, the cost-cut black paint had clearly suffered under Enterprise’s wash-it-with-a-wet-broom policy of car cleaning, and the carpet was wearing thin. On the positive side, the controls all looked and felt pretty new, including the steering wheel surfaces. Mechanically, this Elantra was in completely reasonable shape. I’d decided to mostly forego full-throttle escapades in favor of moving with traffic flow and keeping the little “Eco” light in the dashboard lit up. The old Car and Driver trick of lead-footing around Ann Arbor in a car for which they didn’t much care and then being shocked—shocked!—at the resulting mileage doesn’t have any place at TTAC, right?

Thursday, 5:15 PM EST, 209 miles: Making the run down Route 71 through Cincinnati to Louisville, the Elantra had reported an impressive 38.6 mpg running at an average 73 miles per hour. Needless to say, this is not very similar to the EPA test. My rental ride wasn’t a quiet car on the road, but it wasn’t unbearable, either. More annoyingly, my infamous 15,672-song, 160GB iPod, nicknamed “Kuang Grade Mark Eleven” for its ability to lock up pretty much every OEM iPod integration except for SYNC and UVO, had done a number on the Elantra’s USB port. Luckily, I could still use the port to charge ol’ Kuang while listening through the 1/8″ AUX jack. Sara Watkins was singing,

Wish I was in Nashville town
the sunny south you know

Actual Nashville forecast: 43 and rainy. My self-pitying reverie was interrupted by an odd Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooo noise. What the hell was that? A bad wheel bearing? It was coming from the front of the car, and it only showed itself at eighty-five miles per hour or above. Could feel it in the steering. I loaded the car a few different ways at speed to see if I could pop the noisy front wheel off… and finally I realized that the noise was being caused by a strong cross-wind. My feelings about the aerodynamic consequences of the Elantra’s mini-CLS styling were not positive at this point. On a hunch, I snuggled up to the back bumper of a tractor-trailer. This proven hypermiling technique is favored by insane Prius drivers who are willing to risk a solid airbag to the face in order to save a few pennies, but I use it as a cross-wind stability test since there is an area of strong buffeting about seven or eight feet off the trailer’s back door. Yup. The Elantra shook in these conditions like no other modern car I’ve driven. Another black mark in your copybook, Mr. Hyundai. Still, after more than three non-stop hours of driving I was neither fatigued nor annoyed. I’m still on your side, little fellow.

Thursday, 7:30 CST, 436 miles: An hour of murderous stop-and-go in Louisville had forced me to abandon my economy program and run between 85 and 95 for the Tennessee homestretch. Covering 430 miles in six and a half hours won’t exactly get me any props from Alex Roy, but that had included a rather leisurely stop for fuel and a quick jog around the gas station to keep my legs awake. The trip computer reported a solid 36.2mpg as I came to a halt south of Nashville, but the final verdict would be partially dependent on my total fuel fill numbers as well.

Friday, 1:30 CST, 468 miles: “I will see you tonight,” I told my son, and hung up. His bedtime is 9pm EST. Time to hustle.

Friday, 4:00 EST, 555 miles: Hustle, hustle, hustle, and I know I will need to be aggressive when I reach Louisville, too. This, combined with a little back-road goofing around for the amusement of my dinner companion, had resulted in what was so far the worst fuel-economy readout. I photographed it for posterity.

Even if that’s a few MPG optimistic, we are still talking about a car which easily beats 30MPG in damn-the-torpedoes driving. Time for the off-the-cuff comparisons. I like the Elantra after half a thousand miles, but it isn’t really a full-fledged freeway car in the American or European tradition. The equivalent Focus is far more confident and unshakeable at eighty or ninety, it feels more expensive and comfy inside, and it has a sniff of Euro-cachet about it. The Cruze is a boat by contrast. I’d rather drive the Cruze on a freeway trip but I’d rather own the Hyundai. My past experience with Elantras of the 2000-2002 vintage is that they are 100,000 mile cars, and that’s better than the Aveos I’ve seen. This one is probably at least a 150,000 mile car. It’s a pleasant traveling companion. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to keep an even temperature in the car, which forces me to twist the knob back and forth. Every time I do so, I imagine that my 1973 Gibson J-40, sitting in the backseat, is feeling the tiny but eventually deadly pinch of humidity change.

It occurs to me that Hyundai, as a company, could have used one more round of aggressive pricing. What I mean by that: The Elantra has always been cheap to buy, if not always cheap to own. This new car represents approximate parity with the class players, depending on how you weight your competitive chart. Had it been priced like the last Elantra, it would been an unbeatable proposition. Unfortunately, it seems to be pretty close to the Civic, Corolla, and Focus, if other TTAC reviewers’ comments on feature-adjusted pricing are correct. I would rather have seen them wait until the next round to announce that they are playing with the big boys. Oh, well. As Liz Phair sang, it’s nice to be liked, but it’s better by far to get paid.

Friday, 8:42 EST, 901 miles: Turns out that 34.0 is as bad as it got. Slow running in Ohio, combined with a relative lack of traffic, allowed the Elantra to bump back up to 35.7 overall by the time I sat down with my son to watch “Chuggington”. I’m neither sore nor particularly tired after the drive. LJK Setright once famously wrote that, for most reviewers, the faults of a car disappear after a hundred or so miles spent in the driver’s seat. After nine hundred miles, I am comfortable in the Elantra’s skin. A six-speed manual variant might serve my purposes well enough, although I would miss the Town Car’s imperial stability, perfect long-distance seating, peaceful isolation, and three-Mesa-Boogie trunk. I’d put it second place in my personal small-car pantheon, behind the Focus and ahead of the Cruze.

Saturday, 10:20 EST, 923 miles: The Elantra has taken 27.2 gallons total. It was slightly under a half-tank when I picked it up and slightly over a half-tank when I dropped it off. There’s nothing scientific about the resulting 35.5-ish MPG rating, but based on the way I drove it, the mileage and abuse the poor little car has suffered, and the entirely adequate performance from the engine and transmission, I’m giving “Consumer Watchdog” a thumbs down. Had I purchased this Elantra, I wouldn’t feel cheated in any way. They promised 40MPG under ideal conditions, and I’m getting 35-36MPG in conditions which were far from the test lab.

It’s an honest car, far from perfect, but worth a look when you go shopping. We will close with another set of lyrics from my second-favorite Nashville transplant, Miss Watkins:

You have kept my attention
And won my affection

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Fuel Economy Fudge-Gate: An Update Sun, 04 Sep 2011 18:49:49 +0000

There was troubling news at the end of last week, as Automotive News [sub]‘s Rick Kranz reported that an unnamed automaker was quietly accusing another unnamed automaker of tweaking its EPA fuel economy tests, arguing

There’s a noticeable difference between the mpg number posted on some cars’ window sticker and an analysis of the data submitted by automakers to the EPA.

We’ve tried to get several automakers to comment on the accusation, but nobody wants to touch it. But, as we’ve looked into the issue, a few more details have surfaced that seem worth sharing. Hit the jump for the latest…

With such a serious accusation floating around, it was inevitable that AN [sub] would revisit the story (although technically the entire thing has been reported on AN’s blog, distinguishing it from a normally-reported news item). And sure enough, an update was posted yesterday by David Guilford, who writes

Over lunch recently with a former product executive for a major automaker, I asked if he thought anyone was fudging their numbers.

He said that he doubted that a company would out-and-out cheat. But then he smiled and said that, well, there are ways to game the system.

For instance, he said, his former employer used to test 50 vehicles of a given model, knowing that a normal bell-shape distribution of results would probably produce one outlier with higher mpg. Results from that car would be reported.

But — here’s the kicker — the automaker decided to stop playing games. Not because other automakers complained. Not because the feds were applying pressure.

No, the automaker discovered that it was angering its customers, who complained that their mpg didn’t match the sticker.

As I commented when we first reported the story, there seems to be something of a gentlemen’s agreement not to report suspected “fudging” of reported fuel economy numbers, as a number of models have a reputation for failing to achieve their claimed numbers (Chevy’s Equinox and Hyundai’s Elantra are the most common examples). And this attempt to close the barn door only reinforces that impression. By trotting out a convenient storyline in which market functions solve the problem of unrealistic EPA numbers (which has already stopped anyway), the industry seems to be closing ranks to keep out any nosy federal investigators. After all, if a thorough verification of EPA numbers were undertaken, who knows where the black eyes might end. The story also confirms that cheating is probably not egregious, although if there are systematic discrepancies between window sticker numbers and reality, the feds should still take measures to restore consumer trust in the EPA’s numbers regardless of how those discrepancies got there.

Meanwhile, the main mystery of the story, the question of who precisely is accusing who, remains unanswered. And given Guileford’s conciliatory walk-back post (not to mention the industry’s considerable incentive to let this episode blow over), we’ll likely never know what the real story here is. But there’s a pretty clear consensus on the prime suspects, and like any good whodunnit, the investigation begins with a look at motive. Ford and Hyundai have been very publicly feuding for the fuel economy leadership halo, making them something like the beneficiaries of a freshly-changed will in an Agatha Christie novel. In fact, a look back at AN [sub]‘s blog archives yields yet more evidence that could shed light on a number of aspects of this mystery.

AN [sub]‘s cub reporter assigned to Ford (and Porsche’s dream reviewer), Jamie LaRue set the stage for Kranz’s piece over a week ago, when she blogged:

Hyundai Motors Co. promotes that its redesigned Elantra earns 40 mpg on the highway. This must vex Ford Motor Co.

Ford’s redesigned Focus gets 38 mpg highway — unless a buyer opts for the SFE package (40 mpg).

Since the arrival of CEO Alan Mulally in 2006, Ford has set out to be the fuel economy leader in every segment. That’s why Hyundai’s claim must be especially irksome.

So by gosh, Ford is going to prove that it is the leader regardless of what window stickers or advertisements say.

Well, by gosh, how did they do it?

During a media drive event at Ford’s proving grounds in Romeo, Mich., this week, Ford engineers had each reporter drive the Elantra at 45 mph around a 2.5 mile course. The same reporter was then asked to drive the Focus (not the SFE model) at the same speed around the same course. All conditions with the cars were equal, except for the drivers. An engineer in the backseat of each car monitored the fuel economy each earned.

After dozens of reporters drove the vehicles, the data was calculated and the results were in. The average fuel economy earned by our group driving the Focus was 40.4 mpg versus the Elantra’s average of 37.8 mpg.

Read all about it in Motor Trend’s December issue (published in October). Wait, hang on… what was this supposed to prove again? “Ford Focus: Optimized For 45 MPH Cruising” is not a particularly snappy tagline. Help us out, Jamie!

So Ford proved its point to a group of automotive journalists.

What did it accomplish? Not sure.

But, hey, I’m writing about it.

Actually Jamie, you’re blogging about it. Because writing those facts as a news item would get you a good laughing-at from all but the worst editors. Luckily there’s the old blog, where meaningless propaganda from the company you’re covering needn’t be judged by the harsh standards of “professional journalism.”

Speaking of which, is there anyone still reading this who doesn’t believe Ford is accusing Hyundai of manipulating EPA numbers? Outside of the accusing company itself, only the folks AN [sub] knows for sure what’s going on here… and they’re already walking back the story, regardless of how painfully obvious it is. But hey, thus far the story has yet to make the sacred leap from mere “blog item” to hallowed “news item,” so it doesn’t actually reflect on anyone’s credibility. Nobody even needs to ask Ford why they aren’t willing to put on some man pants and make a real accusation if they want to make an accusation. The whole story can be safely ignored now, as the professionals who started it all are ready to get back to some “real journalism.”

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