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SPJ's Diversity Blog | A Society of Professional Journalists Blog

Let’s Talk about the Cover SPJ Isn’t Talking about

Let me just say what most members did when the July/August Quill issue landed in mailboxes around the country earlier this month: they tossed it into an infinitely long to-be-read pile or in the trash (brownie points if you recycled).

That may explain why there isn’t more of an uproar about the blatantly sexist cover. As the national diversity committee chair, I’m here to tell you there should be.

You see, on Saturday morning, SPJ member Marie Baca tweeted the cover and her disdain for it. A few hours later, SPJ National responded.

Here is the cover in question:

I would give you a link, but SPJ hasn’t put the latest issue online. The May/June issue is the only one listed.

Let’s start at the beginning

First off: SPJ put together a cover so tasteless and inappropriate that through whatever chains of command are in place, no one thought to say out loud “huh this might be a problem.”

That might be because the Quill staff is made up of men. Just men. The excuse for this cover could be something like: But it’s about our upcoming convention! Training journalists! Being better! So the cover is akin to working out, training for a race, and making yourself better for something important.

You don’t need to read the article to understand that. Reading the article isn’t necessary. The article doesn’t excuse the cover; the article doesn’t protect the cover. The article doesn’t matter.

Here is the original image. It most likely came from Shutterstock or another photo-buying site. No shame here! This is something many journalists and media outlets use. This is not a problem.

But if you go into the similar images, you’ll see that the same photographer has different variations of the same photos, including this one:

There’s also a similar training one:

I found these in a couple minutes. I would hope that the person selecting the cover would spend more time on it.

Yes: I would hope they spend more time selecting a cover photo for a magazine that gets sent to and represents thousands of journalists across the country.

Well it’s published! Now what?

Aside from President Lynn Walsh’s statement below, Region 2 Director Andy Schotz’s post, and Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky’s comments, this cover is relatively quiet in journalism circles right now. But I sort of get it: we’re all really just trying to do our best right now given the current political climate and hate against (among other things) journalists. Sometimes we just don’t have it in us to fight internally when we’re too busy fighting outsiders. It took someone telling me about the cover for me to pull the magazine out from a pile of other magazines to even look at it at all. I’m with you.

But Marie Baca saw it and said something and then SPJ said something not great back. Her mentions are filled with those in agreement. It’s on Reddit. Is this really the organization that represents us?

To her credit, Marie wrote an open letter to the Board of Directors and then posted it on her blog. When I got an email from incoming president Rebecca Baker asking for my thoughts, this was my response:

I waited more than a day, and then I pestered current Walsh, who told me this:

“I believe the photo was an inappropriate choice for a magazine that discusses journalism issues and that there are better images that depict training in reference to journalism. The photo was not meant to offend or perpetuate sexism in any way and I want to apologize if it has. I personally know the struggles that can come with being a female journalist and would never want to publish something that adds to those struggles. In addition, our staff at headquarters is working to make sure images are more carefully selected moving forward.”

Give her the respect she deserves: a response

SPJ isn’t giving Marie more answers. Judging by the lack of recent edition on the Quill page, they don’t want to give more. But how about we go over what Marie is asking from SPJ. This is what she wants:

  1. Acknowledge that the photo was sexist.

  2. Figure out the chain of command that allowed such a photo to appear on the cover of Quill.

  3. Have a meeting where everyone is in agreement about how to make sure this will never happen again.

  4. Share #1 through #3 in a very public way.

For women leaders in SPJ to think or say to others anything to the effect of “I’m a woman/I’m a feminist and I don’t find this offensive,” that doesn’t mean it wasn’t. The point isn’t to say “I don’t find this offensive, therefore, it’s not offensive,” it’s to say, “Why did someone find this offensive? What were the steps that got us here? How can we prevent this from happening again? What can I do to better understand why some people found this offensive?” Really, what can SPJ do to educate others about what they are going to do to prevent this in the future?

What Marie is asking for isn’t “big” like she says in her blog post: it’s a respectful, legitimate request from an SPJ member. As a fellow SPJ member, the national Diversity chair, and a chapter leader, how am I supposed to defend an organization that can’t even admit its wrongdoing and ensures it won’t happen again?

Asian American Journalists Association Launches Muslim Sources Database

Accurately and fairly covering the Muslim community has been a problem. While SPJ is working to expand journalism training to objectively covering the Muslim community through the Muslimedia program, there are other journalism groups that are also looking to help journalists be better in their coverage.

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) has launched the Diverse Muslim Sources database to help journalists cover and better cover Muslim/Muslim-American issues. It’s free to use and right now, journalists can request access and sources can request to be listed.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Senior Vice President of AAJA, explains how important the database is and how both journalists and sources can participate.

Dori Zinn: How did the idea for the source database come about?

Michelle Ye Hee Lee: It came about as news coverage unfolded of President Trump’s first immigration executive order. There was so much coverage of Muslims in America, but just through the lens of the immigration policy or in the context of suspected and attempted terrorist activity in the country. This often tends to be the case with news coverage when it comes to Muslim America.

Have you come across journalists that have had trouble finding Muslim sources?

I’ve heard from many journalists who said they appreciate having updated guidelines for covering Muslim America and having a new database that can help diversify their coverage. As journalists, especially when we’re on deadline, we tend to find the sources we know and trust and have been quoted before by other media outlets. So the more diverse expert voices that are being quoted in news stories, the more robust coverage will become.

How long did it take to make? Who created it?

I created AAJA’s Muslim American Task Force by getting volunteers from inside and outside our organization. We moved quickly, knowing that we have a lot to do and that we should act quickly to provide as many tangible resources as possible. Within 48 hours of my first call-out for volunteers, we had about 20 people on a conference call. We brainstormed ideas, divided into committees, came up with our priority projects, and got to work that night. The Diverse Muslim Sources database is one of three projects we started on immediately. The other is updating AAJA’s Guide to Covering Muslim America, which hadn’t been updated since 2012. The other is a Partnerships Committee that reached out to other groups taking on similar efforts so that we can all be in communication and help each other.

What is your goal for this database?

The goal is to provide resources for journalists covering Muslim communities. This database is to help journalists find and identify sources from a variety of backgrounds, in their own local markets or nationally, for a fuller, richer and more accurate coverage of Muslim America.


Request access or to be added here.



New Toolkit on Reporting on Race Now Available

Earlier this month, the National Association of Broadcasters released a Reporting on Race toolkit. The free toolkit is now publicly available.

“Every day, newsrooms across the country face challenging questions regarding the coverage of communities of color,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith at the April 12 event. “These stories can be among the most complicated for stations to cover since journalists understand that what they report can influence as well as reflect situations and circumstances in a community. NAB is proud to work alongside the NAB Education Foundation and our partner organizations to assist newsrooms in reporting on race.”

The digital toolkit, made with help from journalists, news directors, journalism school faculty and industry leaders, is geared toward a wide range of journalists, including management, producers, reporters, photographers, and others who handle publishing content.

NAB says the toolkit is the first phase of the Awareness in Reporting initiative. Phase two will be a toolkit on covering religion. Access the toolkit now.

New Toolkit on Reporting on Race to be Released from NAB

The discussion about race and diversity continues across the country — not just about how to increase diversity in newsrooms, but how to cover it as well.

The National Association of Broadcasters is set to release guidelines and recommendations through a toolkit on April 12 in Washington.

Along with the toolkit release, NAB will host a lunchtime conversation about reporting on race. Following the noon lunch at the Knight Conference Center in the Newseum, NAB and the NAB Education Foundation are bringing together news directors, reporters, and journalism educators to talk about personal experiences in the industry as well as recommendations on reporting on race and racially sensitive stories.

“Local radio and television stations have unique relationships with their communities and their reporters are often the first on the scene as racially sensitive stories develop,” NAB says. “Americans continue to rely on their local news broadcasters who are uniquely situated to bring the role race plays in these stories to the forefront.”

The event will be emceed by Bruce Johnson, WUSA9 weeknight anchor in Washington, D.C. The afternoon discussion will include two different parts:

Awareness in Reporting Panel: Lessons Learned From Reporting on the Frontlines — A discussion about guidelines and recommendations by the broadcast industry to cover racially-sensitive stories well.

Conversation with Community Leaders – Chief David Brown and Rev. Kenny Irby — Hear personal experiences from community leaders and how that impacts coverage by journalists.

See the complete agenda here.

RSVP here.

Why We Are Expanding Muslimedia


Last summer, Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky pitched an idea at an SPJ Florida board meeting — how about we have an event in a mosque?

At the time, the election results were not yet in; Donald Trump had not yet won. But his words attacking the Muslim community were striking. What’s worse was that he was not alone in his beliefs — millions of his fans and followers have been touting this rhetoric since the Trump presidential campaign started. But do those who are vehemently against an entire religion know what they are fighting? What about journalists who cover both the Muslim community and the hate they are getting?

Aside from being the chair of the Diversity Committee, I’m also the president of the award-winning SPJ Florida Pro chapter. Muslimedia was originally scheduled to happen before the elections, but Hurricane Matthew didn’t want that to happen. Instead, we had it after the elections — when an entire community started to face the realities that their next president does not believe they are human beings.

The chapter pitched in $500 to host the event at the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR), with the logistic help of Region 3 and SPJ FAU. The mosque made national news last summerwhen it was removed as a polling site after voters complained. We had a panel of journalists and ICBR directors who were able to actively and openly discuss how the Muslim community is covered in the media. For journalists who are covering a community they know nothing about, how can they report accurately and fairly? By learning about it. That was the goal of Muslimedia.

The mosque’s public relations and outreach director Annie Hayat said it was an important discussion to have. “Bridges were created, and trust was built. I would recommend this event to all Islamic Centers.”

Attendees — journalists, religious leaders, and activists — toured the mosque. They saw the imam’s office. They saw children’s classrooms. They saw prayer rooms. That followed with the panel discussion and then a halal lunch buffet.

Before Muslimedia even happened, I knew the importance of having this type of open and frank discussion. Once we wrapped, I emailed our board about a Muslimedia expansion grant — giving a few micro-grants to chapters across the country to put on a Muslimedia event in their community. Earlier this month we accepted more applicants than we could award and the response — even from those that didn’t apply — was overwhelming: this event needs to happen.

I’m happy to announce that five groups from all over the United States have been awarded $200 each to put on a Muslimedia program in their community.

While we couldn’t give everyone some extra cash, I’m happy we could help out those that won. I’m happy that SPJ is already working on expanding this program even further. While we were the first, we most certainly won’t be the last.

Muslimedia sheds light on the darkness of media’s coverage of Muslim Americans

As tensions have heated to a rapid boil this election season, one group of Americans being unfairly targeted by others is Muslim Americans. Since the election ended, Muslim women have admitted they are terrified to wear their hijabs in public, fearing for their lives (although this kind of discrimination isn’t exactly new).

But what are we, as media, doing to contribute to this? Or, if you’re scoffing at that sentence, what are we doing to prevent it?

The SPJ Florida Pro chapter is putting on Muslimedia this Sunday, and organizer Kathleen Devaney — the chapter’s VP of programs — wants you to go. Here’s what she has to say about the most important discussion you may ever be in.


Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably offended Muslim-Americans in your coverage. Yes, it’s true, sometimes even journalists don’t get the facts straight. For example, the term “Islamic terrorism,” which we in mainstream media have adopted so easily, isn’t exactly accurate or representative of the world’s second largest religion. In fact, it’s offensive.

That’s why SPJ Florida is hosting Muslimedia, an eye-opening panel between South Florida journalists and local Muslim leaders, where each group will have the opportunity to discuss how and why the media covers them the way we do. And in exchange, each side might learn something new from each other.

The panel will consist of staple topics like what are the basics of Islam, ISIS in the media and the looming future of what a Trump presidency looks like for Muslim-Americans. But perhaps the most provocative topic will be a local one: the fact that the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, the location of our event, was once determined to be an election polling site but was then revoked because the surrounding community did not feel comfortable voting in a mosque. Local and national outlets were buzzing when this news broke, and at Muslimedia, we’re going to analyze the differences in reporting to see which outlets were culturally sensitive.

In addition to the back and forth conversations, attendees will indulge in a halal lunch buffet and also get the chance to observe an afternoon prayer session.

We hope SPJ chapters nationwide adopt our concept and try Muslimedia locally. When I signed up to plan this event a couple months ago, I had no idea how little I knew about the Muslim community. Even now, I realize that what I’ve learned is only the tip of the iceberg and I am hopeful to see that same ah-ha moment in the faces of my journalism friends at the event.

Want to go? Help us make sure we’ve got enough food and RSVP on Facebook.


Kathleen Devaney is a social media producer for the Palm Beach Post and the Vice President of Programs for SPJ Florida Pro.

University pays high honor to Pulitzer-winning journalist George Ramos

I didn’t expect to need a tissue but I did. The moment I saw the display I got emotional. It was beautiful. There was George Ramos’ life encased in glass.


George Ramos (Courtesy Doug Swanson)

There was a photo of George smiling when he was a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and it smiled through the display. It’s appropriate outside the Mustang News newsroom. News was George’s love and he shared his passion with students. I met him when I was a student years ago. I was inspired by his success, tenacity, and roots from East Los Angeles. Dedicating this hallway to him was befitting.

Longtime friend and Cal Poly alumna Nina Zacuto knew George when they were students in the Journalism Department and worked together on the school paper. She says he really embraced his culture, and loved sports. During his time at Cal Poly, he was Editor-in-Chief, of then, Mustang Daily.


“He wanted to give his community a voice, and then there was the sports. Sports just never went away. His vacations were going from city to city to watch baseball games,” Zacuto said.

George Ramos was part of a team of more than a dozen Latino journalists in 1983, chronicling the life and culture of Latinos in Southern California for the Los Angeles Times. It was a 27-part series. He would also be part of Pulitzer Prize winning teams covering the Los Angeles riots, and the Northridge earthquake.

Earlier in his career, while reporting for the San Diego Union Tribune, George went to Mexico and crossed the border with a group of migrants being smuggled into the country. “I remember him showing up at my house in Los Angeles wearing old baggy clothes and telling a chilling first person account of the experience,” recounts Zacuto.

In the display case, mementos were carefully selected to represent his life, including the Pulitzers, George’s tape recorder, a notepad; and anyone who knew George would understand the humor behind a green shovel labeled “Keeper of the Bull.”


Dozens of alumni, staff members, students, and friends were there in the hallway for the special dedication in memory of George, who died in 2011 from diabetes complications.

“George was not only tough, but a fabulous reporter, he was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He was a professor. He was our department chair, but he was a wonderful, wonderful man,” said Tracy Jackson Campbell, former Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Journalism Department Advisory Committee Chairman.

The tribute to George was prompted after his death, when journalist Elizabeth Aguilera inquired about money that had been collected when George died. Cecilia Alvear, former President of NAHJ who knew George through his Latino news organizations, contacted the school and soon thereafter, George’s friends, Cecilia Alvear, George Lewis and Nina Zacuto were on campus selecting items from his office for this special honor. It was decided that the funds would go into a scholarship fund that George had established at Cal Poly to promote diversity.


During the hallway ceremony, the most recent George Ramos Scholarship recipient, Mustang News Editor in Chief Celina Oseguera wanted to share her pride in this award.

“I feel very happy to carry that legacy of diversity,” said the student from Stockton, California, “The fact that someone of my heritage was able to be at this position of power, so early on, just makes me very inspired.”

But the tribute to George Ramos did not end there. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo also inducted George into its very first Cal Poly Student Press Hall of Fame, along with three other recipients. This event culminated with its 100-year anniversary of delivering the news.

A video explaining George’s impact and even showing an interview with him was played during the anniversary celebration.  On the video, George reflected on his life.


“Then is always now. You always remember your roots. Remember who you are, where you’ve come from, what motivated you, the sacrifices your parents and grandparents made for you. I made sacrifices too for the next generation of reporters. that’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m the way I am,” George said on video as waves from Morro Bay rolled in the background.

Accepting the award on his behalf, Los Angeles Times Digital Editor, Brian De Los Santos, who is also a board member for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. George was a founding member of NAHJ, as well as the California Chicano News Media Association. De Los Santos, proudly pointed out that he, just like George, is part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team from the L.A. Times that won an award for its San Bernardino terrorist attack coverage.

De Los Santos said he read some of George’s news stories.

“It made me feel passionate about journalism. It made me feel like I had a face in journalism. Whether I knew George or not, he still impacted my life,” De Los Santos said.

To remember and honor George, donate to the George Ramos Scholarship for Journalism Excellence Endowment.

October is LGBT History Month


October marks LGBT History Month, started in 1994 by a Missouri high school teacher. Rodney Wilson sought out other teachers and community leaders for his effort and they chose October because school was in session and it coincided with National Coming Out Day on October 11. 

“The LGBT community is the only minority worldwide that is not taught its history at home, in public schools or religious institutions,” said Malcolm Lazin, the founder of LGBTHistoryMonth.com, which celebrates a different LGBT icon each day in October. “We have a powerful civil rights legacy filled with so many inspiring pioneers and narratives. Equality Forum is grateful to [those] who embrace teaching our history and celebrating LGBT History Month.”

Since launching the project in 2006 they’ve profiled more than 300 people. Some of the LGBT journalists they’ve featured include CNN anchor Anderson Cooper; CNN Tonight host Don Lemon; a founding editor of The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald; and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Some of the lesser-known journalists include: 

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon – editors of The Ladder, the first lesbian magazine in the U.S.

Jack Nichols – Nichols wrote the first LGBT column, “The Homosexual Citizen,” in a mainstream publication in 1969. He, along with his partner, would later launch GAY, the first weekly gay newspaper in New York City. 

Randy Shilts the first openly gay journalist to cover LGBT issues in the mainstream press. He worked for The Advocate, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

First-Ever Diversity Summit for College Students and Advisors Deserves The Weekend It’s Getting

When Jackie Alexander, an assistant director for student media at Clemson University, led a workshop on identity at the College Media Convention in New York City this past spring, Candace Baltz was inspired.

“I had been looking for affordable educational opportunities around inclusion and diversity that we could send our professional and student staff to attend, but kept coming up dry,” Baltz, the director of Orange Media Network at Oregon State University, says.

Alexander, Baltz, and Rachele Kanigel — an associate professor of journalism at San Francisco State University — talked throughout the conference about how to tackle diversity and inclusion in college media. That’s how the Diversity Summit was born.

From Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, College Media Association and Orange Media Network at Oregon State University will host a weekend college media summit on diversity and inclusion. Organizers Alexander, Baltz, and Kanigel answer some questions about the summit and how those who can’t make it can catch up.

Why did you decide on creating your own summit rather than joining another college media convention?

Baltz: This summit will allow us to commit a substantial amount of time to examine multiple facets of a single topic. We couldn’t do that in a single 50-minute time slot, or half or full day pre-con. And even if we could fold each of the summit’s sessions over a four-day conference, we would be putting attendees in the difficult spot of picking whether to learn about removing barriers to inclusion or skills for doing their jobs. This is heavy stuff that deserves full attention without a competing schedule of other sessions in the same time slot.

Kanigel: Jackie Alexander and I and others have led diversity sessions at CMA and ACP (Associated Collegiate Press) conventions, but the issues often get lost in a big convention where we are talking about technology, careers, ethics, visual storytelling and other topics. These can be hard issues to discuss and we wanted to create a special space for processing the intense emotions that often arise when people talk about race, class, gender, identity, and others.

Alexander: It speaks to how important this issue is for our industry. Research has long shown that there is disparity in journalism and it hasn’t gotten much better over that time. It is such a pressing problem for our industry and society, that it deserved full attention in a single event.

What do you think is one of the biggest challenges facing college journalists when it comes to covering diverse issues?

Alexander: Fear. Students are afraid — to fail, to misspeak, to be rejected. Fear of others and fear of failure are the biggest challenges, but we believe that with the summit, we can help them confront and conquer that fear.

Kanigel: From what I’ve seen on my campus and heard from other campuses, a lot of student activists and organization leaders distrust college media and some won’t talk to reporters. It used to be that student activists wanted media coverage; now they sometimes block reporters from covering their events. They want to control the message and they have their own channels — social media, blogs, etc. — to get that message out. Some see college media outlets as part of the system of institutional racism, oppression, etc. (This Atlantic article has more about that.)

What do you feel is one way for college students to better serve diverse communities?

Kanigel: Reporters need to build trust with sources from different communities before they go out to report a story. My staff this semester is embarking on an outreach campaign where reporters and editors will approach different campus groups (including ones that often won’t talk to the campus newspaper) just to talk and find out what’s going on, what kind of coverage these groups would like to see, what’s missing from our coverage. Journalists need to listen and reach out before they need a quote on deadline.

Baltz: Get out and meet your community members where they are, and make a habit of checking in and building relationships with people from all parts of the community. Stop expecting people to come to you. That’s lazy and doesn’t work.

What about diverse college newsrooms and media outlets? How can schools get a variety of different students involved in journalism and media?

Alexander: Targeted recruiting from diverse groups is a start. It’s the easiest way to recruit, but students must stop recruiting just their friends. We use a program with our career center that provides paid on-campus internships where the department is only responsible for half of the students salary (less if they have certain financial aid packages). We intentionally hire diverse students for those internship positions.

Baltz: The first is to identify and remove barriers: Is your newsroom open to students from all majors and backgrounds? Are you sure about that? For example, is there an expectation that students provide their own equipment? Or already have experience? Or work for free? Or pay their own travel to conferences? All of these are fairly typical ways of operating within the tight budgets of college media, but these expectations are problematic when it comes to recruiting and retaining a diverse staff. Some of our best staff members are students who have no professional interest in media, but join because they see the value in sharpening skills that will help them in other professions. And that helps broaden the diversity within the newsroom and its coverage when the staff is made up of students from all majors and interests.

Why should students and advisers alike attend? Who are you hoping shows up?

Baltz: College media and professional media struggle to accurately cover historically underrepresented communities. And we struggle to adequately cover the social unrest around race, gender, class, and religion. We owe our communities informed, educated, and prepared journalists covering these issues, with newsrooms that reflect (and personally know) the diversity of the communities they serve. There will continue to be gaps at the professional level until we fix it at the college level. It starts with us.

Kanigel: We’re planning to touch on issues that haven’t been explored in-depth at any convention or conference before this. I think it will be a rich learning event for both students and advisers. I look forward to having people of different generations there because that’s another aspect of diversity. I think younger people and older people have somewhat different views on diversity issues and it will be great to see students, who are mostly in the millennial generation, and advisers, who tend to be older, share their experiences and perspectives.

How can people follow along if they aren’t in attendance? Will materials be available during or after the summit?

Baltz: Follow along with our hashtag on twitter #CMADiversity. We will be rolling video on the entire summit. We haven’t yet decided how to make that available later on.

Can a summit like this be done on a professional level? What steps need to be taken to get this done?

Kanigel: I’d love to see professional media really take on the issue of diversity in the newsroom. Currently, only 12 to 13 percent of newsroom jobs are held by people of color, according to ASNE, while people of color make up about 37 percent of the population. (Radio and TV are somewhat more diverse, according to RTDNA. I haven’t seen numbers for online media but lack of diversity is obviously a big problem in the tech sector.) I’ve talked to countless editors who say their staff is not as diverse as they’d like but I don’t see them making a concerted effort to change that.

Baltz: A summit like this needs to be done on a professional level. It starts with identifying what gaps we have in coverage, in staffing, and who the experts are in providing context, tools, ideas, and solutions. [We] prioritize newsroom convenience over accurately capturing the importance of the moment. So yes, our professional industry needs a summit, a hard look in the mirror, and an ongoing conversation on how we can do better.

…so give me a call, I’ll be happy to help.

The Diversity Summit is Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 at Oregon State University. For more information, visit cmadiversity.com or follow the hashtag: #CMADiversity

We need to talk about the atrocious media coverage at the Rio Olympics

The day after gymnast Simone Biles won a gold medal in Rio, the front-page headline in my local newspaper celebrated her as “Superlative Simone.” But I did a double-take when I saw a column headline underneath that read, “ ‘I don’t think she’s human,’ rival says of dominant Texas gymnast.” Read the rest of this entry »


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