PRESS PASS Q
A Newsletter and Trade Publication for the LGBT Media Professional
OCTOBER 2009 (Vol. 11, No. 7)
Celebrating 10 years of serving our community of journalists
SPECIAL EDITION from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association 2009 Conference and LGBT Media Summit in Montreal
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FEATURE: LGBT media 2.0: NLGJA convention examines digital revolution’s impact on how news and information reach community
by Chuck Colbert
MONTREAL – LGBT media have finally had their rendezvous with the digital revolution. The hookup occurred when nearly 200 LGBT journalists, students, educators and bloggers gathered for the 19th annual convention of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists (NLGJA), held last month (Sept. 10-13) in Montréal. Serious and at times pointed discussions about social media networking – the new interactive tools of Internet 2.0 – took center stage during plenaries, breakout sessions and cocktail parties.
“If I’m not on Facebook, then I am not going to know what’s going on in my community,” Bay Area Reporter assistant editor Matthew Bajko told participants during a breakout session entitled “Prop. 8 + Web 2.0 = Stonewall 2.0,” a lively conversation about social media’s effect on newsgathering, the media industry, and the overall transformation of LGBT activism.
Joining Bajko for the discussion were Michael Cole, new media communications director for the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and Mike Rogers, director of the National Blogger Initiative and media fellow at the New Organizing Institute, also located in the nation’s capital. Rogers also publishes Page One News Media, Inc. and BlogActive.com. Press Pass Q editor Fred Kuhr served as moderator.
The panel, Kuhr explained, resulted from gay freelance journalist Rex Wockner’s online observation, posted just days before LGBT activists organized a wave of nationwide protests, voicing outrage over California voters’ passage of Proposition 8. That vote, a shocking rollback of equal marriage rights in the nation’s most populous state, energized and politicized a new generation of young people around what many of them identify as the civil-rights battle of their time, specifically marriage equality. Wockner noted the grassroots protesters’ technological savvy – their politically focused social media network, created through Facebook, Twitter, cell phone and SMS texting blogs, RSS and e-mail.
Sure enough, the millennial generation of young activists, employing the very same social networking tools of new media went on to organize the National Equality March this past Columbus Day weekend.
Meanwhile back at the convention, moderator Kuhr peppered panelists about the phenomenon of Stonewall 2.0. “Is there [really] a Stonewall 2.0?” he asked. “Where do citizen journalists fit into the LGBT movement or the LGBT activist picture?” For that matter, what does the future hold for print media journalists in this brave new web world?
A lively exchange followed, one that underscored a tension within the professional association of NLGJA, between “old” media, or traditional LGBT journalists, and “new” media, the bloggers and citizen journalists who are sometimes viewed within the association more as political activists than practitioners of the craft of journalism.
“HRC and Lambda [Legal] get it,” said blogger Rogers, citing those two organizations as examples, as well as the Victory Fund, of how groups can utilize social networking tools to get their messages out.
“I don’t have time to for a press release,” Rogers said, going on to explain how citizen journalists are able to move rapidly and to many readers through the various interactive tools of Web 2.0.
“So in terms of moving messages, Bay Area Reporter is a great paper,” he said. And yet, “I reach one-quarter of a million people each day. You cannot compete with that on a national level. That’s the new journalism.”
Quipped moderator Kuhr, “This is an NLGJA convention like no other – praise for HRC. … Never happened before. And from a blogger.”
“Let me bask in the moment,” replied HRC’s Cole.
“Getting back to your question of ‘Is there is a Stonewall 2.0?’ I think there is,” Cole said, “but in a different way than we’ve been thinking about. The real power of the online changes that we’ve seen is harnessing those people – the energy, the anger – and directing them toward off-line activities, like writing a member of Congress.”
Moderator Kuhr pressed the panelists further. “If activists and activist organizations are moving to Facebook, Twitter and social media, as opposed to old media, then do we as journalists have a responsibility to be where the news is” and use such tools as Facebook and Twitter?
For Cole and HRC, “figuring out how best to communicate with each other using different tools” is “part of the problem we’re all trying to figure out. What works for some, doesn’t work for others.”
But for Rogers, LGBT print media is old hat. “The word ‘newspaper’ is fraudulent advertising," he said. “It’s old paper,” citing a recent trend in mainstream and LGBT print publications toward analysis and in-depth feature writing, rather than breaking news.
Web-based LGBT radio broadcasting, combined with social media networking, also challenges print media, Rogers said. “‘The Michelangelo Signorile Show’ [on SiriusXM Satellite Radio] reaches more people in San Francisco in a 40-minute period via Twitter and Facebook than [traditional LGBT media]. That’s why HRC is pushing stories online and working with Pam Spaulding,” who is the editor and publisher of Pam's House Blend, an interactive blog (http://www.pamshouseblend.com/) that has garnered honors as “best LGBT blog” by the 2005 and 2006 Weblog Awards. “Again,” Rogers questioned, “are newspapers the most effective way to move the message?”
Bajko bristled. “I’ve never heard [Signorile’s] show,” he said. “I don’t have any friends who listen to it. I’m not sure how much of a reach he has in San Francisco. I am not in my car” during the day. “I’m gonna burst your bubble because you’re making blogs sound like the end all and be all. What I do is still needed,” referring to original reporting.
In that regard, Cole pointed to the linkage between LGBT media and the blogosphere, the two arenas working together in tandem. “Now there’s some great original reporting done on blogs,” he said. “How many blogs are you reading that are linking back to LGBT press stories or to mainstream stories?"
For his part, Signorile offered an olive branch from the audience. “What we’re hearing is a diversity of ways that the message is getting out,” he said, referring to some “people who work on their computers all day” and others “in their cars who don’t have time so sit at a computer. It’s different delivery systems expanded dramatically.”
Signorile said that he goes to LGBT publications like the Bay Area Reporter and the Washington Blade for information as well as the web. After all, he said, “Original reporting is original reporting.”
SIDEBARS: Tips offered for generating revenue during economic downturn
MONTREAL – The economy is down in the dumps. The digital revolution continues to wreak financial havoc on all media, including LGBT outlets. Nearly all publishers report revenue streams either flat or decreasing. So just how are LGBT media publishers surviving the recession?
Those questions and trends received full attention during a breakout session called “Ad Wars” at the 6th annual LGBT Media Summit, a one-day set of programs designed specifically for LGBT media professionals. Taking place in Montreal, the one-day summit preceded NLGJA’s annual convention.
Three panelists discussed the situation, including Oriol Guttierez, deputy editor of POZ; Josh Rosenzweig, senior vice president of integrated marketing for Here Networks and Regent Media; and David Walberg, publisher and editor at large for Toronto-based Pink Triangle Press.
“Diversification is one of the big things my company has done to weather this storm,” said Guttierez. “We joke about the HIV/AIDS business as recession proof, or so we thought. Our fluidity comes from pharmaceuticals. Even they have felt the pinch.”
For Guttierez – and many others in the industry – the challenge remains how to bring advertising revenue from print to online. As Walberg put it, “The problem of moving ad revenue to the Internet, I have absolutely no advice for anyone. No one of us individually is going to solve that [problem].”
Pink Triangle Press, the largest LGBT media company in Canada, has three locally targeted newsmagazines based in Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver. Pink Triangle also publishes Fab, a Toronto-based glossy targeting gay men. A few years ago, the company acquired The Guide, which was formerly based in Boston. These publications, along with a pride guide and an index directory, are the bulk of Triangle Press’s journalistic endeavors.
“On the publishing side, revenues are flat,” Walberg said. “The good news is that we haven’t lost any ground. [But] we’re not seeing any growth [there].”
So where does Pink Triangle Press make money? “Ten years ago, we developed Squirt,” Walberg explained. Squirt (www.squirt.org), an online hook-up and cruising site for men, now has more than half a million members who can chat online, share information and view webcams.
“Far and away [Squirt] is now our largest revenue generator and is on a growth curve that is quite impressive,” he said. “It gives us seed money to develop our websites and mobile guides, at least for the time being.”
There’s a take-home lesson here, Walberg said. “Maybe that’s the kind of thinking people are going to have to start [doing]. Not necessarily make a hook-up site, but try to think of the kinds of things your publication has in the community and how might a new technology help you in a way you hadn’t thought of before.”
Historically speaking, Walberg said that 20 years ago when chat lines first appeared, they were largely viewed as spin-offs of gay print publications. Chat lines, he said, replaced personal ads, which in their day were large sources of revenue. “Along came chat lines, called cruise lines, an old technology [that] produces revenue for our company, basically subsidizing our journalistic enterprises.”
Meanwhile stateside, Rosenzweig explained what’s currently working for his media outlets. “Our answers to all of our challenges is to diversify, really to go across all platforms,” he said. In other words, “How can one of our brands support others,” for example, “whether it is creating custom content through the TV arm for The Advocate or Out to be shown exclusively on Advocate.com or Out.com and now gay.com. Or whether utilizing Alyson Books’ library titles to begin creating content.”
For Rosenzweig and Regent Media said, “It’s mostly about [utilizing] multi-platforms, integrating brands, and [offering] custom content. We have enough different types of media that I can offer to our subscribers and do customer drives.” For example, he said, “If you subscribe to the [TV] network, we’ll give you three months of the Advocate for free. Or if you subscribe to The Advocate, you’ll get Out for free.”
— Chuck Colbert
(Editor’s note: Press Pass Q contributor Chuck Colbert moderated the “Ad Wars” panel.)
When LGBT media take on the community they also serve
MONTREAL – How deep should LGBT journalists dig into researching and sourcing stories that may seem critical of gay organizations, their leadership, the community and the movement? Should LGBT media do stories critical of “our side” in the civil rights struggle for gay equality, or would resources be better spent hitting the right wing?
Those were key questions discussed in a breakout session, called “LGBT Deep Throats,” held during the LGBT Media Summit.
Kevin Naff, editor of the Washington Blade, served as moderator of the discussion, which also included Philadelphia Gay News editor Sarah Blazucki and California-based activist and blogger Fred Karger. Karger founded Californians Against Hate (http://californiansagainsthate.org), an online advocacy and watchdog group in July 2008 to spotlight major donors to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign.
“Absolutely, we need to be doing it,” said Blazucki in response to Naff’s question regarding coverage critical of the movement. “It’s our responsibility to [provide] as fair and accurate coverage as we can.”
“How far should gay media go in airing dirty laundry?” an audience member asked. “What about organizational turf battles and personality clashes?”
“It’s important to go fairly deep,” she responded. “I don’t like to cover personality clashes, [but] I want to know what’s going on with [gay organizations’] money, what board decisions are. I want the facts and not hearsay. I don’t have a gossip paper.”
And yet, she said, “If someone wants to do a blog or inside dish, that’s fine.” But, “I try to keep it [in the realm] of what you can prove and back up,” she explained. “If I can talk to three board members who are saying that the same thing is going on, then I’ll go with that and get them on the record to corroborate.” Even better, Blazucki said, is “if I can get financial information.”
“We do cover the turf battles,” editor Naff said. "The reason is that they are important right now in light of the economy. There’s a lot of discussion about consolidation in the movement.” So, for example, "If HRC is doing something that three other groups are doing, do we really need 10 religious outreach groups or activists groups doing the same thing?”
Naff said that the Blade has done some stories on the topic of resource consolidation. The organizations, however, “think we’re saying they shouldn’t exist. Really, what [our coverage] is about is leverage of the finite resources that out there. In this economy, consolidation would be a good thing.”
Both Blazucki and Naff have done stories perceived by readers and LGBT organizational leadership as “critical” of the movement. The Blade, for example, ran a cover story about the executive directors’ salaries of the major gay organizations, going so far as to rank the chief executive’s compensation, according to the organization’s size and percent of salaries to revenue.
“The groups were not happy with what we did,” Naff said. “A lot of people didn’t want us to do this story,” which some people perceived as trying to “sabotage certain organizations publicly.” But he said, “The story was about letting people know where the money’s going. It’s a pretty basic role of journalism, especially in this economy, to take a look at where [the money is going].”
For his part, activist Karger applauded LGBT media for helping to get out the message of well-heeled, right-wing donors and their out-of-state contributions to pass Proposition 8. “Gay media can help with my story,” Karger said.
PGN, for instance, ran a story about a local man who contributed $1.1 million to Yes on Proposition 8. Local mainstream media followed suit, with the Philadelphia Inquirer also covering the donation. “One of the reasons that I’ve been successful,” Karger said, “is because of LGBT media.
— Chuck Colbert
Plenary asks if NLGJA is still necessary
MONTREAL – At not quite 200, attendance was down at this year’s National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention and LGBT Media Summit. Not long ago, the convention would attract well over 500. NLGJA’s operating budget is now $500,000, half as much as its peak of $1 million-plus a few years ago. This past year, staffing at the national office has been cut from seven to two people.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that this was one of the best conventions ever, according to many who attended. Much more intimate, with more time to meet, mingle, and converse, they said. As the organization’s president David Steinberg wrote recently in e-mail to members, “I heard nearly universal praise from attendees about the professional development and networking opportunities, the programming, and the venue. … Montreal is a beautiful city and provided a lot to do and see.”
Better yet, the convention “turned a nice profit,” Steinberg reported in his correspondence. NLGJA board leadership has its eyes on the financial bottom line, managing director Michael Tune assured attendees, quipping, “Solvent is the new fabulous.”
And yet nobody – membership or leadership – is kidding anyone. The current recession has taken its toll on the media industry, along with the digital revolution’s transformation of newsgathering. One estimate put the loss of newsroom jobs at 35,000. And the convention’s Saturday morning plenary session raised a difficult question: Is NLGJA necessary?
“The answer is yes,” Steinberg said. “We need voices in the newsroom. If we don’t have members who are trained, employed, and inside the newsroom, then who can raise issues of fairness and accurate coverage? If not us, then who?” If we’re not there, “it will be a hell of a lot more difficult to get our issues dealt with.”
Historically speaking, NLGJA’s founders had three main purposes in mind. First, in the early 1990s, it was not so easy to be out in the newsroom – so making newsrooms safe spaces to come out was a major concern. Second, journalists as employees needed strength in numbers to press employers for the same kind of health care insurance and other domestic partner benefits that their straight, married counterparts already enjoyed. A third purpose was to ensure fair, accurate and balanced coverage of gay-related topics.
By and large, Steinberg said, “It’s easier to be out in the newsroom” now, although there still are some people having issues in smaller markets. And today, “Most major companies offer domestic partner benefits," including NBC, one of the very last holdouts.
But “fair and accurate coverage is still an ongoing issue” 19 years out, according to Steinberg. “That’s one of the things from a mission perspective that is really, really important." In making a difference, he said, “We always were in the newsroom, talking peer to peer.”
With industry-wide newsroom staffing cuts, along with “having to do more with less,” Steinberg explained, there are fewer LGBT journalists, less diversity among the ranks and increased responsibilities. “It is important for our members to be in the newsroom and to have the resources to affect coverage.”
During a question-and-answer period of the plenary, attendees offered different takes on the organization’s future. “What about advocating much more publicly?” asked author and journalist Michelangelo Signorile, host of his eponymous SiriusXM satellite radio show. As Signorile put it, "All of a sudden something comes up, and we have [the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] all over these groups. Coming from [NLGJA] would mean so much more.”
Furthermore, he said, “Issues such as getting access” should be of concern to NLGJA. “We should be spoken to by the president and by members of Congress. They should be speaking to us through our journalists and in the gay press.”
Acknowledging the concerns, president Steinberg said that they point to “a tension between those who think the organization should be more of an activist organization and those who believe this should be more of a behind-the-scene group of journalists.”
Blogger and publisher Mike Rogers voiced his frustration regarding NLGJA’s relationship with bloggers. “When is this organization going to move itself into 2009? It’s not a matter of allowing bloggers or citizen journalists to join” the organization. “If [NLGJA] expects to survive,” Rogers said, “it has to want” web-based bloggers and citizen journalists to join the fold and “integrate us into the organization.”
— Chuck Colbert
IN THE NEWS: Hacker attacks Washington Blade’s website
As media outlets continue to increase their online presence, a hacker has once again wreaked havoc on one of the country’s leading LGBT newspaper’s websites.
Someone hacked the Washington Blade’s site on the morning of Sept. 1. Technicians took it offline for five and a half hours in order to fix it.
“It was essential for us to locate the point of entry and resolve the vulnerability prior to going live again in order to prevent a further attack and any additional downtime,” Kevin Smith, director of the online department for Window Media, the Blade’s parent company, told Press Pass Q.
The Blade’s website came back online in the mid-afternoon on Sept. 1, but it remains unclear who hacked it.
“We are still investigating the incident,” Smith said. “Our primary concern was to get the [site] back online and to prevent any further security issue.”
The Sept. 1 incident was the third time a hacker has attacked the Blade’s website, but other LGBT media outlets have suffered similar attacks. These include the Kansas City-based Camp KC, the Bay Area Reporter and a newsletter that caters to West Point’s LGBT cadets.
Hackers have also set their sights on Facebook and other social networking sites. Email fraudsters targeted Facebook users in May. And hackers blocked access to both Facebook and Twitter for several hours in early August.
Smith said he feels these incidents have indeed grown more common.
“As with any [website] with high public exposure, attempts are made daily on our web servers, which we prevent on a consistent basis,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Blade has taken precautions against future hacking incidents. These include data back-ups at least once a day, program coding upgrades and investment in more anti-hacking technology.
— Michael K. Lavers
History month “icons” pitched to LGBT media
As media professionals cover GLBT History Month, one Philadelphia-based organization continues to work with journalists and editors alike to generate coverage of those within the movement who have had – or continue to have – an impact.
Equality Forum has chosen 31 “icons” to honor during October, dubbed GLBT History Month. These include MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, former National Football League player Esera Tuaolo and singer/songwriter k.d. lang.
Equality Forum spokesperson Chip Alfred was quick to applaud this year’s list. GLBT History Month has honored nearly 100 LGBT people since Equality Forum first coordinated it in 2006.
One of the project’s many features is a series of videos that highlight each “icon.” WCAU, Philadelphia’s NBC affiliate, produced the spots. The station also helped Equality Forum redesign its GLBT History Month web site.
In addition, Equality Forum pitches a variety of story ideas to media professionals that seek to highlight those it has honored. These include special features that would highlight an openly LGBT athlete, a dance company or film.
These pitches have already generated results. The Chicago Gay News profiled lesbian financial guru Suze Orman in a cover story earlier this month. And A&U Magazine published a story on Tuaolo last month.
Cable channel Logo will feature “icon” videos through October. Out in Jersey plans to publish a story that highlights “icons” from the Garden State. Ourscenetv.com plans to conduct what Alfred described as “daily factoid teasers” about the 31 people highlighted this month. And 103.9 PROUD-FM in Toronto, Examiner.com and the Erie Gay News are among other outlets that plan GLBT History Month coverage.
Alfred added that Equality Forum’s web site had seen one million hits as of Sept. 30.
— Michael K. Lavers
PRESSING QUESTIONS: will return next month.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Just say yes to bare-chested “boy ads”
To Pam Schneider of St. Louis’ Vital Voice: Get off that soapbox you have placed yourself on, start taking all ads and make deals to sign the folks up (“St. Louis publisher asks readers: Should paper fold?” September 2009).
I started in 1991 and for the first year it was also no 900 numbers, no bare-chested boys (or girls) and no escorts here, too. The sad thing is those were and are the ads that pay the bills, so we dumped the policy, which in hindsight was bad from day one. Now 18+ years later, we have no debt whatsoever, we still carry phone and Internet sex ads, escorts, massage guys and about 20 percent of the ads do have bare chests – and a few bare asses as well, as we allow those if the “parts” don’t show.
We did have some complaints at first when we made the shift, mostly from the women’s community who in a condescending manner dubbed them “boy ads,” but we looked at numbers. Then as now, under 8 percent of our business is with women-owned businesses and while we do value all customers and cover all gay, lesbian, bi and trans events, we went where the money was and never looked back.
What was in 1992 a 24-page paper at most is now 64-96 pages each monthly issue and fully 50 percent color. We print 11,500+ copies and have 1,000+ hits for the full paper downloadable as PDF at www.the-word-online.com. We have transitioned somewhat so there are a lot of realty, car dealer, movie and even the Indianapolis Symphony ads these days, too. And not a single one complains or asks not to be next to a bare chest or 900 number. They consider it all part of the mix, and they also know it’s how we can offer them low rates.
I don’t want to sound rude, but you really do need to bail yourself out of the hole you have dug. Give up the high-handed attitude and take all ads. The only ones we decline are illegal offers, pyramid schemes and NAMBLA ads. It’s great to be filled with respectability as you are, but I don’t think we are any less so for making the switch – and neither do my readers. When we started, there were five gay papers in Indianapolis, and now we are it, which says it all.
You can save your own skin and pay the bills if you will, but reconsider that antiquated policy.
What’s your opinion? We’d like to know. Send your letters to editor@PressPassQ.com. Letters should be kept to a maximum of 250 words and may be edited for length and clarity.
TRANSITIONS AND MILESTONES
(Editor’s note: Are there important changes going on at your publication? E-mail the information to editor@PressPassQ.com.)
CURVE magazine announced staff changes in recent months. Former managing editor KATIE PEOPLES has left to join the Peace Corps and is now stationed in Ukraine; she was replaced by KRISTIN SMITH. Former assistant editor RACHEL BEEBE has been promoted to associate editor. Former web editor RACHEL SHATTO has been promoted to assistant editor. Former advertising sales executive DIANA BERRY has been promoted to senior account executive.
DAILY QUEER NEWS, an email newsletter, is now live on the web at DAILYQUEERNEWS.COM.
DIVINEPROV.COM, formerly Rhode Island-based newspaper DIVINE PROVIDENCE, relaunched this month. The newspaper ceased publication in January 2009. The new weekly, which goes by the name of its website, eliminates newsprint in favor of UV-coated glossy newsfliers.
HERE MEDIA and HEALTHYWITHHIV.COM have announced a new partnership and comprehensive HIV awareness campaign that combines in-book, online and email promotions.
PHILADELPHIA GAY NEWS received three awards in the 2009 Keystone Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists Spotlight Contest. Staff winners included VICTORIA BROWNWORTH, MARK SEGAL and SCOTT DRAKE. Additionally, PGN received eight awards in the 2009 Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Foundation advertising contest. Staff winners included CHRIS POTTER, SEAN DORN and SCOTT DRAKE.
RICHARD ROSS and RICH WOLFF, formerly of TLA VIDEO, have launched BREAKING GLASS PICTURES, a new North American distribution company, and VICIOUS CIRCLE FILMS, their new specialty label.
PAM SPAULDING, the Durham, N.C.-based blogger behind PAMSHOUSEBLEND.COM, was one of 11 female journalists and media personalities honored at a June 17 reception at the Women’s Media Center in New York City.
THE WASHINGTON BLADE won two Dateline Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists D.C. chapter. Editor KEVIN NAFF took first place in the editorial, columns and commentary category, and features editor JOEY DIGUGLIELMO won first place in the arts criticism category. Additionally, the Blade won the Esteem Award for outstanding newspaper of the year in a competition sponsored by Chicago’s Windy City Black Pride.
WINDY CITY MEDIA GROUP, publisher of Chicago-based WINDY CITY TIMES, and CHICAGOPRIDE.COM announced last month that they have agreed to create a unified community calendar called CALENDAR Q.
THE BULLETIN BOARD
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Publisher: Todd Evans, todd@PressPassQ.com
CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE
CHUCK COLBERT is a freelance journalist based in Cambridge, Mass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.FRED KUHR is an editor, reporter, performer and personal trainer based in Toronto. He has written for The Advocate, AdWeek, Toronto-based Xtra, and Boston Spirit Magazine. He has also served as a news analyst on the Fox News Channel and CBC Radio, as well as other media outlets. Fred blogs about politics and pop culture at the FredBlog at www.fred-blog.com and has been rated one of the top Twitterers of “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
MICHAEL K. LAVERS is the Mid-Atlantic Editor for EDGE Publications. His work has appeared on Gay.com and in the New York Blade, the Fire Island News, and other publications across the country. His blog, Boy in Bushwick, can be found at www.bushwickboy.blogspot.com.
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