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August 21 2012

14:00

At Rural Newspapers, Some Publishers Still Resist Moving Online

In 1968, Dick Graham bought a small weekly newspaper in Ferry County, Wash., one of the most remote and sparsely populated counties in the Pacific Northwest.

Forty-four years later -- give or take a few months -- broadband Internet is arriving.

Graham and his century-old newspaper, The Republic News-Miner, have cast a wary eye toward the web and raised a legitimate question: Should rural newspapers go online?

Graham, now 75, has resisted.

"I'm old-fashioned," he said. "I don't put nothing up for nothing."

Long shielded from the pressure of Internet news competition, as well as classified competitors like Craigslist, rural newspapers have reportedly fared far better than their metropolitan counterparts. While newspapers in population centers saw growing competition from online startups in the past decade, rural newspapers have faced relatively little competition. (So-called hyper-local sites like AOL's Patch are clustered in metropolitan areas and altogether absent from rural areas in the West.)

al_cross_uky.jpg

As broadband Internet spreads into rural communities -- spurred by a $7 billion federal investment -- rural newspapers are increasingly facing a question encountered by their metropolitan counterparts a decade ago: What information should be offered online?

The considerations aren't solely economic. Rural newspapers that ignore online opportunities may be risking their relevancy -- and losing opportunities -- in their communities, experts say. And rural readers may be missing out as well; a recent survey suggests that rural citizens are going online to look for news but struggle to find local content, especially when compared to more metropolitan citizens. Instead, those readers are finding state or national media outlets that may have little or no "local" content.

That places rural weekly newspapers at a crossroads.

"It's a 24-7 world and they come out 52 times a year," said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky. "The worst day to die in a rural area is on a Thursday -- your obit won't be printed for a week."

'We need a business-model solution'

Digitally savvy rural journalists can quickly publish breaking community news, making their publications even more relevant to readers. But the web may not work for every rural publication; Cross said some rural papers may jump directly to mobile platforms, as phone technology rapidly evolves and cellular networks continue to spread.

Today, community newspapers are struggling with the same economic worries that larger publications have seen online, according to Bill Will, executive director of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents about 130 community newspapers in the state.

"We have lots of business-model questions," Will said at an April roundtable discussion at Washington State University. "We need a business-model solution."

Translating digital readership into advertising dollars may be as perilous for rural news outlets as it has been for larger metros.

"They rightly have been wary of putting information online for free because that cannibalizes their print content," Cross said. "But I think there is a way to go online ... You put things online that you can't put in print."

Federal investment carries broadband to small towns

ruralbroadband.jpg

In Ferry County, the online debate has been slow to arrive.

For more than a decade, the county's residents relied primarily on dial-up connections or satellite Internet access -- about 80 percent of county residents were unserved by broadband Internet, according to the state's 2012 Annual Report on Broadband in Washington.

Three years ago, the federal government invested more than $7 billion into expanding broadband Internet access to unserved or underserved areas. The money, which was appropriated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, has strengthened network capability and expanded infrastructure across the country, including Washington state.

Today, more than 96 percent of the state's households have access to broadband Internet, a network that stretches from the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to rural farmland and tiny mountain towns. But rural communities still lag behind larger cities, which tend to have faster broadband access, digitally literate citizens, and journalists increasingly adept at web and social media tools.

Technology leaders say that these rural residents are on the wrong side of the country's digital divide, and small businesses, rural citizens, and far-flung towns run the risk of falling further behind as cities increasingly become more digitally savvy. Broadband access must be partnered with public education, experts say, so that communities and citizens understand the impact of faster Internet access -- think of it as building a highway system without teaching people how to drive.

Three Initiatives to Help

Participants in the April roundtable, which was sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Knight Foundation, recommended three initiatives:

  • A news consortium to facilitate training for community journalists and partnerships with larger media organizations to increase the flow of information.
  • A grassroots campaign to increase digital literacy in rural areas, as well as with state and local policymakers.
  • An annual survey of news awareness among Washington citizens, as well as a measure of the health of the state's media outlets, and the expansion of high-speed broadband.

Obviously, that outreach takes money in a time of strained state and local budgets.

"If communities need to become digitally literate, then how can they accomplish this, given today's economic realities?" Angela Wu, former broadband policy and programs director for Washington state, asked at the April roundtable. (A full report on the roundtable can be viewed here.)

Critics say rural residents choose to live in small towns; many do, of course, but others must be close to jobs or cheaper housing. Others question whether such communities need quicker access to YouTube videos or other web diversions. Those critics fail to realize how video conferencing or a web presence can fundamentally alter rural businesses -- or educate rural citizens.

Research from colleagues at Washington State University suggests that rural residents find it "significantly more difficult" to keep abreast of local news than metropolitan residents. Rural residents are less frequent consumers of news media for local news, even though they appear to be seeking broadcast and online outlets for state and national news, according to the study by Douglas Blanks Hindman and Michael Beam. (Both rural and non-rural residents say it's easier to keep up with local news than it was five years ago, but non-rural residents find it significantly easier than rural residents, according to the survey.)

That gap may be the product of a dearth of local online information in small towns. In many small communities, weekly or monthly publications may be the sole source of news, and that news does not always migrate to the web. But in the Pacific Northwest -- Ferry County -- change is coming.

In Ferry County, competing papers and approaches

In 2009, Greg Sheffield opened another weekly newspaper in Ferry County, creating a new challenge for Graham's News-Miner.

ferryview.png

Sheffield's paper, The Ferry County View, created a competition for the county's 4,000 households. And unlike Graham, he's begun moving content online -- though not all of it.

"I'm just afraid that if we put our content online that if will remove the incentive people have to read the published newspaper," said Sheffield, a former private pilot turned publisher. "I might consider putting it behind a paywall, but it's just not my top priority."

And he's not sure it's a good economic idea.

"I wish there was an old newspaper publisher's club where I could sit down and ask, How do you deal with this?" Sheffield said. "I would love to have that opportunity."

Graham, who has officially retired as publisher of the News-Miner but still owns the publication, said his paper's circulation has dropped from 1,200 to about 900 in recent years.

"I'm no different than a lot of the weekly newspapers. I spent more for computers than I did buying the place," Graham said. "(A web presence) is something that we've had some inquiries about. I'm just not too sure in these small towns how well that goes over."

For Graham, who began working at newspapers at age 12, the arrival of broadband may threaten his readers' habitual perusing of the print paper each week.

"People get their paper early Thursday morning and have their coffee," Graham said, before pausing. "Of course, they're all 80 years old now."

Benjamin Shors teaches journalism at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.

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August 14 2012

17:17

After a deal falls apart, Homicide Watch D.C. is going on hiatus

The Internet famously enabled anyone to become a publisher. A tiny outfit of one or two people can, when the stars align, have the same claim on your attention as a major media company with thousands of employees.

But one thing large companies are built for is sustainability. A site driven by the passion and will of one person runs into trouble when that one person wants to take a new job, or take a vacation, or just focus energy elsewhere for a while. When an editor at a large newspaper leaves, it’s occasion for cake; when a small startup’s founder steps away, there might not even be anyone else around to eat it.

Something along those lines is playing out with the lauded crime site Homicide Watch D.C., and, full disclosure, we here at the Nieman Foundation play a role. Founder Laura Amico applied for a Nieman-Berkman Fellowship earlier this year. When she got the fellowship — which lets her and husband Chris Amico spend a year studying sustainable models for crime journalism here at Harvard — she planned on finding a way to keep the site alive for the 10 months she’d be in Cambridge.

Unfortunately, a licensing deal with a local news organization that would have taken over operation of the site fell through at the last minute. Now, Amico says it’s inevitable that the site will be shuttered for at least some period of time.

“It’s tough because Homicide Watch D.C. is undoubtedly what I’m most proud of in my life,” Amico told me. “At the same time I have to take this incredible opportunity, and that’s not something that I could ever pass up either. That the future of the D.C. site is uncertain — I really have to separate myself from that and say that we have done everything we can, and we have given it everything we could. That there’s no one here willing to take it on is not a statement on the site but [on] the editorial values of this community right now.”

For those who don’t know about Homicide Watch, it’s a site that reports on every homicide in the city of Washington — following the case from the crime itself through the pursuit of suspects and the cases’ path through the courts. It’s been lauded for its devotion to blanket coverage and for its ability to build communities of interest around the kind of crime stories that might get a few inches of coverage — if that — in the local daily. As the site’s tagline puts it: “Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case.” (We wrote the first piece about it back in 2009, when it was still just an idea, and have covered it several times since.)

“That there’s no one here willing to take it on is not a statement on the site but the editorial values of this community right now.”

In Homicide Watch’s first full month of operation, she was thrilled when the site got 500 pageviews. Last month, it got 301,000.

The Amicos — broadly speaking, she does the editorial side and he handles the coding on the backend — have built a licensing business, helping reporters in other cities build their own iterations of Homicide Watch. They’ve created a model that she says is “doing well,” but that may not be enough to save the flagship site.

It’s rare that journalists stay with one company for the course of their career these days, and Laura says after her fellowship year, she might be ready to go back to being part of a larger newsroom. (She was previously a reporter at the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.) Understandably, she wants to explore her options. But she also wants what she created to live on.

“In D.C., my firm belief is that many newsrooms are still thinking about covering homicide in 2012 the way they covered it in 1992,” Amico said. “Homicide has changed dramatically. The drug wars are not the same as they were in 1992. That has impacted and changed who is being killed, and where, and for what reason. Despite that, those criteria that newsrooms are using to determine what homicides are and are not important has not changed. There’s a divergence of news values and realities.”

The Amicos are holding out hope that the site’s hiatus will be brief and that its reporting can be sustained while they’re in Cambridge. They’re in the last stages of launching a $40,000 Kickstarter fundraising campaign, waiting from final approval from the crowdfunding site. “What we want to do is bring on paid interns — five throughout the course of one calendar year — and turn operation of the site over to them, with guidance from Chris and myself,” Amico said. “Everything from the daily reporting to the database entry to monitoring comments, keeping track of cases, year-in-review stories, investigative reports.” (Watch our Twitter feed; we’ll let you know when it launches.)

The database is part of what makes Homicide Watch special because it enables the site to go beyond the intimate coverage — every victim by name — of homicide. The database allows the quick creation and collation of maps, demographic info on victims and suspects, and information on the progression of cases.

“This is all data that I’m gathering because it’s in the course of our normal reporting,” Amico says. “Really, at a moment’s notice, I can write a story saying ’35 people have pled guilty in this period of time and here’s a list of them.’” Amico can also check those anecdotal reporter’s hunches that come with closely covering a beat. A couple of weeks ago, for example, three homicides in one weekend felt like more than usual over a relatively quiet couple of years.

“I got to thinking: Have there been more homicides? Well, I can check, and that took me just a couple of minutes.”

But as the site freezes next week, so too will its collection of data. Amico says she just received an email from a woman thanking Homicide Watch D.C. for its work, and describing the teenagers she sees around Washington wearing t-Shirts printed with names, photographs, and dates that memorialize homicide victims. “It’s tragic that they have to go through this,” Amico says the woman wrote. “You all are giving such an important service. I’m moved by your website.”

That was a particularly tough email for Amico to receive.

“This woman doesn’t know that in a week the site isn’t going to be updated,” Amico said. “The site has had incredible editorial success in a way that I didn’t imagine was possible. But we can’t find a partner to hand it off to.”

April 19 2012

14:00

Socializing the Space Shuttle's Farewell

More than a decade ago, I was driving down a Tampa, Fla., street when I saw one of the most amazing things I'd ever seen -- and may ever see. A space shuttle, piggybacked on a jumbo jet, came out of nowhere and seemed to fill the entire sky. It was massive -- seeing it on TV was one thing, but seeing how incredibly big it was compared with its surroundings was staggering.

In those days, before social media, I could only tell my friends, not show them. So when I saw the recent Twitter chatter about the Discovery's farewell flight from Kennedy Space Center to Washington, D.C., where it will be displayed at the Smithsonian, I was elated. People could not only share what they saw -- they could share the experience itself.

personalizing a historic moment

News organizations used Twitter to let people know they were carrying it live. But once the 747 bearing the shuttle touched down, and the news cycle went back to normal, witnesses to history were still uploading fresh videos. Many showed how the fighter jet accompanying the flight looked as small as a housefly in comparison.

People shot photos and videos from rooftops, balconies, windows and the ground. Many videos posted on YouTube and other sites included dialog that captured the witnesses' exuberance and awe.

Everyone from members of Congress to us common folk took to Twitter to share their emotions. "Sad to see Discovery retire as it flies over DC," tweeted Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. "America needs a space program we can believe in again."

"Not when there are people on Earth who can be helped with all that money saved," replied one follower.

Hashtags including "SpotTheShuttle" and "Discovery" helped people follow conversations including words such as "beautiful," "incredible," "patriotic" and "amazing." Instagram pictures had effects that emphasized the event's historic nature.

But few things are so serious that they can't be put into an appropriately skewed perspective. When I see the Shuttle atop the 747, I can't help but think about a baby koala on its mother's back. Others take a more common-sense approach.

"If the shuttle can sit on a plane, I'm calling bullshit on overweight luggage," tweeted D.C. resident Alison McQuade.

People will have many more chances to shoot and share images of the Shuttle Discovery. But never again can photos be taken of it in flight. I for one am glad that social media exists to give us the opportunity to share and "socialize" the experience.

Terri Thornton, a former reporter and TV news producer, owns Thornton Communications, an award-winning PR and social media firm. She is also a freelance editor for Strategic Finance and Management Accounting Quarterly.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

September 15 2011

18:34

Nick Davies, Ana Marie Cox join Guardian's new U.S. operation

Capital New York :: The Guardian's new U.S. website has secured two more high-profile journalists for its roster. Nick Davies, the reporter who's blown the lid off some of the biggest scoops of the U.K. phone-hacking scandal for the British newspaper, will join the American operation next spring, and political journalist and founding editor of Washington gossip site Wonkette Ana Marie Cox.

Continue to read Joe Pompeo, www.capitalnewyork.com

July 24 2011

19:05

#fuckyouwashington

So I was angry. Watching TV news over dinner — turning my attention from scandals in the UK to those here and frankly welcoming the distraction from the tragedies in Norway — I listened to the latest from Washington about negotiations over the debt ceiling. It pissed me off. I’d had enough. After dinner, I tweeted: “Hey, Washington assholes, it’s our country, our economy, our money. Stop fucking with it.” It was the pinot talking (sounding more like a zinfandel).

That’s all I was going to say. I had no grand design on a revolution. I just wanted to get that off my chest. That’s what Twitter is for: offloading chests. Some people responded and retweeted, which pushed me to keep going, suggesting a chant: “FUCK YOU WASHINGTON.” Then the mellifluously monikered tweeter @boogerpussy suggested: “.@jeffjarvis Hashtag it: #FUCKYOUWASHINGTON.” Damn, I was ashamed I hadn’t done that. So I did.

And then it exploded as I never could have predicted. I egged it on for awhile, suggesting that our goal should be to make #fuckyouwashington a trending topic, though as some tweeters quickly pointed out, Twitter censors moderates topics. Soon enough, though, Trendistic showed us gaining in Twitter share and Trendsmap showed us trending in cities and then in the nation.

Screen shot 2011-07-24 at 7.33.24 AM

Jeff Howe tweeted: “Holy shit, @JeffJarvis has gone all Howard Beale on us. I love it. And I feel it. Give us our future back, fuckers. #FUCKYOUWASHINGTON.” He likes crowded things. He’s @crowdsourcing. He became my wingman, analyzing the phenom as it grew: “Why this is smart. Web=nuance. Terrible in politics. Twitter=loud and simple. Like a bumper sticker. #FuckYouWashington.” He vowed: “If this trends all weekend, you think it won’t make news? It will. And a statement. #FuckYouWashington.”

And then I got bumped off Twitter for tweeting too much. Who do the think they are, my phone company? Now I could only watch from afar. But that was appropriate, for I no longer owned this trend. As Howe tweeted in the night: “Still gaining velocity. Almost no tweets containing @crowdsourcing or @jeffjarvis anymore. It’s past the tipping point. #FuckYouWashington.”

Right. Some folks are coming into Twitter today trying to tell me how to manage this, how I should change the hashtag so there’s no cussin’ or to target their favorite bad man, or how I should organize marches instead. Whatever. #fuckyouwashington not mine anymore. That is the magic moment for a platform, when its users take it over and make it theirs, doing with it what the creator never imagined.

Now as I read the tweets — numbering in the tens of thousands by the next morning — I am astonished how people are using this Bealesque moment to open their windows and tell the world their reason for shouting #fuckyouwashington. It’s amazing reading. As @ericverlo declared, “The #fuckyouwashington party platform is literally writing itself.” True, they didn’t all agree with each other, but in their shouts, behind their anger, they betrayed their hopes and wishes for America.

@partygnome said: “#fuckyouwashington for valuing corporations more than people.”

@spenski, on a major role, cried: “#fuckyouwashington for never challenging us to become more noble, but prodding us to become selfish and hateful…. #fuckyouwashington for not allowing me to marry the one I love…. #fuckyouwashington for driving me to tweet blue.”

@jellencollins: “#fuckyouwashington for making ‘debt’ a four letter word and ‘fuck’ an appropriate response.”

@tamadou: “#fuckyouwashington for giving yourselves special benefits and telling the American people they have to suck it up or they’re selfish.”

@psychnurseinwi: “#fuckyouwashington for having the compromising skills of a 3 year old.”

I was amazed and inspired. I was also trepidatious. I didn’t know what I’d started and didn’t want it to turn ugly. After all, we had just witnessed the ungodly horror of anger — and psychosis — unleashed in Norway. I’ve come to believe that our enemy today isn’t terrorism but fascism of any flavor, hiding behind anger as supposed cause.

But at moments such as this, I always need to remind myself of my essential faith in my fellow man — that is why I believe in democracy, free markets, education, journalism. It’s the extremists who fuck up the world and it is our mistake to manage our society and our lives to their worst, to the extreme. That, tragically, is how our political system and government are being managed today: to please the extremes. Or rather, that is why they are not managed today. And that is why I’m shouting, to remind Washington that its *job* is to *manage* the *business* of government.

The tweets that keep streaming in — hundreds an hour still — restore my faith not in government but in society, in us. Oh, yes, there are idiots, extremists, and angry conspiracy theorists and just plain jerks among them. But here, that noise was being drowned out by the voices of disappointed Americans — disappointed because they do indeed give a shit.

Their messages, their reasons for shouting #fuckyouwashington and holding our alleged leaders to higher expectations, sparks a glimmer of hope that perhaps we can recapture our public sphere. No, no, Twitter won’t do that here any more than it did it in Egypt and Libya. Shouting #fuckyouwashington is hardly a revolution. Believe me, I’m not overblowing the significance of this weekend’s entertainment. All I’m saying is that when I get to hear the true voice of the people — not the voice of government, not the voice of media, not a voice distilled to a number following a stupid question in a poll — I see cause for hope.

I didn’t intend this to be anything more than spouting off in 140 profane characters. It turns out that the people of Twitter taught me a lesson that I thought I was teaching myself in Public Parts, about the potential of a public armed with a Gutenberg press in every pocket, with its tools of publicness.

* * *

For an excellent summary of the saga as it unfolded on Twitter, see Maryann Batlle’s excellent compilation in Storify, as well as Gavin Sheridan’s Storyful. CBS News Online’s What’s Trending was the first in media to listen to what was happening here. David Weigel used this as a jumping off point for his own critique of Washington and the debt “crisis” at Slate. Says Michael Duff on his blog:

Everybody knows you guys are running the clock out, waiting for the next election. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t go on TV to scare the shit out of us every day and then expect us to wait patiently for 2012.

You can’t use words like “urgent” and “crisis” and then waste our time with Kabuki theater.

Either the situation is urgent and needs to be solved now, or it’s all just an act that can wait for 2012. This isn’t 1954, gentlemen. The voters are on to you now. We know you’re playing a game and we know you’re using us as chess pieces.

That’s why #fuckyouwashington is trending on Twitter. We’re tired of being pawns.

Every politician in Washington needs to pay attention to this outrage, and remember who they’re working for.

And then there’s this reaction from no less than Anonymous: “@jeffJarvis you’ve started a shit storm. Nice going.”

February 08 2011

10:12

Announcing the Microsoft 2011 Technology for Good Contest Winners

Microsoft believes technology can do amazing things. That’s why they donate software to eligible nonprofit organizations and public libraries to help them use technology to further their missions. The Technology for Good Contest sought to highlight the stories of how these groups use Microsoft software to help them create real community impact in Washington State.

More than 50 Washington State nonprofits and libraries submitted their stories, and three winners were chosen based on the impact and benefit that Microsoft technologies have had on the organization, its mission and/or its constituency.

We’re proud to announce the winners of this contest (in alphabetical order)

Each of the winners will receive some awesome goodies including: a $5,000 unrestricted cash grant, up to $100,000 worth of donated Microsoft software, consulting services donated by NPower Seattle, and more!

The good news is, even if you didn’t enter and/or win the contest, you could receive a Microsoft donation from TechSoup too! Review the Microsoft eligibility guidelines to see if you are eligible, and you could request Microsoft titles such as SharePoint, InfoPath, Windows 7 and Office 2010.

If you’re interested in seeing more examples of Microsoft software for impact in Washington, check out the Submission Gallery to view all of the contest submissions. 

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all of the contest participants for sharing your inspirational stories!

 

January 11 2011

11:54

Submissions Closing Soon for the WA State Tech for Good Contest

You have just one more week to enter the 2011 Technology for Good Contest for nonprofits and public libraries in Washington State. Submissions close Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 11:59pm Pacific time, so don’t delay! Share how your organization or library is using Microsoft software to engage your stakeholders and make a difference in your community. 

Participate today!

  • Submit your entry: Use the submission form to answer five questions about the impact you’ve been able to achieve using Microsoft software. 
  • Spread the word: Let your friends, colleagues, and networks in WA State know about this opportunity to share their stories and help their cause!  Learn and share using the WATech4Good tag on Twitter.

Visit the contest website to check your eligibility and submit your entry. And, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us at any time.

About the Technology for Good Contest

Microsoft believes technology can do amazing things. That’s why they donate software to eligible nonprofit organizations and public libraries to help them use technology to further their missions. The Technology for Good Contest seeks to highlight the stories of how these groups are using Microsoft software to help them create real community impact in Washington State.

The winners will receive some awesome goodies including: a $5,000 unrestricted cash grant, up to $100,000 worth of donated Microsoft software, consulting services donated by NPower Seattle, and more!

 

December 21 2010

16:42

How is your WA State Nonprofit or Library Using Microsoft software for Good?

The submission period for the 2011 Technology for Good Contest is now open!

As we announced previously, Microsoft and TechSoup are running the 2011 Technology for Good Contest for nonprofits and public libraries in Washington State. Between now and January 18, share how your organization is using Microsoft software to engage your stakeholders and make a difference in your community.  Up to three winning stories will ring in the New Year with some excellent prizes!

read more

December 06 2010

20:17

Enter the Technology for Good Contest for Nonprofits and Libraries in WA State

Microsoft and TechSoup are excited to announce the 2011 Technology for Good Contest for nonprofits and public libraries in Washington State. Share how you’re using Microsoft software to engage your stakeholders and make a difference in your community, and you could ring in the New Year with some great prizes. Submissions open Monday, December 20, 2010, so start preparing your entry today! Learn more about the contest and how to participate below.

read more

August 13 2010

15:07

Headlines and Deadlines: Why TBD is an inspiration for hyperlocal news

UK digital journalist Alison Gow takes a look at the news site for Washington TBD.com, launched earlier this week, and says the site provides much inspiration for hyperlocal news ventures elsewhere.

Says Gow:

I like it as a journalist because:

  • It’s seriously packed with news, features and information
  • It’s packed with news (truly  - the homepage splash changed every time I reloaded the page)
  • It updates constantly
  • It has loads of sources of information – both from TBD staffers, mainstream media, social networks, bloggers and users
  • It’s an active site – doesn’t rely on feeds/UGC
  • It “gets” hyperlocal
  • It does live fact-checking

Full post on Headlines and Deadlines at this link…Similar Posts:



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