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Op-Ed: Why We Have Not Yet Published Anything on the Isla Vista Shooting

May 25, 2014 Letters to the Editor, Opinions 44 Comments
vigil

This post was updated on May 28, 2014.

As The Bottom Line Editorial Board, we would like to address the inaccuracies in this Op-Ed, clarify our editorial process, and reaffirm our views on the recent coverage.

The Op-Ed that TBL published on May 25, 2014, “Op-Ed: Why We Have Not Yet Published Anything on the Isla Vista Shooting,” was written by a previous Executive Content Editor, and was approved to be posted by a few members of our current editorial board, but without consultation with our advisor and the majority of the editorial board. In a mentally and emotionally compromised state, the editors directly involved in the publication of the Op-Ed misjudged the situation. Even though said piece is an Op-Ed, we effectively allowed someone who is not currently involved with TBL to speak for us and define our coverage of the Isla Vista tragedy.

The Op-Ed states that “we have decided to not immediately publish an article on the recent tragedy in our community of Isla Vista to minimize the emotional harm for our reporters, photographers and multimedia journalists.” Although minimizing harm to our staff and community contributed to our decision, it was not the main factor. We decided it would be best to gather all the necessary facts to report on such a grave and tragic incident, rather than rush to publication and print misinformation. This does not mean that our reporters and photographers refused to or chose not to cover the events of May 23. Our staff has been reporting, interviewing, and photographing since Friday night in preparation for an online story published Monday and our regular print issue on Wednesday. Additionally, we have been covering the incident through our Twitter account, providing accurate live updates of the events.

We pride ourselves on factual and accurate reporting, not sensationalism and fear-mongering. We, as a news organization, do not want to contribute to the panic by exploiting the grief of our fellow community members. We serve our community first, and we took the steps that we thought were necessary to best serve that community. Our primary audience is UCSB and Isla Vista, who were rocked by a tragic event and have experienced a severe loss. We did not think it journalistically ethical to harass our community in its time of grief and shock, and decided to hold off premature publication of an article so that we did not hurt anyone through misinformation.

Sincerely,

The 2013-2014 Bottom Line Editorial Board

 

The original Op-Ed is as follows:

Whenever tragedy strikes, emergency responders and journalists are some of the first on scene and are, consequently, more likely to suffer from emotional trauma because of it. As stated in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, a code we at The Bottom Line strive to uphold every day in our reporting, we are to minimize harm, whether physical or emotional. Ethical “journalists should show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.”

After extensive discussions among our Editorial Staff, advisor and alumni, we have decided to not immediately publish an article on the recent tragedy in our community of Isla Vista to minimize the emotional harm for our reporters, photographers and multimedia journalists. Before we are journalists, we are Gauchos and feel we need our time to mourn, process and recover from this senseless violence.

For those who would like up-to-the-minute news, please follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/tblucsb. I must commend the work of Giuseppe Ricapito for his remarkable reporting and live tweets to keep students, staff, alumni and community members informed on the state of the case.

For those who have been profoundly affected by this tragedy, the University is providing 24-hour support services and consolers by phone at 805.893.4411.

As an alumnus, I am horrified and saddened by these events and on behalf of all Bottom Line reporters present and past, our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victims, those injured as well as the perpetrator. Please support each other through this difficult time and I encourage you to take advantage of the services the campus is providing. 

Horrific times like these can make everyone feel distant and alone, yet we must remember we are, indeed, a community. Gauchos are some of the toughest people in the world. Out of heartbreak, we will emerge stronger and more united as a community than ever before. Together we stand in solidarity.

Sincerely,
Hannah Davey
Executive Content Editor Emeritus, The Bottom Line
Class of 2012

Photo by Lorenzo Basilio, Staff Photographer

Currently there are "44 comments" on this Article:

  1. Minx Nojoke says:

    “as well as the perpetrator”

  2. fdoodle says:

    I am surprised by this decision. I would not support an article that aimed to bring in readers on the ride of a tragedy, but we cannot escape the events that have happened. I understand the desire to not emotionally upset reporters, however, many writing for TBL aim to one day be reporters and sadly the news is full of tragic events that must come to public light. I do not advocate encouraging writers who do not feel they are able to write this article, but I am sure one of the many reporters at TBL would have put themselves forward. Waiting to publish on these terrible events does not aid in the passing of grief, but delays it and as a newspaper it is the duty of the people who write for it to publish the facts to help others understand them. It is devastating that these tragic events occurred, but this is the time to rise to them and meet the challenge that life brings and hope the truth prevails.

  3. Fr. Jon Hedges says:

    I had posted this below on FB. After service at Sabado Tarde in ’01, Katrina, Goleta Post Office, Joplin, Prescott/Yarnell fire… Thank you for your compassion for those who respond in these moments. I am a UCSB alum, parent of an alum and an IV resident

    On the Sadness in Isla Vista
    At the corner-cross by Freebirds I paused, spent by the night before and the day now ending. We were, all of us in Isla Vista, wounded.
    Yet in that moment moving east toward west on Pardall, a massed multitude from UCSB and Santa Barbara processed, each bearing a small light toward our suffering village. They had come to stand with each other and with us in vigil.
    When we are all of us wounded it is not yet time to politicize, blame and speculate. It is, I prayerfully submit, time to stand together in silent witness and weep together… to pause a while at the painful corner-cross before we orient ourselves to a change of direction.
    I am awed by the courage and compassion of those I responded alongside of and the deep resilience evident when we are processing together.
    Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedges, EMT, CTR, BCCC
    Chaplain, Santa Barbara Sheriffs, UCSBPD, Isla Vista Foot
    SB County ADMHS/ ACT

  4. Benjamin Gottlieb says:

    News outlets are tasked with serving their respective communities. I strongly disagree with this weak editorial decision. This is the most important news event in Isla Vista in recent memory. You’re readers depend on you to cover their community. And you haven’t.

  5. Benjamin Gottlieb says:

    News outlets are tasked with serving their respective communities. I strongly disagree with this weak editorial decision. This is the most important news event in Isla Vista in recent memory. Your readers depend on you to cover their community. And you haven’t.

  6. Mark Johnson says:

    The information about this horrific event was covered by numerous other news sources. The story was readily available and was accessible to all. The sensitivity & compassion the students showed by not running their story is to be commended. Their sensitivity to the families, friends and students who were directly affected by this tragic event is something we rarely see in news reporting. These young people should be respected for their decision.

  7. Nathan Henderson says:

    I don’t think this decision should be commended at all. A news organization’s duty is to deliver the news; refusal to do so is shirking that duty.

  8. Giuseppe says:

    I want to clarify for all the concerned voices on this post- this decision does not reflect a “shirking” of our journalistic responsibilities. We are not “refusing” to provide coverage, we are functioning as we normally would, albeit under unprecedented and tragic circumstances for both our staff and readers. As stated in the Op-Ed, we have provided live updates on our twitter feed for any students looking to us for coverage. In light of widespread community grief and the undeniable fact there are now over thousands of articles pertaining to the stated subject, we did not feel we were doing students a disservice by putting a temporary stay on the publication of our articles. (Please focus on the word temporary- as I hope all readers will be pleased to note, we do have forthcoming work on the topic). As a campus publication in this situation, our perspective is two-fold. We provide general coverage of the incident itself, but also work on cataloguing the insular community response since we, as students and Isla Vista residents, are at the core of the story.

    We intend to show our commitment for precision, relevant data, and storycraft. The expectation for immediacy often glosses over these necessary features for ethical and accurate journalism. Our stories are on the way, we hope readers will find them informative, engaging and true to the journalistic code that we uphold.

    Thank You,
    Giuseppe Ricapito
    I.V. Beat Reporter
    The Bottom Line, UCSB

  9. Brendan Maze says:

    Dear Ms. Davey,

    As a community news organization, as first responders, TBL has a near-sacred duty to get us the five Ws and one H answered to the best of your abilities as soon as you can. News reporting is essential for the community who need to get their heads and hearts around what happened.

    To say “others are doing it for us” is antithetical to the express reason you were created: to provide an alternate and/or additional view to that of the Nexus.

    To say that you want to protect your workers from emotional stress is to belittle the torture the families and friends of the victims are going through.

    Please take courage! Post and print the stories and photos as soon as possible, using your editorial discretion, but do not drop a curtain of silence on events.

    And to Giuseppe, I for one am not “pleased to note” that you have “forthcoming work on this topic.” I wish it never had happened.

    –Brendan Maze

  10. For Reference says:

    SPJ response:

    “That certainly wasn’t one of the intended readings of that code section, and it’s commonly balanced with another core principle in the code, “Seek truth and report it.” They seem to have ignored the latter, and along with it, the obligation to shed whatever unique light the students themselves could have cast on the tragedy in their midst.”

    http://www.calbuzz.com/2014/05/tale-of-two-papers-mass-murder-and-student-media/

  11. Eric Smith says:

    As an adviser, I find this to be an ill-considered interpretation of the SPJ Code of Ethics. While the motive to be sensitive may be sincere, the action to delay publication failed the test of fulfilling one’s editorial responsibility. Perhaps another occupation would be more suitable?

  12. SFGroover says:

    Shame on you. You disgraced the profession of journalism. Really, all of you are worthless.

  13. Sarah says:

    Really it’s time for TBL to dissolve after this. Outstandingly disrespectful.

  14. TBLsucks says:

    No courage. No guts. No sense. No ethics. Just a bunch of whiny, pathetic, lazy, gutless frauds whose mantels at home are probably filled with participation trophies. Quitters, all of you. Congratulations for falling into the victimization trap. Can you be more self-centered? I agree with the comments above. You’re pretty worthless.

  15. Carlos says:

    You are doing a huge disservice to your readers and your staff of bidding journalists. I am a newspaper editor, a firefighter, a reporter who covers crime and I also take photos from scenes of tragedies. I have responded to scenes where people have died. People I know. And I had to be a First Responder first and then change hats and start gathering information for my readers. We don’t get to cherry pick our assignments and we don’t get to take a vacation from our duties. This horrific incident and how we work through them was a perfect opportunity to show your young writers how to do that professionally. It is unfortunate and short sighted that you opted to take another route.

  16. Davey Miller says:

    As a former journalist, current PR practitioner at the University of Alabama (where I also teach journalism), this revelation is disappointing. Students have so much freedom when writing for college papers, and the TBL staff missed a tremendous opportunity for real-world experience, which is essential for young journos looking to get a decent job.
    You owe it to your readers to cover this story, too. I’ve covered murder trials, showed up to crime scenes with a dead body just 20 feet from where I’m standing, and covered the search for escaped convicts — in my hometown. Never once did I turn down a story because it was essentially “too close to home.”
    I hope you young journos learn from this decision and become quality professionals after you graduate.
    God bless — I know some of you lost friends.

  17. Sam Meyer says:

    This journalist is appalled at your decision, which avoids the responsibilities that you accept when you undertake a career in the profession. How could you be a professional journalist when you choose not to cover negative and potentially traumatic stories? Do you think you’ll have the power to do that during your career? Do you think hiring managers will want to bring on people who refuse to cover the news? You’re not even trying to creatively cover the story in a sensitive and non-traumatic way. Do you think the New York Times shouldn’t have covered 9/11?

  18. Yves says:

    Sorry, I disagree with your interpretation of the SPJ Code of Ethics. I was on staff at a college newspaper when the Challenger exploded. Real journalists don’t think about their own needs in times of trouble. We all rushed to the newsroom when we heard the news and then fanned out to interview professors with a connection to NASA. After the paper was put to bed late that night, we all individually had a good cry.

  19. Davis Barber says:

    Wow, folks, step back for a moment. Student journalists are learning. That’s why they are in school. I disagree with their decision, but there is no need for the hostility in some of these comments.

    Today’s Los Angeles Times has a photo of students in front of the convene since store where one student was killed. They were holding signs saying “Our tragedy is not your commodity” and “news crews go home.” The students are hurting, as is their right.

    As professionals we need to turn this in to a learning moment. To the people with signs I say “how do you know the victims do not want their story told?” “Why do you assume the families don’t want this covered?” In almost every murder, accident, crisis or catastrophe I’ve covered, the victims always want people to know what they are going through, and the media is pretty much the only way to do it.
    ?The protesting kids don’t yet know that, so the argument becomes “how can we prevent this if people aren’t allowed to see what really happened?”

    Of course, it may not be worth the argument and raising these questions on-site might ruffle more feathers than soothe them. But that’s not much different than an illi-informed officer telling you not to cross a line that you know you are legally entitled to cross.

    To the journalism students I say, if you can’t cover it as a news story, find another way. Get student reactions away from the scene. Describe what’s going on. Write obits that humanize the victims. Run a transcript of the police calls.

    Simply put, ignoring the story is to pretend it didn’t happen, and I”m confident that is not your intent.

    Whatever you do, don’t make the story about yourself. You may be hurting, you may be devastated, and you can write about that later with a few day’s perspective.

    But do write the news. When you don’t recognize the bad with all the good there still is in the world, our viewpoint narrows, and that is the last thing we need right now.

    Good luck to you all.

    Davis Barber
    Publisher, Fullerton Stories
    davis@fullertonstories.com

  20. Diane Bucka says:

    Journalists face many challenges in covering emotionally jarring events; that’s an integral part of their job. And there are many aspects to this story – and the many other tragedies that disproportionally befall UCSB students in Isla Vista – that bear further examination. I applaud Irvine’s Giuseppe Ricapito for distinguishing himself with his work, and encourage TBL to get busy doing its job.

  21. Tom Siebert says:

    This is embarrassing. By following the same logic, the New York Times would not have covered the 9/11 terrorist attacks because their staff needed to “minimize the emotional harm” they were feeling about an act of war.

    Basically, you’re failing the very people you pledge to serve — the public, your readers — because the subject matter is too intense for the people writing about it. If that’s truly the case, maybe these people should consider a different career path?

    tws

  22. bigyaz says:

    I have to think your staff — or at least your top editors — are not cut out for journalism. New York City journalists lost family members and friends on 9/11, yet they realized they had a job to do and stepped up to do it. Same with New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. I could go on and on. If the local news outlets abdicate this responsibility in a time of crisis one has to question why they even exist.

    Don’t keep trying to justify this decision. It isn’t possible.

  23. patrick says:

    Well, aren’t you a bunch of special little snowflakes. If any of you are journalism students, change majors. You are a disgrace to the profession. If you can’t be objective in a situation like this, you shouldn’t be a journalist.

  24. Bill says:

    You are not there to protect your feelings when events occur, you are there to cover the news. You have no more right to neglect this story out of sensitivity for your reporters’ feelings than a McDonald’s employee has a right to refuse to do his or her job out of sympathy for the cattle slaughtered to make hamburgers. News is your product. Do your job or find another.

  25. CJ says:

    “Before we are journalists, we are Gauchos…”

    Insert “republican” or “democrat” in place of Gauchos and it shows how childish that statement is.

  26. Ehsan says:

    Well, it was a stretch calling TBL journalism in the first place. It was created because AS had a thin skin; it’s not surprising its reporting is thin-skinned as well. Being a journalist isn’t easy, and you don’t get to bestow the title upon yourselves without also doing your job and reporting the news, as tough as it may be.

  27. Giuseppe says:

    We have had this article up since yesterday. I have personally been covering the story since it began, the night of May23th, and will continue to do so until my tenure as I.V. Beat Reporter for The Bottom Line concludes.

    http://thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu/2014/05/isla-vista-mass-murder-claims-lives-of-6-ucsb-students-13-injured

    There will be a comprehensive story on the community response posted soon.

    Sincerely,
    Giuseppe Ricapito
    I.V. Beat Reporter
    The Bottom Line, UCSB

  28. Barbara says:

    While some, including Giuseppe, have done good reporting on this, the fact that the story wasn’t published for two days and that a complete misreading of the SPJ Code of Ethics was used to “justify” the lapse is disheartening and disappointing. In way it’s even more of a betrayal of readers to have the information — and even post on Twitter — but then say we’re not going to put this on our website. In the midst of tragedy people need MORE access to the facts, not less. And saying you’re protecting reporters — who are clearly out there anyway — is disingenuous and misleading.
    No one is criticizing the work that has been done, but rather the notion in the editorial that delaying was necessary or a good idea.

  29. Max Cacas says:

    This decision not to more fully report this very tragic – but important – story is disappointing at the least. I understand that the student journalists may be in mourning for friends, and for the violence visited on their school snd community. But journalists put aside their feelings when a story is breaking, report, and then take time to mourn later. And to their advisors who signed off on this, I am equally disappointed.

    And Guiseppe: please stop trying to defend this. The longer your paper and colleagues remain silent,and do not post or publish, the *worse* you guys look. Just get to work and report the story.

    - Max Cacas
    Former reporter
    Washington, DC

  30. Compassion says:

    I respect TBL’s decision to hold off on formal reporting (although folks would be hard-pressed to deny that TBL’s twitter feeds were not a source for news) for a couple of days. This is not the time to be splitting hairs about the journalistic code or post such negative opinions about TBL’s decision. It is a time for the IV community and UCSB family to come together to mourn and begin healing. We might not all agree with the decision but please get some perspective on the tragedy that just befell IV and be kind and respectful.

  31. J.L. says:

    What a waste of student money

  32. Nathan Henderson says:

    The editorial has the attention of the journalism adviser at The Daily Texan:

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/news/open-letter-to-journalism-students

  33. TBL Alum says:

    This is the most newsworthy event to happen in Isla Vista in many years. Please think about that, TBL.

    What would of happened had the reporters of the New York Times opted not to report about the terrorism attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001?

    When you go to vote for your executive slate this coming school year, please nominate someone with tenacity and conviction. Not someone who practices journalism as a college hobby. Someone who has enough confidence to write their own Op-Ed.

    <3

  34. John Harte says:

    Dear TBL student journalists: My name is John Harte and I am a journalism instructor at Bakersfield College. For 28 years, I was a staff photographer at The Bakersfield Californian. Several years ago, I was dispatched to work on an awful, difficult story. In a small rural town just outside Bakersfield, a pregnant mother in labor was being rushed to the hospital by her husband. Somebody blew through a stop sign and a horrific collision killed the mom, her baby, her husband and the driver of the other car. As you might imagine, here’s how the story played in the media: Pregnant mom and unborn baby killed en route to hospital to deliver baby. Obviously, human instinct, especially absent of all facts, is to immediately place the mom, dad and the baby as the victims. The person in the other car was simply not mentioned, and there was just a “feeling” that that person was responsible for the death of the mom and her baby. The following day, I was dispatched to the town – Arvin, California – with a reporter to try and find out not only what happened, but who these people were. We had very little information, and spend hours walking from street to street, door to door, trying to find anybody who could give us a lede on finding out about these people. I DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE, I DID NOT WANT TO WORK ON THIS STORY. I felt awful, I felt like a voyeur, and I could have named a million places I would rather have been. But it was my job. I was a journalist, and sometimes telling awful stories, and recording awful images, is what we must do. In the course of searching out this story, we got a tip. It was a tip that would lead to one of the most cathartic moments of my career, a reaffirmation of why we HAVE to tell these stories, regardless of how uncomfortable they make us feel. A citizen told us where we could find the family of the driver of the “other” car; the driver who was presumed to have caused the accident. We went to the house and knocked on the door. A young girl of 18 introduced herself as the young man’s fiancee. They were to be married in just a few weeks. She tearfully told us about the hopes and dreams they had, how they were going to raise a family together, how they loved each other. And then the words that shook me to my core: “Thank you for coming and talking to me. All the stories are making it sound like he is responsible for killing those people. I feel in my heart he is not responsible.” And that is why we as journalists must tell these terrible stories. My overwhelming career experience is that the victims of crimes are frequently willing to tell their stories. They want to tell their stories, they want us to know about the loved ones they lost. If they don’t, then they decline – almost always politely – and we respectfully move on. But it is not for us as journalists – or worse yet, people holding signs that say “Go Away” to decide whether these people should tell their stories. Is it difficult? Yes? Are we human and do we have emotions? Yes. But we also have responsibilities to our readers and our respective communities. By the way, it turned out that the father was the one who blew through the stop sign, and he was under the influence of alcohol. The other guy, the “forgotten guy” who was about to be married and start a new life with his young bride, was as much a victim as the mom and baby. And nobody would have known if a reporter and a photographer, uneasy and uncomfortable, did not seek out, find and tell the story.

  35. Michelle says:

    “…We have been covering the incident through our Twitter account, providing accurate live updates of the events…” Since you reported on Twitter, there is NO reason to refrain from publishing that same, “accurate” information online and in print.

  36. Ehsan says:

    And under the bus Davey goes!

  37. Guy says:

    The whole premise calls into question the integrity of their organization because if they can’t cover one of IV’s larger tragedies then it begs the question, “What else are they choosing not to cover”? How can an organization have integrity when it picks and chooses the news it covers based on it’s own beliefs?

  38. Naum says:

    All of UCSB is mourning. Just mourning…. This atrocity occurred on our doorsteps and no one is trying to understand it. As collective victims, we have the opportunity to speak out and spur a nationwide conversation about our nation’s most deep-seated issue: a dangerous lack of empathy. I don’t want argument. I don’t want more political rhetoric. I want awareness. I wan’t discussion. Let’s probe for the causes of widespread depression and brutal violence. It is, after all, a rapidly growing trend. I mourned Aurora. I mourned Sandy Hook. The time for sadness has passed. We need to take action. The microphones are in our faces. The cameras are fixed on us. The entire world is watching Isla Vista and we are JUST crying. For those of you who complain about your vote being useless and not having your criticism heard, speak NOW. Speak before we find ourselves mourning an even greater calamity.

  39. Elizabeth Hawkins says:

    I don’t know how last year’s editor got the first word on the editorial…however nobody is noticing that it was last year’s editor, and nobody really pays attention to every word in both of the editorials. Everyone is so ready to throw stones…Shut up and get twitter accounts like all the rest of the modern world. Then focus on what is really important. The grieving people, Oh one more thing, I think the other paper is using this issue to boost themselves…pretty plain to see who is promoting the stone throwing…

  40. susie says:

    “I have personally been covering the story since it began, the night of May23th” MAY 23TH …… REALLY

  41. susie says:

    also….. way to throw the rest of your paper under the bus. essentially giuseppe you are saying “I tweeted something on MAY 23TH so I’m off the hook, the rest of the staff is to blame.”

    And the updated article totally throws the original op-ed author under the bus when it was the **responsibility of the editors** to make sure nothing like this was posted if that’s not what they all felt was appropriate. In no way was it the author’s fault that only a FEW editorial board members discussed their coverage of a MAJOR SCHOOL SHOOTING and made the stupid decision to publish a cowardly article that effectively came to, in the public eye, characterize the paper’s response.

    And to conclude, instead of admitting fault for publishing an inappropriate and honestly shameful response, the staff of this paper puts all the blame on the author, whines about being held to the opinion they decided to publish (however irresponsibly they went about it, involving whatever stupid fraction of the editorial board was consulted– that’s NEGLIGENCE, not unavoidable circumstance) and tries to distance their altogether useless product from one of their characteristically useless pieces once it became clear that the opinion was very unpopular. NO LOYALTY ANYWHERE.

    Who do you think you are, taking student funding and then hiding when actual news happens? Then blaming each other once people call you on your terrible decisions? Jesus.

  42. susie says:

    “We pride ourselves on factual and accurate reporting, not sensationalism and fear-mongering” …. you shouldn’t ….. because you didn’t do any of these things……. you pretended nothing happened ………. you shouldn’t pride yourselves at all.

  43. joe imbriano says:

    A free press makes for a free country. Weak sauce. The facts are found right from the start, before the establishment can run interference and damage control. I cannot begin to tell you how much truth is lost after the first responders show up. Feet on the ground, pen in hand is what we need to keep the flame of freedom burning. The quenching of that flame is corporate fascism, and with it, its ugly step child, the controlled media. Enough of the 4 corporations that are the gatekeepers of every news outlet on the dial and the rack. I say print the news before anyone has a chance to rewrite it into a fictional account. The truth may just be all we have left someday.

  44. hmmmmmm says:

    I live and breathe UCSB and find this dialogue interesting…I’m always amazed at the contrast of intelligent responses with those who type things they would never say. To be blunt, I don’t expect TBL to be more than what it is: a weekly. The DAILY Nexus reported the story as I expected. What’s sad is they don’t even have the cash to be a real Daily anymore. I’m not defending the weird letter above (we need a reporter on that), but I also don’t expect The Economist or Nesweek to publish the next day (and they have $ and professional staff).

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