Covering the Gap: Learning from experts in the fields of economics, political science and urban policy.


In Ferguson, Missouri, a gathering of concerned citizens and business owners on the main business strip in August, 2016.

By Lillian Williams

Why is an October “Covering the Gap: The Impact of Economic Inequality” workshop, sponsored by the McCormick Foundation, so important?

Because the workshop is designed to help reporters better cover thorny issues facing the nation’s urban areas.

Let’s face it. As a society, we have tremendous social and economic tensions, above and below the surface.  And, news media play an important watchdog role, as well as other key functions.

Take a look at the picture above.

This 2016 photo shows concerned citizens once again gathered in Ferguson, Missouri, an urban hot spot that captured the nation’s attention following the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown.  The people gathered there (including my brother who lives in the metropolitan area) are still looking for answers.

To assist reporters in coverage of such issues, this McCormick-sponsored workshop will explore the following issues and others:

  • Where to find data that can provide rigor and direction for reporters’ coverage
  • How to explain the impact of globalization on people in local communities
  • How to use the power of storytelling to help the audience empathize with subjects
  • How economic inequality is contributing to big changes in America’s politics
  • How social class impacts a community’s institutions and residents
  • What communities and groups within them are doing to fight inequality

The workshop seminars will be held Oct. 11 to 13 in Chicago at Northwestern University ‘s Pritzker School of Law.

McCormick Foundation will pay the costs of tuition, housing and travel for journalists. The application deadline is Sept. 16. Apply here

The faculty includes Butch Ward, senior faculty, The Poynter Institute; Kevin M. Murphy, professor of economics at the University of Chicago; Teresa Córdova, director of the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois, Chicago; Alex Kotlowitz, journalist and author; Susan Smith Richardson, editor and publisher, The Chicago Reporter; Natalie Moore, WBEZ reporter and author; Ben Casselman, senior editor and chief economics writer, FiveThirtyEight, and others.

For more information, e-mail


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Fellowships1 (1)

Photo credit: AllDigitocracy

By Lillian Williams

Below is a list of journalism fellowships and awards, courtesy of ALL DIGITOCRACY, a website supported by the Ford Foundation.

Note the deadlines!

The Bear Fellowship, Nieman Fellowship, Knight-Wallace Fellowship, among others, are on the list.

There’s even an award for students.

Go for it!

Here’s how ALL DIGITOCRACY described these fellowships and awards:

“Online News Association’s M.J. Bear Fellowship

The MJ Bear Fellowships identify and celebrate early-career digital journalists, working independently or for a company or organization, who have demonstrated — through professional experimentation, research or other projects — that they deserve support for their efforts and/or vision. The fellows are up-and-coming journalists inside or outside the newsroom who are just beginning to make their voices heard in the industry and working to expand the boundaries of digital news.

Deadline: 11:59 p.m. ET, July 14, 2016.

Online News Association’s CNN Diversity Fellowship

Digital journalists from diverse backgrounds with experience reporting for mobile and social platforms are encouraged to apply for the CNN Diversity Fellowship at ONA16. Four winners will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the ONA conference in Denver Sept. 15-17.

Applicants should have:

A passion for creative storytelling on mobile and social platforms
Experience with producing and/or curating content for mobile web and apps
Deep knowledge of the news mobile and social space
Understanding of how to build community around content and topics through listening, participation and interaction
Applications will be open to journalists of diverse backgrounds, inclusive of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and gender.

Deadline: 11:59 p.m. ET, July 14, 2016.

Online News Association’s HBCU Digital Media Fellowship

Four students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) will receive hands-on experience during the three-day Online News Association Conference, Sept. 15-17 in Denver as part of the HBCU Digital Media Fellowship, which also gives them high-profile exposure and advanced practical knowledge of emerging technologies, tools and approaches to reporting and distributing news online.

Deadline: 11:59 p.m. ET, July 14, 2016.

October 2016 Deadlines

Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships

The Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships at Harvard offer short-term research opportunities to individuals interested in working on special projects designed to advance journalism in some new way. Candidates need not be practicing journalists, but must demonstrate the ways in which their work at Harvard and the Nieman Foundation may improve the prospects for journalism’s future. This may be related to research, programming, design, financial strategies or another topic. Both U.S. and international applicants are invited to apply.

Information about applying for 2017 visiting fellowships will be posted on this page in August 2016. The application deadline is October 1, 2016.

Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

The 2017-2018 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and storytelling in one, two, or three countries on a globally significant theme. This Fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society. Storytellers publish stories on the Fulbright-National Geographic Stories blog.

In addition to receiving Fulbright benefits (for travel, stipend, health, etc.), and materials and reporting special allowance, Storytellers will receive instruction in story-telling techniques, including effective blog writing, video production, photography, and other relevant training by National Geographic staff prior to their departure. National Geographic will also provide editorial mentorship for Storytellers during their Fulbright grant period. Storytellers will provide material for the National Geographic website on a frequent and ongoing basis throughout their grant term.

Applications for the 2017-2018 academic year will be accepted for the following themes:

Our Human Story
Themes: Culture/Geo-politics, Contemporary Social Issues, Democracy and Human Rights, Religious Freedom
Critical Species
Themes: Conservation of Species, Extinction
New Frontiers
Themes: Innovations in areas of Health, Medicine, Technology, Energy, Economic Development/Prosperity
Deadline: October 11, 2016, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time

January 2017 Deadlines

Nieman Fellowship

A Nieman Fellowship is an extraordinary, transformative learning opportunity open to journalists working in all media in every country around the world. Those selected for the program spend two full semesters at Harvard auditing classes with some of the university’s greatest thinkers, participating in Nieman events and collaborating with peers. Nieman Fellows are also able to audit classes at other local universities including MIT and Tufts. Each year, the Nieman Foundation awards paid fellowships to up to 24 journalists working in print, broadcast, digital and audiovisual media.

Deadline: January 31, 2017

Nieman-Berkman Fellowship in Journalism Innovation

The Nieman-Berkman Fellowship in Journalism Innovation brings individuals to Harvard University to work on a specific course of research or a specific project relating to journalism innovation. The fellowship is a collaboration between the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. Both organizations share a set of common interests around journalism, innovation, and the evolution of the digital space, and both have longstanding fellowship programs that offer a year of learning and collaboration with others in the Harvard community.

Proposals from Nieman-Berkman Fellowship candidates may deal with any issue relating to journalism’s digital transformation. Examples include ideas for new revenue streams to fund journalism, the construction of new tools for reporting, or research into news consumption patterns. Candidates must explain how their proposals will benefit journalism.

Deadline: January 31, 2017

February 2017 Deadlines

Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Fellowship

The mission of the Joan Shorenstein Fellowship Program is to advance research in the field of media, politics and public policy; facilitate a dialogue among journalists, scholars, policymakers and students; provide an opportunity for reflection; and create a vibrant and long-lasting community of scholars and practitioners. The primary focus for a Fellow is to research, write and publish a paper on a media/politics topic. It is a highly selective program; only a very small percentage of applicants are accepted.

The Center hosts eight one-semester residential fellowships each year (four per semester). Fellows conduct research; engage with students, faculty and the Harvard community; and participate in the various events associated with the Shorenstein Center. Fellows’ research and ideas are presented at weekly research meetings where they discuss and defend their project before a group of peers. Recent projects have been published in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic and Fortune magazine and have been reported on in The New York Times.

Deadline: February 1, 2017

Knight-Wallace Fellowship

A Knight-Wallace Fellowship recognizes exceptional journalists for their work, leadership and potential with a unique opportunity: an academic year of study, developing new perspectives and networks, and achieving both professional and personal growth at the University of Michigan, one of the world’s finest universities.

For the small group of journalism professionals from the U.S. and abroad selected for a Knight-Wallace Fellowship, the result is a life-changing experience.

Personalized study plans and access to U-M courses allow you to pursue your own path.
Regular seminars and visiting speakers bring the best from journalism and academia to you.
Workshops for fellows provide opportunities to advance your writing, entrepreneurial and multimedia knowledge and skills.
International travel is a core component of the experience.
Stipends allow our fellows (and their families/partners) to make the most of a once-in-a-lifetime sabbatical opportunity.
Applications for this fellowship open on September 1, 2017. Deadline: February 1, 2017”

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My Mom, My Influencer-in-Chief



My mother, Mrs. Lillian Williams, a retired public school teacher, enjoying the day with me on State Street in Chicago in June, 2016.

By Lillian Williams

Today, June 21, happens to be National Selfie Day.

OK, so I know the photo above is definitely NOT a selfie.

But My Mom, a retired school teacher, is spending the summer with me in Chicago.  I’m trying to capture, and share, as many moments with her as I can.

Here’s the deal: My mother is my INFLUENCER-IN-CHIEF, the person who set the pace for me; the person who encouraged me to earn my  doctoral degree; the person who continues to inspire me.

She’s in her mid-90s.  These days with her are precious.

The photo above was taken during a recent excursion to the Barnes & Noble bookstore in downtown Chicago, where we had Saturday morning coffee. We looked at a few magazines. We chatted about her career as a public school teacher, and my tenure as a college professor, among other subjects. It was a memorable start to the day.

She’s retired from teaching in the public school system of East St. Louis, Illinois. She taught first grade for many years, and later science classes. She won a coveted Golden Apple award.

In our hometown of East St. Louis, she volunteered to raise money  for the police and fire departments. She served as president of both the East St. Louis Community Camp Board and the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. She was a founding member of the East St. Louis Women’s Club. She’s still a member of the neighborhood church, Greater New Hope Baptist.

She and my dad, Atty. James E. Williams Sr., now deceased, sacrificed so much for their five children to get a good education. They did without fancy cars, clothes and vacations.

This summer we will have lots of long talks–and laughs. We will reminisce about the days of old, as they say. We will have lunch with longtime friends from Southern Illinois. We will take leisurely strolls along a beautiful pathway adjacent to the Chicago river near Lake Michigan. We will visit fabulous houses of worship. We will dine in, dine out, cook in, cook out, etc. The agenda stretches on and on.

My refrigerator is stocked with ice cream, her favorite dessert. And did I mention that she loves candy?

These days are precious.


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How to reason like Golden State Warriors’ “Steph” Curry!


Stephen Curry

Warriors at Wizards 2/3/16        Photo credit: Keith Allison, Hanover, MD


By Lillian Williams

Can we create our own success?

We certainly can contribute to it, so says Warriors’ point guard, Stephen “Steph” Curry.

Though his case is far from complete, there are lessons to be learned already.

Recently I came across Curry’s 2015, NBA MVP acceptance speech.

Here’s the sage, 5-point advice that he offered:

  • Don’t mimic other people: “Be the best version of yourself in anything that you do. You don’t have to live anybody else’s story.”
  • Don’t sweat your deficits: “Sometimes people make it seem you have to have certain pre-requisites or a crazy life story to be successful in this world, but the truth is you really don’t.”
  • Desire counts: Curry describes this characteristic as “an undying passion for what you do,” and “a relentless drive.” Hard work is a necessity!
  • Dodge nothing!: Live in the moment: “And, I hope I inspire people all around the world to just be themselves. Be humble, and be grateful. Be grateful for all the blessings in your life.”
  • Doggedness pays off: “Work your butt off every single day!”

Get the point?

My Columbia College students put it in their campus vernacular: “Stay woke!”

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Quiet Influencers

By Lillian Williams

Game changers are people who transform things. They improve a business or a community. They lay the foundation for others.

In today’s social media parlance, they’re called influencers.

In that spirit, I’d like to recognize three special women who influenced my life: Mrs. Dorothy K. Jones, Mrs. Mamie L. Page, and Mrs. Inez E. Hale. I am grateful that our paths crossed.

All three women lived in or near East St. Louis, a Mississippi river town in southern Illinois, where I grew up. They lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the 20th century civil rights movement. Their stories, their struggles, their stamina, make them game changers.

The three were born between 1916 and 1925. Dorothy Jones was a public school teacher in East St. Louis for 35 years until her retirement in 1985. Inez Hale was a devoted member of Parks Chapel A.M.E., and Mamie Page worked at the LaBelle dress shop in East St. Louis for many years.

All three outlived their husbands, and all three died within a year of each other.

You won’t find their names in history books, or engraved in fancy marble memorials. But you will find their spirits etched in the hearts of younger generations who grew up in southern Illinois.

Like so many uncelebrated Americans, these women supported their communities in myriad ways. They quietly provided the platform for others to succeed.

What character traits marked these women? Let me share a few of their special qualities:


Mrs. Mamie L. Page

Hard Work/Volunteerism. Mrs. Mamie Page was born in 1924 in Scooba, Miss., during the era of legally-sanctioned racial segregation. Like so many other African-Americans during that time, she migrated North in search of greater opportunity. In East St. Louis, she and her husband, Frank “Jessie” Page, found work, made friends, and raised a son. But when I attended her funeral, I was struck by something else—her long record of volunteer work. Not only did Mrs. Page work to support her own family, but she found time to volunteer at St. Mary’s hospital, for more than 35 years. As noted in her obituary, the hospital gift shop was renamed Mamie’s Café in her honor. But her volunteer work didn’t stop at the hospital. Every July 4th she and other women (including my mother) would sell beverages on the Mississippi riverfront to raise money for the local police and fire departments.


Mrs.Dorothy Jones

Generosity. Mrs. Dorothy Jones was born in 1925 in East St. Louis. She attended public schools there; received a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., and a master’s degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though busy as a local public school teacher, she found time to give in additional ways. One day she shared with me a printed program of a church-sponsored concert that raised money for student scholarships. For 25 years she had served as president of the committee that raised the scholarship money. The program noted that at least 250 students had received scholarships over the years. But she was active in other organizations noted for service too-the local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the East St. Louis Women’s Club.


Mrs. Inez E. Hale

Humility. Mrs. Inez Hale was born in rural Ward, Alabama, in 1916. She married my grandmother’s cousin. After moving to East St. Louis, she became an active member of the Parks Chapel A.M.E. church in Centreville, Ill. Though she lacked formal degrees, she was educated in so many other ways. When I would drop by her home, she would give me a hug and a bright smile. But what I remember the most about Mrs. Hale was her calm, reassuring spirit. In my mind, she had a stillness about her that bordered on majesty. I observed another of her crown jewels: She was quick to honor other people. She would recall their good deeds. She recognized the best in others. After she died , a friend wrote a touching message in an online guestbook: “We were truly blessed to have been taught by the best.”

These women trend high on my list of social influencers.

It’s your turn. What values characterize your own life? What values do you admire in others? What organizations, or persons, make a difference in your community, your way of life?


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Do I really need to know about the social media “Blab” app?


key influencers

Snapshot of Blab livestream at BEA 2016 in Las Vegas

By Lillian Williams

At a recent BEA discussion on social media, I saw a demonstration of the Blab app.

Blab is a livestreaming, social media platform that permits up to four people to converse, in front of an audience.

It’s been described by Mashable as Periscope for a group of friends. Picture perhaps four friends (or business partners or educators or teenagers or whoever) in the same virtual room, with an eager audience.  Blab even allows the audience to write comments, as the four guests talk.  And, the whole action can be recorded.

No doubt, endless possibilities exist for this app!

On the day I saw the demonstration, ordinary citizens/activists were the Blab talkers. They described how this app and others allowed them to brand themselves, and their messages. The discussion  was led by media educator and artist Chetachi A. Egwu.

Separately, though, because the  technology landscape changes by the moment, Journalist’s Resource shares a reading list about media and tech issues, including the following sites and others:

“MediaShift: This newer site looks at the changing media landscape across many dimensions and tracks content from other outlets about new trends.”

“TechCrunch: Focused on the technology industry generally, this site often has the latest from Silicon Valley and beyond.”

“Re/code: Founded by well-respected tech journalists, this site does a lot of analysis of the latest digital trends.”
If you have favorite sites for technology and new media issues, please let us know. We’d like to hear from you!










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Poynter/NABJ Forge Leadership Program


Digital 800px-Digital_Logo
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

A new program will address issues that journalists of color face in digital journalism, particularly in leadership roles.

That’s the aim of a partnership recently announced between Poynter Institute and the National Association of Black Journalists.

According to a joint press statement, the tuition-free program will be held in November at Poynter’s campus in St. Petersurg, Florida.

Applications will be accepted beginning this summer. Contact Elisa Jackson, executive director of the Poynter Foundation, at or NABJ executive consultant Drew Berry at

The program will include the following:

  • Guidance on navigating newsroom culture
  • Leadership styles
  • Business of journalism and entrepreneurship
  • Networking
  • One-on-one coaching

The program is patterned after the ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women which has offered training in digital media to women for the past two years.


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Arizona State University MOOC program for freshmen

By Lillian Williams

When I began writing about MOOCs a while back, little did I foresee this action:  Arizona State and edX this summer will roll out the first completely online freshman-year program, for academic credit.


Tempe campus of Arizona State University. Wikipedia Commons photo usage rights.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are utilized in many ways—particularly for adults who want to add to their educational portfolios. Though some offer certificates, typically MOOCs do not carry academic credit. Most MOOCs are free.

But this latest move beckons college freshmen–and offers academic credit, for a fee.

Arizona State University will team with MOOC provider, edX, for a bold project entitled, Global Freshman Academy.  These new MOOCs offer online, freshmen-level courses with no campus visits required.  Even high school students can take these courses.

The MOOC provider in the partnership, edX, was founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012.

But as reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education this week, there is a catch: Students in the program will not be eligible for federal financial aid.  The cost is about $600 per course, according to the Chronicle.

The project is described here in a video.

“At ASU, we’re committed to academic inclusion and student success, regardless of a student’s family circumstances,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow in a statement released by the university.  “We will not be successful unless we reach talent from all backgrounds around the world, and the worldwide reach of the revolutionary edX platform allows us to open this program to anyone with the drive to obtain their degree.”

Declaring this a new educational avenue, Crow said, “The Global Freshman Academy will empower students to prepare for college and achieve what they may not have thought they could. There are many pathways to success, both academically and in life. This is now one of them.”

What will this first-year curriculum offer?  The following are key takeaways from Arizona’s statement about the project:

  • “The Global Freshman Academy will offer a collection of first-year courses designed to fulfill a specific set of general education requirements.”
  • “Upon completion of each Global Freshman Academy course, students who pass the final exam will have an option to pay a small fee of no more than $200 per credit hour to get college credit for the course.”
  • “Completion of eight courses in the series, including several required courses and some elective, equals the requirements for a full freshman year at ASU – at about half the cost of the national average for a year of in-state tuition at public universities.”
  • “The general studies focus areas will include mathematical studies, humanities, arts and design, social-behavioral sciences and natural sciences.”

Enrollment has opened. The first course, Introduction to Solar Systems, begins in August.  Two other courses will start in Fall 2015—Human Origins and Western Civilizations: Ancient and Medieval Europe.

Read more information about this project here:

What is your take on whether this experiment will work for freshmen students?  Let us hear your voice in the comments section below.

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Nautilus, a Valuable Site for Science Teachers

By Lillian Williams

Mrs. Lillian Williams is an award-winning, retired public school teacher of southern Illinois. She won a coveted Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching. She is my mother.

Dr. Lillian Williams (author of this blog), with her mother, Mrs. Lillian Williams, a retired public school teacher.

Dr. Lillian Williams (author of this blog), with her mother, Mrs. Lillian Williams, a retired public school teacher.

For many years Mrs. Williams taught science at Dunbar Elementary School in East St. Louis, Illinois, where students won awards for science projects. Like many public school teachers, she would often purchase school supplies with her own money. She was determined to offer students a solid foundation in science.

Significantly for this blog, Mrs. Williams retired from teaching before the burgeoning digital media era. No doubt she would have incorporated online sites into her teaching/learning strategies, if they had been available. I believe that one such site would have been Nautilus.

Nautilus is a literary science magazine. Though the magazine charges a fee for its print edition, the online version is free. That means teachers can take full advantage of material offered through the website. Supported by the John Templeton Foundation, this publication exemplifies how the digital media era has widened the gates to news and information about science. Nautilus image

If you’re a science teacher, you might consider the wealth of teaching/learning possibilities for classroom discussions and research projects.

Take a look at recent topics:

  • Biology: Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming. Genetic engineering will one day create the smartest humans who have ever lived.
  • Astronomy: Don’t write off ET quite yet. It’s true that we haven’t seen alien life, but neither have we seen much of the universe.
  • Ecology: Art is Long, Science is Longer
  • Extraterrestrial Life: Can you ever really know an extraterrestrial?
  • Medicine: At death’s door, he was put on ice. How a new technology is resurrecting patients from what was once certain death.

Here’s how writer Curtis Brainard described Nautilus in the Columbia Journalism Review:

“It’s a well-balanced mix of interesting articles, essays, and multimedia reports by journalists and experts of various stripes. The single-topic structure is effective and the production value top-notch. “The online magazine is free,” [Dennis] Overbye noted in his review, “but even if it weren’t, it would be worth the price of admission….” A subscription to the print edition will cost $49 a year.”

Mrs. Williams, like many other retired teachers, would have jumped at the teaching and learning opportunities available through sites like Nautilus in this digital era.

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Yet Another Advantage of Social Media Networking

By Lillian Williams

What are best practices for utilizing social networking sites in your teaching?

Dr. Lillian Williams, associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, and author of the blog, E-Learning (A Digital Education Forum)

Dr. Lillian Williams, associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, and author of the blog, E-Learning (A Digital Education Forum)

Among suggestions found in this  Facebook Guide for Teachers are the following:

  • First, determine whether your school has a social networking policy for teaching/learning purposes. If so, review those guidelines.
  • Consider the creation of a special networking page for your classroom. (Avoid using your personal networking site for classroom activities.)  That classroom-only page could be used to post information and links, as well as to invite conversation.
  • Develop a set of classroom guidelines about acceptable social behaviors on the site. In other words, set rules for the site.

Besides course activities, I’ve found another valuable usage for social networking sites: connection to school alumni.

Each morning when I open my Facebook page, I get updates from former students who send pictures and information about their professional and social lives.

Take a look at this picture sent through Facebook (and also posted on Instagram) by Lourdes Vazquez, a former student who shared a front-page news article that she wrote.  A graduate of Columbia College Chicago where I teach, she works as a reporter in the Dallas, Texas, media market.

I’ve seen wedding photos; baby announcements; law school graduation notices; job change alerts, and myriad other status updates from former students.  It’s a pleasure to read these posts. But the posts also provide valuable tips for my current teaching/learning approaches.

These social updates reflect trends in the professional industry.  They reflect the latest values and competencies necessary to perform in the professional sphere.  They share real-time employment opportunities (or lack of them) in various industries. To a limited extent, they act as a “satisfaction” measure for various jobs.

In short, these social networking conversations offer valuable insight to teachers, in ways far beyond classroom-related activities.

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