ENG1151 Fall 2023

Week 8: “Objectivity” in the News and The OpEd

Journalism Students:

Last week, I introduced the topic of free speech and the First Amendment.  In times of war, this right gets fully tested as I’m sure you are all noticing by media coverage of the many protests across college campuses, the country, and the globe right now.  The danger to journalists is also at an all-time high (many are being targeted) and the challenges of properly and fairly reporting on events are many.

For this week, I ask you to read the views of two important journalists and review the OpDoc section of the NYTimes, in preparation for your own upcoming OpEd assignment.

The OpEd, which stands for “opposite the editorial page,” is a short piece of writing typically published by a newspaper, which expresses the opinion of an author not affiliated with the publication’s editorial board. This genre was invented by the New York Times in 1970 and has been a mainstay of most newspapers ever since.   Recently, the Times announced it would now call opinion pieces “Guest Essays” (largely due to the fact that papers are now mostly on-line – i.e. not “opposite” another piece of writing on paper).

The New York Times also now has an Video Op Section.

The separation of opinion from the news is also part of the “professionalization” of the news that the New York Times also helped develop.  Since the early 1900s, professional reporters have been asked to be “neutral” and “unbiased” when covering stories.  Today, many in the mainstream media (PBS, NBC News, CNN, etc.) prize neutrality over virtually all other values. Being “neutral” means giving equal credence, focus, and criticism for all sides of an argument, without passing judgment as to the validity of the argument. The “neutral” reporter simply reports what the different sides of a debate assert but does not take a position.  

In 2019, Lewis Raven Wallace (in his book The View From Somewhere ) was one of the first reporters to criticize what he calls “the myth of journalistic objectivity.”

To learn why, read his Op-Ed “Objectivity is Dead, and I’m Okay With It”

Also in 2019, Nikole Hannah-Jones created an innovative and important long-form journalism endeavor called The 1619 Project. The project, which appeared in the New York Times Magazine, focused on the long legacy of slavery and racism in this country starting at the founding of the US (the first enslaved people arrived to Virginia Colony in 1619).  The project offered a radical new way of learning about (and teaching) history but continues to face opposition from those on the right. Without a doubt, Hannah-Jones used great courage and talent to express her beliefs, making quite an impact on the study of history today.

Listen to her Podcast “The Fight for a True Democracy”: HERE

POST ASSIGNMENT: In a paragraph or two, briefly summarize and respond to Wallace’s essay, Hannah-Jones’ podcast, or a recent OpDoc from the NYTimes.   

Also start thinking about a topic you might want to discuss in your OpEd.  The topic does not have to be a political one but can be on an issue you find interesting and worth debating (should the New York Knicks trade for a big star, for example).  Please run your topic by me before you start on it, however. Send me an email (mnoonan@citytech.cuny.edu) or join me for zoom office hours.

Post (and OpEd topic) due: Wed., Nov. 1

21 Comments

  1. Edmond Lee

       I agree with Wallace’s essay it reminds me of the quote “it would be that if you stand for everything you stand for nothing”. He wants journalists to take a stance they believe in instead of being neutral and having no stance at all. When journalists start talking about their own perspective it allows for different issues to be represented. When journalists talk about what they truly believe in it gives them a true fan base that supports their views instead of a muddled group.

         It is also important to represent the truth when being a journalist, this helps keep politicians and people in power in check. Although you may get some backlash for your views it shows that you are standing up for what you believe in. Wallace talks about the media constantly changing and how journalists need to adapt by constantly engaging with your audience as well as maintaining the truth. At the end of the day what you do when reporting determines what kind of journalist you are and whether you have the conscience to do the right thing. 

  2. thierry

    This passage describes the harrowing experiences of African people who were forcibly taken from their homeland and transported across the Atlantic Ocean during the transatlantic slave trade. They endured immense suffering, uncertainty, and loss during the journey. Many faced the despair of never seeing their families again, while some chose to resist through various means. In the end, they realized they had been united by their shared trauma and racial identity, as they were headed toward a life of slavery in a foreign land.

    Lincoln’s statement in the speech indicates that he considered Black people as a “troublesome presence,” suggesting a racial bias or prejudice that was common in that era. He was concerned about the potential challenges of integrating Black people into a society that was primarily designed for white people, both politically and socially. This viewpoint was shared by a significant portion of the white population during that period. Hannah-Jones at some point was not feeling happy because of the way they treated black african american , but now as she get to know about her dad she knew why her dad was proud of the flag

    i agree with Wallace because “The View from Somewhere” sounds like an important book that delves into the complex history of journalistic objectivity and its impact on marginalized voices. It highlights the struggles of journalists who’ve challenged the notion of objectivity, emphasizing the need to confront institutional power, racism, and other forms of oppression within the news industry. This book appears to be a compelling call for more diverse and subjective voices in journalism.

  3. Christopher Willis

    I watched an opinion video from the New York Times called “What Is War to a Grieving Child?” by Mona El-Naggar, Jonah M. Kessel, and Alexander Stockton. In the option video, children were interviewed and asked what war means to them. Every Ukrainian adolescent interviewed has lost a father in the war between Russia and Ukraine. Some of the responses the children gave are truly heart-aching. One young girl said, “War is when you are living peacefully, then some stupid motherfuckers start bombing your country.” Another said, “I have a hurricane in my soul.”

    A 16-year-old and his father were riding bikes when they were shot by Russian soldiers. He survived by playing dead. I empathized with the adolescents in the video. It is hard to imagine what they are going through, having their lives turned upside down at such young ages. “The war will end, but my father will not come back,” said a young boy as he stared into the camera, looking heartbroken. Now, we are constantly hearing about the war between Israel and Palestine. Innocent children are suffering and will have PTSD and other traumas. They are just innocent children who deserve to have normal childhoods. War is something I will never understand, and I hope children who feel the most during wars will overcome the traumas they experienced. 

  4. Mamadou

    What a wonderful and courageous response from Lewis Wallace in describing the environments of journalist neutrality vs telling the truth. We live in times where misinformation and fake propaganda spread rapidly, in rates that are undistinguishable by even the largest journalist-owned companies in the world.

    Wallace begins by saying, “but how we must change what we are doing to adapt to a government that believes in “alternative facts” and thrives on lies”. He immediately stands firm on telling truths to the audience without conforming to government propaganda and lies. Truth be told, he is absolutely correct for bringing this into light. Our US government has been held under scrutiny for its lack of transparency with the American people on issues they firmly believe are a “national threat to security”. It’s important to distinguish facts from other information that isn’t relevant.

    Wallace continues to point out that you can be truthful and tell the truth in a way that is more engaging towards your audience. Neutrality isn’t something that he thinks is acceptable for him because of his own status, which he makes his own point for it in his Op-Ed. From reading more about him, he apparently got fired because of writing this. Either way, that points out how big tech companies are easily threatened when someone tries to come out and express their desire for change.

    On a final note, Wallace does state that journalists should be able to “fight back” and adjust towards ourselves and not on status quos that are solely based. These status quos would not effectively support journalism together but rather continue to be detrimental for the change Wallace seeks. He does not want to give a voice to “alternative facts”.

  5. Christine

    Lewis Raven Wallace’s essay, “Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it,” challenges the traditional notion of journalistic objectivity. Wallace argues that since editors and reporters always bring their own prejudices and viewpoints to the workplace, achieving total neutrality in journalism is an unachievable ideal. Rather, he promotes openness and accepting the subjectivity of journalists, as they can result in more truthful and genuine narratives. He contends that comprehending one’s own perspective can lead to a deeper and more accurate understanding of the world, especially for communities of color whose voices are frequently left out of the dominant narrative.

    Wallace’s piece draws attention to a crucial debate in modern journalism. Although impartiality has long been considered the ideal in reporting, it is becoming more widely acknowledged that bias exists in all human beings. A more sincere and candid approach to storytelling is encouraged by Wallace’s call for transparency and acceptance of subjectivity. Balance is still necessary, since it can be difficult to maintain justice, accuracy, and credibility while also recognizing and addressing the subjectivity that comes with human perspective in journalism. The transition towards openness and inclusivity is a key step towards enhancing the equity and responsiveness of media to the dynamics of our global society.

  6. Odalis Cruz

    I watched an opinion video from the New York Times called “To Save My Sister, and Myself, I Had to Walk Away” By Kaitlin Prest, Natalie Prest, and Tala Schlossberg. The opinion video talks about two sisters who grew up as best friends Kaitlin and Natalie. Katilin was the oldest and had some personal issues, and because of that when she needed Natalie the most she walked away. Kaitlin was sunshine and smilies but on the inside, she was a wreck. Natalie would try her best to be there for her but throughout the process, she was starting to lose herself and started to resent Kaitlin. Kaitlin was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder experiencing different types of emotions at once. She learned how to deal with it and began to heal herself, Natalie on the other hand felt like she wasn’t being the best possible sister she could have been. The distance from one another taught them that being close doesn’t always mean you have to share everything. They discovered that sometimes distance isn’t a bad thing and it brings them even closer.  

    As an older sister, I definitely understand Natalie as to why she left, but to me, she was an amazing sister even with their distance she still cared for Kaitlin and stood by her even if they were far apart. Me and my sister are close as it is we spend almost all the time together, but we do bump heads every once in a while. We are four years apart and have different mindsets which could probably be why. But my sister and I have learned not to bury each other with our worries and problems, since at times we might not understand what we might be going through. We are there for one another when we need it but our problems we tend to deal on our own. In the end, it is our problem, not theirs but we know if we need each other we will always be there.

  7. Cui Zhang

    I listened to Nikole Hannah-Jones’ podcast “The Fight for a True Democracy”. During her podcast, she explained many radial inequality, and social justice as well as the struggles of society and people living in the United States. She definitely captured and highlighted many highly intensive topics throughout her podcast. She reviewed many heartbreaking topics based on the idea of racism, human rights, history, as well as the idea of democracy. I remember one of the first topics she mentioned was slavery. During her podcast, she mentioned the past lives of her father and grandmother and how they fled the South like many other people of color during the Great Migration. She basically mentioned the difficulty of their lives and what they had to go through in order to survive and earn money in the United States. She stated, “She [her grandmother] was forced to buy a house on the black side of town. Most jobs were unavailable to her, so she cleaned white people’s houses. My father went to segregated schools”. Lives back then weren’t too easy and was extremely difficult for her family but that doesn’t stop them from anything. However, it didn’t stop them from continuing to live their lives to provide for the family. 

    Throughout the podcast, Nikole Hannah-Jones also mentioned during that time of year, 13 colonies signed the declaration, and that led to the start of the Revolutionary War. So I assume it’s between the years of 1775 – 1776. After that, she mentioned some important information. She mentioned something about democracy. Nikole said, “They call this new country a democracy, but it wasn’t one, not yet”. From what I remember in history democracy is basically a system that is said by the government to have people participate in their decisions, their choice making such as the ability to be able to vote as an example throughout the elected representatives. She then later mentioned during the end of her podcast “It is black people who have been the perfectors of this democracy”. One thing Nikole Hannah-Jones mentioned that captured my attention was how she wishes she could go back and tell her younger self to not feel ashamed and that it’s her ancestral home and the world she lives in. 

  8. Coumba Diallo

    In his writings, Lewis Raven Wallace questions the conventional notion of journalistic objectivity, contending that it is a dangerous fiction and an unachievable ideal. He draws attention to the inherent biases in reporting that might result from things like society conventions, corporate interests, and personal backgrounds in his articles. Wallace claims that in order to produce journalism that is more honest and truthful, it is imperative to recognize these prejudices. He states succinctly in his essay “The Myth of Objectivity” that objectivity is frequently a weapon of authority, used to quell opposition and uphold the existing quo. When journalists attempt to be objective—an impossible task—they frequently end up being the power brokers’ stenographers without question.”

    Wallace’s viewpoint emphasizes the need for a more complex and self-aware approach to journalism, acknowledging that journalists have opinions and influences just like everyone else. The public’s right to know can be better served by more responsible and effective journalism as a result of this movement in reporting toward accountability and transparency.

  9. Kobe

    I watched an opinion video from the New York Times called “Artist, Plumbers, Bakers and Five Days To Make Them Soldiers” by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein. In the opinion video it talks about a American photographer named Michael Dumler who went to Ukraine to document the war but realized how bad the war was so he decided to join a volunteer group to help train Ukraine soldiers. The group they formed is called Task force 31 and is a Ukrainian charity foundation that trains Ukraine soldier.

    After watching this video I was able to analyze how high the danger toward journalist is. In other words journalist are document something that could possible risk there life’s. For example, a journalist can be at the wrong place and wrong time. Furthermore, its very shocking knowing the fact that the people are only getting five days to training before entering the war. Not only that but the people that are getting five days of training are photographers, artist, bakers, plumber, people who don’t have any experience.

  10. Gabriel

    Reading Lewis Wallace’s essay “Objectivity is dead, and I like it” really makes the points of journalists and reporters stand out of objectivity. This term and stance is often a staggering position for journalists because the fact that this could create bias or neutrality would put them in a undecided position, either supporting both sides to the story they’re trying to tell or remaining undecided. A bias journalist could also prevent the actual truth and fact checking of a source to determine whether or not that one journalist would be seen as a reliable source, especially with the fact that journalists are seen as a target from governments and organizations. It only takes them to uncover the truths and fact checking to develop a source of spilling the news to the media for viewers to know what’s really happening behind the scenes. After reading the essay, it really opened up the view for me on what it’s really like to be documenting what’s occurring outside in the real world, as well as any interferences or positions a journalist could land in that would affect their credibility, status and in rare cases, their lives. Times like these as well are making it harder for journalists our there gathering trustworthy information to spread for the world. Wallace is able to provide experiences and clear views of the objectives for a true journalist to get into the field for the sake of spreading the truth all around us.

  11. Sphear Forde

    In the article “Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it” Lewis Wallace argues that objectivity is impossible and that journalists should instead embrace their perspectives and use them to tell the truth. Wallace also argues that marginalized journalists should be shaping the stories that fact-based news media puts out. While I understand Wallace’s perspective, I believe that journalists should keep their perspectives  and opinions out of journalism unless it is Op-ed.Journalists have a responsibility to report the facts accurately and objectively, rather than push a particular perspective. I understand that doing this can be hard, but it must be done to keep journalism ethical and ensure the public receives accurate information. 

    I agree with Wallace that marginalized journalists should be shaping stories that fact-based media puts out. The process of shaping stories  involves researching, interviewing, writing, editing, and fact-checking. Incorporating marginalized journalists into the process  can help ensure that news  stories are  representative of the diverse communities they cover and not biased. 

  12. Elan Gan

    I read the article called The View From Somewhere by Lewis Wallace. This book has a lot of interesting moments and key events. Lewis was a journalist who wanted to make a change about free speech and civil rights through her posts of her profession back when Donald Trump got inaugurated. Lewis created a post giving out the response he felt was needed in order to be heard. But that didn’t hit the bosses of his organization the right way and his words were not being accepted. When his boss found out about the post Lewis was released from his work. She believed that if she agreed to what Lewis was saying, she would jeopardize her career for it as well. Compared to the times now, Journalists are still having a try to speak out on events they believe they can have an influence on. Most of these journalists are not part of an organization as they believe the ideas of these journalists that are trying to make a change, can have a negative impact on how the world sees them and on their businesses.

  13. Aaron Gan

    I was able to read the article The View From Somewhere by Lewis Wallace argues that the conventional understanding of journalistic objectivity might be problematic because it frequently rests on an erroneous belief in impartiality and detachment. Rather, he suggests a more complex and inclusive strategy that calls on reporters to be aware of their own viewpoints, experiences, and prejudices as they work to provide more truthful and representative stories. He stresses how crucial it is to understand how socioeconomic and cultural factors influence news reporting and journalists’ perspectives. This book challenges conventional wisdom in the industry and pushes journalists to adopt a more self-aware and inclusive reporting style, which is a significant addition to the continuing discussion about the place of journalism in society.

  14. QiTing

    After reading the article “Objective is dead, and I’m okay with it” by Lewis Wallace, I had learned new things and knowledge. In the article had mention few thoughts on objectivity in political moments: 1)Neutrality isn’t real 2)It matters who is making editorial decisions 3) We can (and should ) still tell the truth and check our facts 4)Journalist should fight back 5)Get our sense of purpose, for real. As we know, there are some authors making the fake news and sending the wrong information to people, and only for the news traffic. Also the article mentioned to speak out own perspective and telling the facts.

  15. Efaz Kareeb

    The podcast of Nikole Hannah-Jones is a powerful exploration of America’s intricate tapestry of racial and social issues. She exposes the deep-seated roots of systemic racism through her insightful interviews, compelling storytelling, and rigorous journalism, particularly in her acclaimed work, “The 1619 Project.” The podcast is a vehicle for deconstructing historical myths and providing a nuanced perspective on slavery’s enduring legacy. Hannah-Jones’ dedication to fostering a genuine understanding of the historical roots of contemporary challenges is admirable. She encourages listeners to engage in critical conversations about justice, equality, and the path forward by confronting uncomfortable truths and exposing the pervasive impact of systemic racism. Her work is more than just a look back; it’s a call to action for a more equitable future. Hannah-Jones bravely navigates the complexities of race in a society where discussions about race can be fraught with discomfort and denial, creating a space for reflection and dialogue. Her commitment to honesty aligns with my belief in the power of open dialogue to effect positive change. She empowers people to confront the present with a better understanding of its origins by unraveling the threads of history.

    In David Foster Wallace’s essay, he examines the ethical quandary surrounding lobster consumption. The essay takes readers on a journey through the Maine Lobster Festival, combining humor with a thought-provoking examination of the morality of boiling live lobsters for human consumption. Wallace investigates lobster consciousness and the consequences of causing them unnecessary suffering. The essay challenges readers to reflect on their relationship with food and the ethical considerations that accompany it through a combination of witty observations and a deeper exploration of cultural norms. Wallace does not simply address the issue of lobster consumption; he invites readers to consider broader issues such as empathy, morality, and our responsibilities to other living beings.

  16. Kiana Rodnell

    I was deeply moved by Lewis Raven Wallace’s thought-provoking article, “Objectivity is Dead, and I’m okay with it.” In an age where misinformation and fake news run rampant, Wallace challenges the traditional notions of journalistic neutrality and instead advocates for a more truthful and transparent approach. His insights are not only valuable but also empowering, as he urges readers to critically examine existing norms and adopt a more authentic and honest approach to journalism. 

    At the heart of Wallace’s message is the pressing need for change in the face of a government that peddles “alternative facts” and thrives on lies. He takes a firm stance in advocating for the truth and exposing the propaganda that has become all too commonplace in modern politics. Wallace emphasizes the importance of separating significant facts from irrelevant information and holding those in power accountable for their actions. He also calls for journalists to take a more active role, to no longer remain impartial, but instead adopt a position they support. While some may worry about potential biases, Wallace argues that speaking up about one’s beliefs can help build a loyal following and strengthen the bond between journalists and their audience. Indeed, it is only by standing up for what one believes in that real change can be affected.

  17. mareefa

    Many people have responded to Lewis Wallace’s article on the myth of journalistic neutrality. All of the comments stress how important truth and openness are in journalism. Using these student points of view as a starting point, one could argue:

    Wallace’s claim that journalists can never be completely objective is very similar to the idea that when someone stands for everything, they really stand for nothing. The need for media to take a stand is very important, since silence can sometimes hide hidden facts or biases. When writers say what they really think about an issue, it not only accurately represents the issue, but it also helps build a sincere and loyal audience.

    Furthermore, in a time when “alternative facts” are common, it is the most important job of a writer to show the truth. For those in power, this truth keeps them in check. Because media is always changing, writers have to keep up with their viewers while sticking to the truth. A journalist’s dedication to their job and sense of duty is shown by their willingness to take a stand, even if it means facing criticism.

    On the other hand, the problem of impartiality is not easy to solve. A lot of the time, journalists have to choose between giving fair reports and the very real risk of being seen as slanted, which can hurt their reputation. Wallace’s article shows what a fine line writers have to walk, especially now when fake news is common and people don’t trust the media.

    The way power affects what people think is “objective” is one of Wallace’s deepest discoveries. By trying to be objective in a way that isn’t possible, writers could end up speaking for those in power, which would defeat the whole point of their job. The first step toward more honest and open news is to be aware of and accept one’s own biases, social norms, and outside forces.

    In conclusion, neutrality is still a goal for many people in news, but it has many layers and is not a simple thing. As Wallace and these student answers show, seeking the truth, being honest with readers, and admitting one’s own views are all important parts of being a more honest and responsible writer.

  18. kevin halley

    In this podcast, “The fight for a true democracy” the author Nikole Hannah Jones talks in the beginning about children and adults who were being put into slavery. She is showing it from the perspective of being a slave and speaking in a way as to make you feel like you are there yourself seeing all of this unfold in front of you. She explains what it is like being on the boat the white lion. She then formally starts the tale by explaining about her father having an American flag on their front yard and though they had no money her father would always replace the flag regardless of what they had going on. This was embarrassing to her because he served his country but the country, he so proudly served did not serve him nearly as well as he respects it. She then goes on to elaborate on how although Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence it would not apply to all the enslaved people including his sibling who was born into slavery. But he knows that slavery is not going to end just like that because it was systematic since the colonies were a part of Britain. So, he included that England was the blame for introducing slavery. However, the congress did not like the aspect of slaves being in it, so the declaration went out without any mention of slavery. But then the author continues her story and shows all the struggles and tribulations that America had to go through and why it should be proud of. For example, the 14th Amendment created making all people born in America to be treated as Americans. And with this, they also created the equal protection clause which we still use to this day which protects people from racism or inequality due to their race. And because of its history and growth, she would like to tell her younger self to be proud of her country even if her ancestors were enslaved because it’s her home. And After listening to this podcast I agree with her in the aspect that we should be proud of our country but at the same time don’t forget everything that we’ve gone through and the negative sides of history.

  19. Richard Morales

    When I read the article from Lewis Wallace “Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it” it took me in the interest of knowing that it states Lewis Wallace as a working journalist lost his position in public radio in 2017 as a result of an article he posted on his own blog titled “Objectivity is dead, and I’m ok with it.” His employers said that the article went against their code of ethics, particularly their dedication to neutrality and objectivity. Wallace had little opportunity to argue with his bosses over the premise, even though he disagreed with them. One job was ended by the piece, but his career continued. In the years that followed, Wallace made issues with objectivity, morals, ethics, and the truth in journalism a major focus of his work. The following claims were made by him: “Neutrality isn’t real.” “Actual neutrality is less important to centrism than reaching large audiences through marketing.” “I believe that now more than ever, marginalized people should be involved in the process of shaping the stories that the fact-based news media publishes.” “Obviously, I can’t be neutral or centrist in a debate over my own humanity,” declared transgender activist Wallace. “The people who consume news are savvy,” he went on. They are aware that news is carefully filtered and nuanced; that editorial decisions about what to report and how to report it are always arbitrary; and that although priorities and viewpoints are real, so are facts.

    In summary, Wallace was let go for refusing to take down the attached post from his personal blog. He continued by saying that media needs to face a new reality, which is that essential principles like justice and truth are becoming less and less important. These changes are especially difficult, in my opinion, for people whose identities or social standing put them at risk.

  20. Cindy

    The article, “Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it”, journalist Lewis Wallace talks about how being completely neutral or unbiased in reporting is impossible, especially for someone like him who is part of a marginalized community. He argues that it’s important to acknowledge our perspectives and be truthful about our biases. Wallace also stresses the need for diverse voices in making editorial decisions to bring honesty and depth to news reporting. Despite the challenges posed by misinformation and a changing media landscape, he believes that telling the truth and fact-checking remain crucial. He encourages journalists to actively fight against shifts in the political landscape that might compromise journalistic values and emphasizes the significance of knowing why we tell stories, especially those representing diverse truths in communities, as a way to stand against narrow-mindedness and oppression.

  21. Riley Gatto

    The very first line of Lewis Wallace’s piece “Objectivity is Dead and I’m Okay with It” struck me: “Like a lot of people, I’ve been losing sleep over the news of the last week”. Though this piece was published in January of 2017, this is a line that could have opened just about any article in the months and years since. Every day, news reports are war and famine overwhelm our social media timelines to the point of not being able to consume them all if we tried. In my opinion, the articles that take a stance and where the journalist pours their heart into the piece are the ones that are more engaging and digestible, whether or not I agree with the stance. I agree with Wallace that the reader should be given enough credit to form their own opinion despite the topic not being presented neutrally. Especially in civil rights matters such as race, sexuality, or gender identity as Wallace described, the journalist likely can’t take a neutral stance if it touches their life in any way. Noting that facts should still be checked, there’s very little reason I see to force objectivity.

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