[TNR] Extra, Extra!

Let me just preface with this: I am so stoked about this.

Historically, The News Record has had trouble with Wednesday issues. The fact that they are only on stands for one day makes it hard to sell enough ads to make it fiscally feasible. With all the budget insanity this year, a lot of Wednesday issues have been canceled, which disqualifies us for awards, lowers our circulation and prevents us from providing the same quality, consistent, relevant content to our readers. We've received a number of complaints and we've noticed a serious drop in readership, both online and in print. Overall, it really hurts the newspaper.

To counter this, we've been working on a proposal since Fall quarter to introduce a revamped, rebranded Wednesday issue that would both provide enough revenue and allow for more reader-focused content we can't normally fit in the Monday/Thursday broadsheet issues. (A broadsheet is a normal newspaper). We call it TNR Extra. It's a tabloid issue (which means it opens sideways like a book, not that it's about celebrity gossip) that focuses on extended sports coverage, entertainment and event information. It would also feature a centerpiece article from the folks at Verge magazine -- the UC student-run project that launched last spring. And the best part (for advertisers, anyway): We want to have it on stands next to the Monday/Thursday broadsheets all week.

Since we've been working on this project for so long, it was starting to feel like a dream that would never come to fruition. But after talking with Gin and interim director of student media Jon Hughes, we've decided that the scheduled March Madness tabloid March 14 will be the first beta issue of TNR Extra. I'm thrilled this plan will finally move forward, because I think TNR Extra is a fantastic addition to our news organization. I know there are going to be bumps and kinks along the way, but I feel like this could be the answer to our prayers. Stay tuned for more information or, if you have any comments/ideas/questions/feedback, leave me a comment!

To Costa Rica we go!

A week and a half ago, photojournalism professor Sean Hughes stopped by The News Record office to talk to Eamon and me. He pulled us into a conference room and casually explained that he has a friend who works with Cincinnati-area high school students to send them to a self-sustaining community in Costa Rica where they study the habitat, community, etc. Sean then explained his friend had invited him to come along to report on the project. And bring two journalism students.

"So," he asked, so nonchalant. "Would you two like to go to Costa Rica at the end of March?"

Now, I had a lot of plans for spring break. There was so much lounging and relaxing and casual reading to be done, I really couldn't picture sacrificing all that to go to Costa Rica on assignment.

Only joking. Eamon and I practically shouted yes.

Since then, it's been a constant rush to get everything in order for the trip. Renewing my passport (huge pain). Meeting Gary Morgan, the man who has dedicated a large portion of his life to making possible this opportunity for high school students. Convincing my parents that missing the first four days of school Spring quarter really wasn't that big of a deal.

We'll be spending March 25-31 at Morgan's Jungle Lodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. This is one heck of a story, and I can't believe I have this opportunity. So, Costa Rica, here we come!

UC student redesigns J.C. Penney logo

Ariel Cheung | The News Record
Feb. 27, 2011

National department store chain J.C. Penney unveiled a new logo last week — a logo created by a University of Cincinnati student.

Luke Langhus, a fourth-year graphic design student in the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, created the logo for a class project during the first five weeks of Fall quarter.

Students worked with representatives from J.C. Penney at the beginning of the project, and then refined their projects after three weeks. J.C. Penney worked with several design agencies including DAAP and the Rhode Island School of Design before selecting Langhus's logo. Langhus was notified in late January that his design was selected.

"I was definitely surprised," Langhus said. "It'll be something I can look back on for years to come. It's definitely something great for the beginning of my career."

Langhus' design was scheduled to debut Sunday during the Academy Awards broadcast, according to J.C. Penney. The new logo is already on the company's retail website. The logo is now entirely in lowercase, with the "jcp" flushed right in a red box. The color and Helvetica font have not changed.

"We were trying to convey an updated logo still true to the heritage," Langhus said. "The logo they've been using is very established. I wanted to evolve it into something that was more modern, more personal and captured a wide range of consumers."

J.C. Penney operates more than 1,100 stores throughout the United States and is worth $17.8 billion, according to company statistics. The new logo is meant to signify the company's shift forward in creating a more exciting shopping experience.

"We've made significant progress transforming our company over the last several years by infusing great style into our assortments … and introducing new and innovating retail technologies," said Myron E. Ullman III, chairman and executive officer for J.C. Penney. "Our new logo reflects the modern retailer we've become while continuing to honor our rich legacy."

CCM presents "Rent" with spirit, passion

Ariel Cheung | The News Record
Feb. 27, 2011

"Rent" is a musical that has a soul of its own. It lives, breathes and bleeds emotion. As such, it is an extremely difficult show to pull off successfully. Thankfully, the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music filled their Feb. 24 opening night performance with spirit and passion, reminding us all to measure our lives with love.

The 1990s rock opera tells the story of eight young New Yorkers dealing with poverty, sexuality and AIDS and follows the struggling Bohemian artists and musicians for one year filled with tragedy and changes.

Fourth-year musical theater student Mia Gentile was easily the highlight of the production. She exuded energy as the feisty Maureen Johnson. Gentile won a Cincinnati Enquirer Acclaim Award as Best Actress in a Musical last year as Missy in the Ensemble Theatre's "Marvelous Wonderettes." Gentile managed to keep the exuberant Maureen endearing, while still milking every ounce of comedy out of "Over the Moon."

Natasha Ashworth, a fourth-year musical theater student, also brought vivacity to her role as Mimi Marquez, a drug-addicted stripper with HIV. Her bubbly, lively voice gave charm to the character, but Mimi's raw sexuality and sensuous movement was often missing from Ashworth's performance.

Ashworth had palpable chemistry with Josh T. Smith, who played Roger, a musician and Mimi's love interest, who struggles to make his mark on the world before his HIV progresses too far. Smith's smooth vocals were another excellent addition to the show, but his character was not as well-developed as it should have been.

The key to the success of CCM's "Rent" was in its ability to distinguish itself from the Broadway and later film versions. Director Richard E. Hess made a decision to restructure most of the production, giving CCM's "Rent" a fresh, modern vibe. The set and lighting were superb and a credit to CCM's stage and lighting production.

The major setback in the show was a lack of energy from several cast members. This was the only time the show felt like a student production. While Ryan Breslin, who played the narrator and filmmaker Roger, and Melvin Brandon Logan as the cross-dressing Angel did a decent job, they seemed to have trouble letting go of inhibitions.

The lack of energy throughout the show could have been partially due to the hushed pit, which sounded canned and often too quiet. This made it difficult for the actors to really let go and belt out their songs. Gentile was the only performer who consistently immersed herself in her character. The others had trouble with commitment.

CCM's "Rent" has already proved to be a smash success, prompting the addition of a Wednesday, March 2, performance. "Rent" will now be playing at the Patricia Corbett Theater Wednesday, March 2, through Sunday, March 6. Student tickets are $17-$19 and $11 student rush tickets are available for the Wednesday and Saturday matinee performances. While you're at it, bring a few extra dollars: The cast is raising funds for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a nonprofit organization.

Column: Students must rally to support educators

Ariel Cheung | The News Record
Feb. 24, 2011

Editor's note: This was written before the Ohio Senate Republicans had agreed to concede some collective bargaining rights to unions Wednesday afternoon.

When I was a senior in high school, the teachers in my school district were working on contract renewals. The teachers' union was negotiating with the board of education, but when a settlement couldn't be reached, the teachers began to protest in December 2007.

For almost a month, teachers sported red T-shirts reading, "Teachers deserve a fair contract" in bold letters. They claimed the board was unwilling to compromise during talks and threatened to strike if an agreement could not be reached.

The teachers being affected were the people who had dedicated their lives to helping students grow: The teacher who stayed after school to review the calculus lesson with me — again — so I could get a good score on the AP test, the choir director who was a friend to every student, the English teacher who wrote funny comments on my essays. There were countless memories from 12 years of education filled with teachers who had influenced me in so many different ways.

Many students felt the same way. We knew that the people who had guided us through the past 12 years deserved so much more than they received. So, without any encouragement or assistance, a group of students rose together to support the teachers. We attended board meetings and voiced our opinions. We went to protests. We got matching red T-shirts declaring our support for them and wore them proudly every Friday.

"I thought that anything less than full, vocal and active support for [the teachers] would have been an insult, considering all they had done for us," said Nathaniel Mosher, an organizer of the student support. "I felt they were being cheated out of money they had been promised and had earned, and al the numbers I found supported that."

By January 2008, the board of education was willing to compromise and an agreement was reached. And while the students' support might not have been the deciding factor, we hoped the show of solidarity encouraged the teachers in their battle for justice.

Now, three years later, I see a similar battle on the horizon. However, this time, it's magnified three fold. The Ohio Senate has proposed Senate Bill 5, which would eliminate collective bargaining for state employees and limit bargaining for other public employees. This would affect state university and college professors, policemen, firemen, public school teachers — the people who have dedicated their lives to serving the public.

Since the proposal of Senate Bill 5, protests have sparked up across Ohio, including a 5,200 person-strong protest in the Ohio State Capitol building.

The long-term goal for the bill is to adopt a merit-based employment system for public employees, said Ohio Sen. Shannon Jones in a Cincinnati Enquirer editorial. Sen. Jones proposed the bill because "these collective bargaining agreements end up denying public employers even the basic flexibility to adapt to a downturn in revenue." The state no longer has the resources to provide automatic pay increases, salary benefits and job protection, Jones said.

While state budget problems must be addressed, curbing or limiting state funding for public employees — especially teachers — is not the answer. If Gov. John Kasich's goal is to keep people and jobs in Ohio, decreasing the quality of education by limiting public educators' pay will not accomplish this.

And so, while this plan might not directly affect University of Cincinnati students, we must act. Think about what your life would be like without the professors and educators you've worked with since kindergarten. Imagine an Ohio in which teachers and educators are forced to move to another state in order to receive the salaries they deserve.

The issue is not just about collective bargaining. It's about how much we value our educators, police officers and firefighters. It's about the worth of public servants and the need to support those who have supported us for decades.

So, UC students, it's time to show our support. You can do this in several ways: attend protests, write to Sen. Jones or Gov. Kasich and just use your voice. Let your opinion be heard. After all these people have done for us, it's only fair we stand up for them.

Magic awaits the Aronoff

Ariel Cheung | The News Record
Feb. 23, 2011

The Aronoff Center for the Arts has announced an incredibly promising 2011-12 Broadway Across America season, filled with spectacular songs, uplifting plots and fantastic characters.

The season begins Sept. 27 with "Beauty and the Beast," the hit musical based on the 1991 Disney film. While the seven new songs aren't nearly as great as the movie originals, "Home" and "Human Again" are excellent additions. As University of Cincinnati students crack open textbooks and settle into the doldrums of college life, "Beauty and the Beast" will be a great way to reminisce of a time before midterms and lecture halls.

In November, the Wicked Witch of the West comes to Cincinnati in "Wicked," which is likely to be the highlight of the season. The Tony Award-winning show has had a huge impact on the musical world since its 2004 debut and scores big with critics and audiences alike. As Time magazine said, "If every musical had a brain, a heart and the courage of ‘Wicked,' Broadway really would be a magical place." This is a show that truly cannot be missed.

As this February's "Fiddler on the Roof" filled the classic musical role for Aronoff's current season, "West Side Story" and "Les Miserables" should charm audiences in February and May 2012, respectively. "West Side Story" puts a 1950s street-gang twist on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." "Les Miserables," meanwhile, tells the story of characters suffering in 19th-century France. Both musicals are tragic and romantic, but not necessarily must-see shows for those who don't enjoy musicals.

But for those who want to stray from the traditional musical, "The Addams Family" and "Mamma Mia!" will more than serve. "The Addams Family," arriving at the Aronoff March 27, 2012, is based on the original Charles Addams cartoons and follows Wednesday Addams as she falls in love with her macabre parents' worst nightmare — a respectable, upstanding young man. Nathan Lane has starred as father Gomez since the show opened on Broadway, so it will be interesting to see if the tour's replacement is equally as entertaining.

"Mamma Mia!" will open May 1, 2012. A "jukebox musical," "Mamma Mia!" tells a story revolving around music by Swedish pop group ABBA. As 20-year-old Sophie prepares to marry, she wants her father to walk her down the aisle. But when she discovers she has three possible fathers, chaos ensues. While the 2008 film adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried is quite good, it will be fun to see the story unfold onstage.

Finally, "Billy Elliot" will open at the Aronoff Jan. 18, 2012. The story of a motherless boy who trades boxing gloves for ballet shoes, "Billy Elliot" charmed critics and audiences when it debuted on Broadway in 2008. The musical scooped up 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and looks like a sure hit in Cincinnati.

Trending topics

It seems like the catch phrase of the past week has been social media. David Watkins used Twitter to communicate with family and friends while he was trapped in Egypt. Thursday, we had a guest speaker in Precision Journalism who spoke about everything from what Twitter was to how UC is utilizing Second Life to communicate with virtual students ... which was ... interesting.

Today, Tom Callinan, former editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, hosted our first News Record editor seminar concerning social media for newspapers. The info was really fascinating, and I was surprised by how much we learned -- we young journalists have a detrimental belief that we know all there is to know about social media. But there was a really strong focus on how we can utilize social media as a source of information. Previously, I mostly saw it as an outlet for The News Record to promote its own material, but after Callinan's seminar, I'm really starting to see how we can use Twitter and Facebook. The way Callinan explained it, using these feeds can be a way to have a 24/7 source to the world.

So, I'm curious, readers: How do you use social media?

Witnessing revolution

Ariel Cheung | The News Record
Feb. 17, 2011

The apartment's doorman assembled Molotov cocktails. The neighboring locals began arming themselves with golf clubs and shotguns. University of Cincinnati student David Watkins realized that his study abroad trip to Egypt had taken a terrifying and historic turn.

When he heard gunshots outside his building at 2 a.m. and impromptu broadcasts over the street speakers calling for Egyptians to protect their honor and their families, Watkins, 21, realized he would have to leave the country. It was no longer safe.

Watkins realized he probably owes his life to the Egyptian neighbors who promised to protect him and his roommates through a night of looting and prison breakouts.

"We literally had to rely on ourselves and the random Egyptian men who were protecting us," Watkins says. "The experience we went through bonded us beyond knowing each others' names."

This was nothing like the five-month trip Watkins spent a year planning. As a fourth-year international affairs and political science student, Watkins studied Arabic for two years before seeking assistance from UC's International Programs and getting accepted into Butler University's Institute for Study Abroad program.

Watkins planned to participate in an intensive Arabic language program at Alexandria University from January through May. He sublet his Cincinnati apartment, applied for scholarships, packed his bags and took off for Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 20. But when he arrived at the airport, he was met with his first difficulty: tracking down his Egyptian resident director.

"I had a picture of my resident director and [was] looking at all these Arab guys and going, ‘Uh, where's Dr. Muhammad?' " Watkins said. "Muhammad's a pretty common name."

A man kindly approached Watkins and asked if he had a phone number for Muhammad, then used his cell phone to contact the resident director, who was in a different terminal. The helpfulness and hospitality was common among the Egyptian people, Watkins said.

He spent his first few days in Cairo Watkins spent the next few days sightseeing in Cairo with 11 other students in the Butler University program. When protests began Tuesday, Jan. 25 in response to a national holiday honoring the police force, Watkins didn't think much of it.

"We understood the Egyptian police forces are notoriously brutal and typically crushed any type of democratic demonstration," Watkins said. "Even my Egyptian resident directors — while they supported the protestors, they didn't expect them to go very far."

Demonstrations continued for the next two days. Watkins and his group left Cairo for Alexandria Jan. 27. He and three other students were staying in an apartment in Kafr Abdou, one of the nicer neighborhoods in Alexandria.

"It was the best apartment ever," Watkins said. "Marble countertops, hardwood floors. We had a pool table. I had a queen bed. I don't even have a queen bed [at home]."

While Watkins and his roommates unpacked, protests continued in Cairo and Alexandria. Soon, services like Facebook and Twitter became unavailable. Then, without notice, Internet service was disrupted.

But Watkins was able to use his cell phone to communicate on Twitter. When phone lines were disrupted early Friday, Jan. 28, Twitter became his only means of communication with the outside world.

"Maybe that's why I was able to cope so well with the danger and the pressure that was all around us," Watkins said. "As expensive as it is to Tweet on an American SIM card in a foreign country, I almost needed it, because it was a way to tell people what was going on."

And, quickly, what was "going on" became increasingly dangerous. After the Internet and phone lines were cut off, the protests took a more extreme turn. During the Friday call to prayer, thousands of people arrived at a mosque in Alexandria and those who couldn't get inside lined the streets.

"All the phones were down, and that did create a backlash," Watkins said. "A lot of people who weren't necessarily involved in the protests, when you turn off their cell phones, that gets them pretty angry."

The Egyptian military was deployed to protect Cairo, Suez and Alexandria, according to Al Jazeera. At that point, Watkins started to realize that what was happening wasn't just a protest.

"Before, there wasn't necessarily an expectation that the revolution was going to happen," Watkins said. "And then Friday came … it just snowballed from there. We knew something historical was happening."

Watkins and his three roommates wandered the streets of Kafr Abdou and the surrounding neighborhoods. What they saw was a country on the brink of revolution.

"There was black smoke coming from the city because every police station was being torched," Watkins said. Police officers with canisters of tear gas forced Watkins and his roommates to return to their apartment shortly after the military imposed a 6 p.m. curfew. "The tear gas was just horrible," Watkins recalled. "It was just like a cloud of tear gas over the city."

By the next morning, the police had disappeared.

"It was almost like President [Hosni] Mubarak saying, ‘OK, you don't want me? Here's what life is like without me,' " Watkins said. "And the Egyptians were like, ‘OK, fine, we'll just do [the police officers'] job.' "

The phone-booth-like posts where police officers sat to direct traffic had their glass windows broken in and were now occupied by civilians.

"There were ordinary Egyptians just out in the streets directing traffic. Guys in business suits — you knew that wasn't what they got up in the morning to do," Watkins said. "It was a lot of human pride there."

Later Saturday, Jan. 29, Watkins heard reports from Al Jazeera that more than 4,000 prisoners had been let loose in Alexandria due to a combination of prison riots and a lack of police officers. The military imposed a 4 p.m. curfew but, without police, was struggling to secure the city.

That night, all hell broke loose.

"The guys in our neighborhood started arming themselves," Watkins said. "Baseball bats, two-by-fours. They're like, ‘We're going to protect you. Don't worry, just stay in your apartment.' "

Suddenly, Watkins was thrust into a world of video-game surrealism. The clusters of "bad guys" — looters, prisoners, secret police — roamed the streets, stalking their prey. Watkins didn't know whether the gunfire outside his apartment came from the enemy or the neighbors holding them back. The apartment's doorman enlisted the students to barricade the stairwell as he prepared Molotov cocktails — glass bottles filled with flammable liquid to be set on fire and hurled at a target — to brandish against anyone trying to break into the apartment.

"It was just four American students who had never been to Egypt before, who didn't know the language, trying to fend for themselves as anarchy broke loose," Watkins said. "We couldn't call 9-1-1 and say, ‘Oh my gosh, come help us. There were no police. It really hit home that we were isolated."

Throughout the night, Watkins and his roommates watched brawls and fire fights from their second-floor balcony. They packed emergency bags and gathered mattresses, tables and potted plants to barricade their front door. The phone service had been somewhat restore, and Watkins managed to reach his parents and tell them that things were escalating.

"That night crossed a line from interesting and amazing to extremely frightening," Watkins said.

But Watkins couldn't help notice that his country's role in the revolution was nowhere near what most would expect of the land of the free and home of the brave. The tear gas canisters that clouded the city had "Made in the U.S.A." printed in bold letters on the sides, while the tanks rolling around down were given by the United States to allies.

"Most everyone made the distinction between our government and us," Watkins said. "But at the same time, they had to ask us, ‘Why? Why isn't your government supporting us? You're the homeland of democracy. Why wouldn't you want us to have elections, too?' "

The next morning, Watkins and his American roommates received word that they would be leaving and had just 10 minutes to pack. As they left the apartment, they met the men who had spent the night guarding them.

"I think it hit us at the same time it hit them that things were going downhill," Watkins said. "We were leaving. They had protected us all night, but we still had to leave. They were visibly upset; they were crying because we were leaving." The cluster of strangers had become so connected in that short night that even without knowing each others' names, the separation was painful.

Watkins, his roommates and the other students left Kafr Abdou in an over-crowded mini bus, which headed toward the Borg Al-Arab airport. Along the way, the bus was stopped at several military checkpoints, which was unnerving in itself for Watkins.

"[The officers] step out in front of your van, and one of them puts his arm up and the other puts his AK-47 up," Watkins said. "Some of them were sitting there, directing traffic with their handgun."

Next to the checkpoint, the students saw a mall with whitewashed, barricaded windows and a parking lot full of tanks. The curfew was 3 p.m. that Sunday.

The following three days, Watkins, the other students and the Butler University resident director holed up on the second floor of the airport, joined by students from Middlebury College in Vermont and surrounded by security guards armed with assault rifles. They were scheduled to fly out of Egypt Jan. 30, but their plane never arrived. Neither did the evacuation flight the State Department organized to take them to Athens, Greece, Jan. 31.

The students passed the time playing cheese wheel and pillow baseball, hosting dance-offs and snacking on the only food available in the terminal — Mars bars and tuna-flavored potato chips, which are "as nasty as they sound," Watkins said.

While he was waiting, Watkins continued to communicate through Twitter, commenting on the horrifying events that occurred. The Tweets were picked up by the Cincinnati Enquirer, UC students and professors and Watkins's family. People back home posted messages of support on Watkins's Facebook wall and Tweeted to his Twitter account. The outpouring of support was just what he needed.

"That Saturday night, we couldn't help but be faced with the reality that we were all alone," Watkins said. "And to be able to finally see that while we may have been physically alone, we were on the minds of so many people praying, to know that in hindsight meant a lot."

Finally, Butler University and Middlebury College enlisted the help of Global Rescues, a Boston-based company that employs former special military personnel to rescue people around the world. Within three hours, Global Rescues had a chartered Boeing 737 in Alexandria to pick up 30 students.

Watkins and other students arrived in Prague at 3 a.m. Feb. 1. The first thing Watkins did was spend two hours talking to his family on Skype, a live video chat program.

"It was emotional just thinking about returning to the U.S.," Watkins said. "There's a point where you started to question whether or not you would get that chance to see them."

The danger was over, but Watkins's wait to see his family in person would take a little longer. Snowstorms in Chicago forced Watkins to delay his return to the United States until Thursday, Feb. 3, and then four canceled flights from Chicago to Dayton further postponed his homecoming. Finally, he arrived home early Feb. 4.

Watkins had lived through riots and protesting and barricades and disconnected phone services and — let's not forget — the Molotov cocktails. But, in his view, it had all been worth it because the Egyptians who had risked so much protecting him had gained something incredibly important.

"It had everything to do with basic human rights," Watkins said. "The right to express yourself without worrying about getting beat up or tortured. The right to elect who governs you in a free and fair election."

Watkins gained something from the experience, as well. As much as he hated to leave the country without spending his five months learning Arabic, he knew his experience was life changing in a different way.

"I have a poster back in my apartment in Cincinnati that said, ‘Live today like you'll die tomorrow, but dream like you'll live forever.' And in the midst of all that was going on Saturday night, that saying came up in my mind," Watkins said. "I realized I was taking tomorrow for granted and, that night, tomorrow couldn't come soon enough. And we really wondered what tomorrow would look like when it did come."

For the Egyptians, the Feb. 11 dawn brought the beginning of a new era when President Mubarak resigned. And while Watkins recognizes that this was just Egypt's first step toward democracy, he knows it was a momentous one.

"We went through something with regular Egyptians that is fairly unique in history," Watkins said. "This was something new and unheard of for them as much as it was for us."

For Watkins, Feb. 12 marked the beginning of another journey — this time, in Morocco. Several study-abroad programs around the world announced they were accepting students who were forced to leave Egypt, and he was eager for the opportunity.

"I'm more nervous about going to Morocco than I was about going to Egypt, but at the same time, I feel like this isn't my first rodeo," Watkins said. "This [wouldn't be] my first revolution, so to say."

While the night in Kafr Abdou will undoubtedly stand out as one of the most horrific, yet inspirational times of Watkins's life, he remains thankful for the Egyptians who swore to protect for American strangers.

"They didn't know who we were, and it made you think: Reverse the situation," Watkins said. "Four young Arab guys move into an apartment near you in the U.S. Would you protect them, not knowing anything about them? Would you look out for their safety?"

Watkins arrived in Rabat, Morocco Feb. 13. Inside the city, a crowd of protestors was gearing up for another fight for freedom.

Theater classic lacks luster

Ariel Cheung | The News Record
Feb. 17, 2011

With Broadway productions constantly getting bigger, flashier and more expensive, it's a treat to return to the classics and "Tradition" with "Fiddler on the Roof," playing at the Aronoff Center for the Arts Feb. 15-27.

But it seemed that for tradition, "Fiddler" was willing to sacrifice the sparkle and polish that usually accompanies national touring productions.

While lines were spoken clearly and every note was hit, there was a lack of energy that was needed throughout the show. The dancing was a little slow, the comedic timing was a off and the characters were a little dull.

The lack of polish was disappointing, because "Fiddler" has such heart. It's the story of a little Russian town, Anatevka, in 1905. The Jewish townspeople work hard and reap few rewards, and none more so than Tevye, a milkman with five daughters. Tevye's faith and traditional principles are challenged as his three eldest daughters each fall in love with men they aren't supposed to fall in love with.

John Preece takes the stage as Tevye in his ninth national tour of "Fiddler." He's clearly had plenty of practice in the role, and the time has paid off. Tevye is captivating and sentimental, while still coming across as the gruff Papa he expects himself to be.

The rest of the cast, however, muddled the performance with awkward outbursts of misplaced passion and muted delivery of lines that sounded rehearsed. The audience couldn't connect with these characters because the cast simply felt like actors playing a part.

A few characters did break out of their shells, though. Tevye's youngest daughter, Chava (Chelsey Lebel) has a heart-wrenching moment when she pleads with her father for acceptance. This moment is made even more tragic with Tevye's reflection in "Chava Sequence."

And yet, even with the heartwarming moments, the oddities raged on. When Motel, the soft-spoken tailor played by Andrew Boza, is trying to convince Tevye that he is worthy of Tevye's oldest daughter, he shouts in the father's face, a move that would not impress most fathers. When Tevye's second daughter, Hodel (Julianne Katz) agrees to marry the radical scholar Perchik (Kevin Strangler), his song "Now I Have Everything" was wooden at best.

But a tale so endearing could not be completely spoiled by poor acting. Tevye and wife Golde, played by Nancy Evans, have a sweet duet at the beginning of Act 2. As partners in an arranged marriage, the couple considers if 25 years together has helped them learn to love each other.

A final redeeming moment for the show is when we see the townspeople's devotion to Anatevka. When political unrest threatens to force the citizens out of their lifelong home, the company's "Anatevka" is a reminder that even if home isn't perfect, it's still the place you want to be.

CEAS restructuring computer science

Ariel Cheung | The News Record
Feb. 17, 2011

As the University of Cincinnati prepares for possible budget cuts, the College of Engineering and Applied Science is taking the opportunity to restructure its curriculum.

In a town hall meeting Feb. 3, CEAS Dean Carlo Montemagno presented his plan for the college, including suspending admission to the computer science program and consolidating several programs into a single school.

While UC's 2012 semester conversion and a possible $4.9 million budget cut were the driving force for Montemagno's plan, the changes were necessary regardless, Montemagno said.

"[The budget cuts are] a kind of crisis," Montemagno said. "And sometimes, a crisis gives you an opportunity to really look at what you're doing and become better and stronger as a result of that."

Montemagno focused his plan on improving core engineering programs — mechanical, chemical, electric, civil and aerospace — and improving the quality of courses offered to students. His overall goal is to create a world-class college.

"Even if the budget was remaining flat, I need to do something to restore the quality that we want the programs to have," Montemagno said. "It's not about whether or not an individual program makes money. It's about whether the money I'm investing in that program can be better utilized to support something that is more important to the overall delivery."

The announcement that admission to the computer science program would be suspended in 2012 was met with resistance from many computer science students.

"It doesn't make sense that [Montemagno] wants to become like all the other more prestigious engineering programs at other colleges … and yet they all have a [computer science] program," said Peter Burke, a third-year computer science student.

In order for the computer science program to remain sustainable, it would need a large increase in funding, which was not going to be possible in the near future, Montemagno said. While national funding for computer science programs is available, it historically has not gone to UC, he said.

Montemagno has organized a committee to evaluate the computer science program. Some of the computer science courses will be shifted into the computer engineering program and could eventually be offered as a minor, Montemagno said.

"I wish I didn't have to make a decision with regards to computer science. [The other changes to CEAS are] absolutely the right thing to do," Montemagno said. But without the resources to expand the computer science program and faculty, it's no longer a viable option, he said.

While Montemagno continues to communicate with concerned students and faculty through his Wiki page and by hosting meetings, his plan for CEAS will not be altered or adjusted, he said.

"Because of the financial circumstances we have, I can't be as broad and offer everything," Montemagno said. "But I can offer the core of engineering and offer it at a quality with our co-op program that makes it some place that everyone wants to go to."

How's this for a lede?

As the apartment’s doorman assembled Molotov cocktails and the neighboring locals began arming themselves with golf clubs and shotguns, David Watkins, 21, realized that his study abroad trip to Alexandria, Egypt, had taken a historic and terrifying turn.

Stay tuned for Thursday's spotlight article. I have a good feeling about this one.

ONA: Gaining perspective

On Thursday, I journeyed to Columbus, Ohio for the Ohio Newspaper Association's annual conference and competition awards. Click here for part 1.

Before lunch, I got a text message from Gin (the editor-in-chief) that his car had been towed -- he definitely wasn't going to make it to Columbus in time for the ONAs. Not only did that mean he wouldn't be there to receive the awards with me, but also (and more importantly, frankly) I had no one to sit with at lunch. I was Lindsay Lohan in "Mean Girls," lost in a sea of lunch table politics.

Thankfully, I spotted a cluster of people under the age of 40, and I recognized my own: college journalists. I was a tad anxious, of course, but luckily, it turns out the staff of the Youngstown State University Jambar are, as they say in "Anne's House of Dreams," of the race that knows Joseph.

“The race that knows Joseph?” puzzled Anne.

“Yes. Cornelia divides all the folks in the world into two kinds– the race that knows Joseph and the race that don’t. If a person sorter sees eye to eye with you, and has pretty much the same ideas about things, and the same taste in jokes–why, then he belongs to the race that knows Joseph."

Anyway, the Jambar's staff welcomed me with open arms and we sat together for the delicious lunch. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was speaking at the lunch. I was surprised that the unpopular governor was willing to speak to a room of journalists, and even more shocked when he agreed to allow time for questions. I haven't been following much about Kasich -- mostly because I despise politics -- but I have to admit, he is getting things done, making things happen. Kasich is about action, not just promises. The only issue -- is his action the right action? Debatable.

The worst point of the lunch was when Jambar editor-in-chief Josh Stipanovich asked Kasich about his plans for higher education and if they would result in an increase in tuition. And while none of us expected a definitive answer, I was expecting something somewhat relevant. Instead, Kasich rambled about keeping university politics to a minimum.

Still, lunch was delicious, and I like to think I got some good shots of Kasich. Afterward, we went straight to the awards, where The News Record receive second place in sports coverage and headline writing and third place in editorial and arts & entertainment. I was really excited we received awards, but shocked that The Lantern (OSU's lab paper) took first in so many categories. The Kent Stater (Kent State University) also received seven awards, but they sweeped last year's competition, so I wasn't really surprised.

I was a little surprised that The News Record didn't receive more awards. After reading the judges' comments, I feel like there was more of an emphasis on design and structure, rather than the quality of content. Quantity, not quality. That's not to say that the newspapers who won didn't deserve it -- they had some really great ideas and some really solid products. It definitely gave me a better idea of what to look for next year. I want to see The News Record sweep. There's definitely room for improvement in all areas, and I left the ONAs fully ready to get cracking.

Overall, I'm really glad I went to this conference (totally worth the $60 and four hours of driving). I think I learned a lot about the different things we need to do to improve our content, our website and advertising possibilities. I know we're one of the best college newspapers in Ohio, but I know now that there are a few things we need to change in order to show the Ohio Newspaper Association what we can really do. In the end, The News Record came away with four distinguished awards and a much better outlook of what we need to do this year (and next) to become the best. And I'm fully committed to getting us there.

Where I want to be

It's not easy working at The News Record and being a full-time student. It's like you're trying to be two people with two separate lives at the same time. And, usually, the reporter life trumps being a student. If you've got an interview with a UC administrator for a breaking news, front-page story, it's probably going to seem a lot more important than sitting through a lecture with 300 other students that will go over a Powerpoint that you can get on Blackboard.

This year, The News Record has taken up more time than ever before. Don't get me wrong -- I love my job. I love the newspaper and journalism and there's nowhere I'd rather be. But between being a managing editor, a designer, an opinion editor, a reporter and working through all the drama from last quarter, you can't help but wonder how much easier life would be without it. I've been working at The News Record since sophomore year, and I was a writer before that, so I've never really known a time at UC when I wasn't involved at TNR. So there are days when I walk out of the office at 1:30 a.m. and realize I have a 20-page analytical essay to read and response paper to crack out, I desperately need a shower and I haven't eaten all day. And it's days like those where I wonder what it would be like if my only responsibility was getting good grades. Like our multimedia editor Lauren Justice said to me today, sometimes you just lose sight of that fascination with journalism. You feel stale. You feel unimportant and ineffective.

But then I have a week like this week. On Monday, Gin and I made a proposal to SACUB where we got to explain just how important The News Record is to this campus. On Wednesday, I spent all day getting the scoop on a story that mattered: a group of students who felt the university was mistreating them wanted to speak out, and I was able to give them am voice. On Thursday, I went to Columbus for the Ohio Newspaper Association's collegiate newspaper awards, where I not only got to see TNR reap the rewards of a hard year of work, but I also filled pages of notes with fabulous ideas that will give us a push in a new direction. And finally, today, I spent an hour and a half talking to a UC student who was in Egypt when the revolution began. I couldn't pick a single-best quote or a most-fascinating moment; the entire tale was absolutely awesome in every sense of the word. My jaw dropped several times. My mind was blown.

I guess what I'm trying to say is sure, there are times when I think about how much easier my life would be without the constant interviews and meetings and running around. I picture the simplicity of having one life -- just being a student -- to cope with. But then I have a week like this one and it hits me how lucky I am. To have this amazing opportunity to be a journalist before I've even graduated. To have these fascinating stories and be given the chance to tell them. To practice my art (call it what you will) and see that these past two years at The News Record have given me more than I could have imagined. That's when I know I would never trade places, no matter how much free time I would gain in the trade. I am right where I want to be.

To the ONA's we go!

We came, we saw ... we placed third overall.

My journey to the Ohio Newspaper Association's annual conference was a very sleepy one; after a night at The News Record office that lasted until 1:30 a.m. and a 6:30 a.m. alarm this morning, I needed a strong cup of coffee to wake me up (thank you, McDonald's). But I did get the chance to see a very beautiful sunrise. I managed to snap some shots that turned out rather pretty.

Once I figured out where the conference was (shocker: I got lost), I had just enough time to look around before the next presentation. The newspapers that had been entered in the competition were clustered together on a partition, which meant I had the chance to sneak a peek at the competition. Last year, the Kent Stater swept the competition, so they've been on our radar for quite some time, as have the BG News, The Lantern and UT's Independent Collegian. But I was surprised by how many newspapers were in the competition that I'd never heard of -- Xavier University's Newswire, for example. Or Youngstown State University's Jambar. Overall, the ONA's second collegiate newspaper competition had 16 participating college newspapers.

I got a little distracted by all the newspapers, so I missed a little bit of the first presentation. But I walked in just as John Kroll, the director of training and digital development at the Cleveland Plain Dealer began discussing integrating print with online. That's something we've definitely been struggling with at The News Record -- finding ways to expand our online coverage and create content that readers will be interested in -- so I was fascinated by the presentation. Kroll spoke about a couple of things the Plain Dealer has been doing in order to improve online multimedia content. A lot of the examples are things I definitely want to implement at The News Record -- I think we've had a lot of trouble getting a workable format for our multimedia page (lately, it's been strictly weekly headline videos), and I've got a couple ideas lined up now to change that.

Kroll also looked at how the Seattle Times and the Arizona Report used multimedia in light of police officer killings and the Tuscan shootings, respectively. The Seattle Times actually won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting. The two newspapers kept their readers informed and updated with live chats, storify.com and other social media and multimedia. This is definitely something that would make a huge difference to our website.

After Kroll, Tracey Elson, the digital sales manager at the Sandusky Register spoke about how the Tandem Media Network has implemented multimedia to rev up advertising. One of my favorite ideas was having a weekly live video broadcast that's sponsored by a company. The videos could be interviews or post-game chats with sports editors/writers. There are so many possibilities, and I can't wait to jump on this.

I also attended the session about classified ads, where The Columbus Dispatch's director of sales Rhonda Barlow spoke about the hugely beneficial restructuring of their print and web classified ads. And finally, Mark Contreras, the senior vice president of E.W. Scripps Co. and chairman of the Newspaper Association of America, spoke about the future of newspaper innovation.

Contreras mentioned integrating social media, redesigning advertising structure and figuring out a new online subscription model as a few of the top priorities for the newspaper industry in the next few years. Before he spoke, I really wanted to introduce myself, because the Scripps people do so much for UC students. But, like a total dork, I stammered, "H-h-h-i. I'm Ariel Cheung from Cincinnati. UC. I work at The News Record. In Cincinnati. At UC. I'm Ariel. Hi." I probably sounded like a preteen meeting her favorite pop star, but Contreras was very nice and chatted with me briefly. Also, he has the most hardcore handshake I've ever experience. Very impressive.

Well, I feel like this post is plenty long, so I'll take a break. But in the next ONA post, we've got the collegiate newspaper awards, fun times with the Jambar staff and (drumroll) Ohio Gov. John Kasich! Stay tuned!

Program cuts planned by CEAS

Ariel Cheung | The News Record
Feb. 10, 2011

The College of Engineering and Applied Science announced plans to suspend the computer science program, combine several majors and implement a fee for all CEAS students at a town hall meeting Feb. 3.

CEAS Dean Carlo Montemagno's presentation cited the upcoming semester conversion, budget cuts and the summer 2010 merger of the Colleges of Engineering and Applied Science as reasons for the upcoming changes.

The plan calls for an indefinite suspension to undergraduate computer science admissions beginning Fall quarter 2012. The plan also states that a small number of computer science courses will be permanently shifted to the computer engineering program.

While Montemagno's plan states students currently at UC will not be affected by these changes, some are already concerned.

"The dean is not acting in the best interest of the students," said Jon Wedaman, treasurer of the Association of Computing Machining (ACM)'s UC chapter. "He won't state the reasons why [the program] should be cut when computer science is growing and there are more jobs than ever for computer science grads."

ACM members hosted a town hall meeting Tuesday to discuss the ramifications of Montemagno's plan. The organization is also sending letters to the global ACM community and companies that participate in the UC co-op program, asking them to send responses to UC administrators.

"Cincinnati has nine Fortune-500 companies, and every single one of those companies is going to need computer science majors in the future," said Wedaman, a fifth-year computer science student. "If UC [goes through with the plan], we're compromising the future of UC and the future of Cincinnati as well."

Companies that recruit UC computer science co-op students include General Electric, Children's Hospital, Seapine Software and Northrup. In addition, Tata Consultancy Services recently opened an office in Mason, Ohio to gain better access to UC computer science students, said T.J. Ellis, president of UC's ACM and a fifth-year computer science student.

The students, however, will suffer most from the changes, said Peter Burke, a third-year computer science student.

"According to the dean, we will not be affected; yet if the program is cut, many of us are worried that, with professors leaving, we will lose our accreditation," Burke said. "To take away a continuously growing program that will determine the future of nearly all technology? It simply baffles me that this is the one program that doesn't have the importance to stay within the university on some level." Suspending admission to the program could affect the accreditation process, said Jerry Paul, UC professor emeritus of computer science. UC's program is up for ABET reaccreditation in 2012.

"One of the major components of accreditation is if the institution is giving proper support to the program," Paul said. "[Suspending admission] is a dangerous move; I have a feeling it's certainly not going to help accreditation."

Paul regards the indefinite suspension and plan to limit staff replacements and move courses to the undergraduate computer engineering program as an effective cancellation of the computer science program, despite the fact that Montemagno has not announced a long-term plan for the program.

"I think it is difficult to regard Cincinnati as a first-rate university if they don't have a computer science program," Paul said. "It's hard for me to imagine a program that would be less likely to be canceled, considering the national programs calling for computer science majors in particular."

Organizations like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Air Force have invested millions of dollars in efforts to recruit high school students to major in computer science, Ellis said.

"Facing this kind of federal spending, it's clearly a national priority," Ellis said. "We're the second-largest college in Ohio, and it seems ludicrous to be fighting against this priority."

While the students understand that an estimated $4.9 million deficit for the 2011-12 CEAS budget means cuts must be made, they want clearer answers from Montemagno about the future of their college, Ellis said.

"The dean does not state a reason for why cancelling the [computer science] undergraduate degree would help any of his goals," Ellis said. "He said it was just a ‘judgment call.' He didn't elaborate after that. We want to know why."

Montemagno was not available for comment as of press time. The News Record will continue to update the story as more information becomes available.

A New View

I haven't been posting for a few days because I wanted to take some time away and reflect on where I want An Ariel View to go. Lately, I've been feeling like the posts don't really have much weight to them -- they're so light and fluffy. And while maintaining a blog for more than two years is great, there's not much point to it if everything I post is virtually meaningless. I've gotten to the point where I need to make something more out of this blog. Take things in a new direction.

How do I plan to do this? I'm going to shift the focus of the blog to two specific things. I feel like right now, everything is so hodgepodge and random that in trying to cover everything, I'm not covering anything. So now I'll focus on two main topics: my life as a student journalist and, as a student journalist, my thoughts on current events. It'll still be the same Ariel View, but a more grown up approach.

I'll be kidding of the new "View" with posts about the Ohio Newspaper Association's 2011 convention, taking place tomorrow in Columbus. The News Record picked up four awards from the collegiate newspaper competition, and I'm so excited to see what tomorrow has in store.

Feel free to comment on this post with ideas for what you'd like to see on An Ariel View -- I'd love to hear from you!

UC dean finalist for Tenn.

Ariel Cheung | The News Record
Feb. 3, 2011

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Tenn., has named a University of Cincinnati dean on leave as one of its finalists for an executive position.

David Stern has served as the dean of the College of Medicine since August 2005 and became the vice president of health affairs in 2008, according to the UC Academic Health Center.

Stern is competing with four other finalists for the position as the executive dean for the College of Medicine at UTHSC, said Sheila Champlin, director of communications and marketing at UTHSC.

The other finalists are John C. Baldwin, an adviser for health affairs and professor of surgery at Texas Tech University; David Bjorkman, dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine; Donald DiPette, University of South Caroline vice president for medical affairs and health sciences and Joseph Flaherty, dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

The UTHSC search committee was looking for "proven leaders who will aggressively promote the continued success of the College of Medicine's academic programs, research initiatives and national reputation of excellence," said Kennard Brown, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer at UTHSC, who co-chaired the committee.

The finalists will each spend two days interviewing with members of the UTHSC campus. Stern is scheduled to meet with administrators, faculty and staff Feb. 21 and 22.

UTHSC's executive dean is responsible for managing the three College of Medicine campuses in Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville and overseeing the faculty practice plans.

Executive VP office has new face

Ariel Cheung | The News Record
Feb. 3, 2011

Twenty-year University of Cincinnati vetern Karen Faaborg has been appointed as UC's second executive vice president, effective Feb. 1.

"I'm very excited and very honored," Faaborg said of her appointment. "I hope to be able to make solid contributions to the president's efforts."

As executive vice president, Faaborg assists UC president Greg Williams with projects like UC2019 and searching for new administrators. She replaces former vice president Fred Reynolds, who resigned after discovering that he would not receive retiree medical coverage as a resident of Ohio.

"Her primary responsibilities will include service as chief liaison between the office of the president and many constituents, overseeing and participating in major projects and initiatives," Williams said.

Faaborg has been a UC employee since 1980 and is an alumna of the College of Law. As a professor of arts administration in the College-Conservatory of Music, Faaborg worked with graduate students. Later, she was associate dean of CCM before becoming senior associate vice president and chief human resource officer.

Recently, Faaborg worked to connect human resources with the administration and faculty, Williams said. She was also assisting with the search for the new dean of the College of Medicine, a service she will continue to provide as a representative of the president.

"I've been here for many years and served in many different capacities," Faaborg said. "I think that will definitely make it possible for me to jump right in and assist the president immediately."

Faaborg will be the university's second executive vice president. Williams created the position upon his arrival at UC in 2009 for Reynolds, who followed Williams from the City College of New York.

After resigning from UC, Reynolds returned to his position at CCNY. Reynolds reportedly earned $230,000 per year in his UC position.


You know, I never realized, but unless you're taking photos at The News Record office, people tend to think you're a tad odd when you whip out a camera and start intruding upon their personal space. Oops.