Where the gorillas live: a journey in the Congo

In March, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Thane Maynard and Ron Evans to one of the most remote places in the world, the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo, to document the wild western lowland gorillas.

60 percent of the world’s western lowland gorilla population live there. But their numbers are dropping rapidly due to deforestation, poaching and disease.

The Zoo has been financially supporting the research and conservation efforts in this region for almost two decades. We went to see where the money was going, how the field research was being conducted and to see if a few people from Cincinnati can help save this species from extinction.

Published May 17, 2018 for The Cincinnati Enquirer and USA Today


Finding home: A 12-year-old boy's search in the midst of war

Meet the Alhamouds, the first Syrian refugees from the current crisis to land in Greater Cincinnati. Their story is about what happens after war, after displacement, after resettlement. It’s about searching – for happiness, for hope, for home.

Over-the-Rhine has a new team. And it is about so much more than a sport.

It's the first day of swim practice, and no one is getting in the pool.

That's in the plan scribbled on a page in coach Jane Spooner's spiral notebook.

That's the line she repeats, over and over, to the kids squirm-sitting in a circle on the concrete at Ziegler Park.

Still, they reply, over and over, "Can we swim?"

This is the first hour of what will be 43 hours of practice, and the 24-minutes-old swim team is already challenging the expectations written on lined paper.

They have another idea of what they should do and what they can do. And that no matter what, they will do it together.

By 10:40 a.m. that May morning, the team, the brand new Over-the-Rhine Rhinos, sits along the walls of the shallowest end of the pool, pairs of eager feet dipping in the water.

The group of 19 that day are as old as 13 and as young as 4.

Some walked here from their apartments in the surrounding city. Some drove in from homes in Bond Hill.

They don't know each other's names, and most of them do not even know how to swim.

Some don't know how to float. Or how to hold their breath. Or even how to put their faces in the water.

In the next two months, that will change.

But other things won't. And those are also the things that make these Rhinos and this summer meaningful.

Like that what counts here has nothing to do with the time it takes to swim from one wall to the other.

That winning, it will turn out, doesn't mean beating someone else.

Writing: Carol Motsinger

Producer: Meg Vogel

For the full story: https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/08/09/over-rhine-cincinnati-new-swim-team-changing-city/913297002/

Seven Days of Heroin: This is what an epidemic looks like

A special report: In the next seven days of the heroin epidemic, at least 180 people in Greater Cincinnati will overdose and 18 will die. Babies will be born to addicted mothers. Parents will go to jail. Children will end up in foster care. This is normal now.


The Sex Talk: The conversation that is not happening about campus sexual assault

Warning: Contains strong language and graphic content

She was on the floor of a bathroom in the university student center, shoved there by a guy from her calculus class. A guy she barely knew. He sexually assaulted her and then he insisted on walking her home.

On a different campus hundreds of miles away, a male student was expelled for sexually assaulting a woman he knew in her dorm room. He says he was falsely accused and sued the school.

Sexual assault on campus isn’t an easy conversation to have because it is not an easy topic to unravel.

About 3 million students on campus this fall will be sexually assaulted during their college years.

Countless stories make it clear: The system of how colleges and universities currently investigate and adjudicate these crimes is broken. The elements that surround campus sexual assault – consent, rape culture, alcohol, fear - are confusing and devastating and ever-changing. And the story of sexual assault on campus changes depending who is talking about it and who gets hurt.

We set out to hear from all sides.

This is what we learned.

For the full project: https://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/the-sex-talk-the-conversation-that-isnt-happening-about-sexual-assault/

Produced by: Meg Vogel and Kate Murphy


Zay Crawford felt trapped in a boy’s body at a young age. With puberty fast approaching, she got an implant that suppressed the puberty process. This is the story of one family’s journey to acceptance and understanding of their 12 year-old daughter.

Hoptown wins the cosmic lottery

Hopkinsville didn’t choose to be the greatest point of the solar eclipse. The universe chose this Kentucky town. And it’s making the most of it.


Saving a species one cheetah at a time

Cheetahs in the wild are in trouble. Cincinnati - and a cheetah named Donni - are part of an international effort to help save them.

Full story and photos: https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2017/11/21/cincinnati-zoo-saving-species-one-cheetah-time/813435001/

They came from Italy. Now, they outnumber us all.

It's easy to forget they don't belong here.

Just look at how confidently these little lizards patrol our gardens. How boldly they bask on rock walls, how easily they scurry across our sidewalks in these summer months.

They even watch us as we watch them. They live in the light. Brazenly.

Too comfortable to be colonists, right? Yet, they are and always will be just that.

In the decades since they settled here, millions – yes, millions – of these lizards have chased the sun all over Cincinnati.

From the East Side to the West Side, the city center to Northside, the tiny tykes have even found their way to Kentucky towns just across the mighty Ohio. Some appear to have taken that river all the way to Indiana.

Still, these imports don't belong here or anywhere on this continent. But after more 60 years in our city, they now belong to us.

We've renamed a neighborhood in their honor – Lizard Hill on our unofficial maps. There is a green and yellow pair painted on a Sycamore Street mural in the heart of the Queen City. Carved versions are hiding all over the carousel whirling at the riverbanks, too.

We've made them our own. More a mascot than a menace, a pet than a pest. As aliens we adopted, we also gave them a new name: The Lazarus lizards.

The not-so-tall tale behind the moniker, how they came here, how they have survived and thrived in this foreign land, crystallized over time.

But through years of research, the once charming legend of our lizards evolved into scientific fact. And inspired rare, remarkable scholarship shaping answers to a big question about life itself.

And all because a boy wanted a travel souvenir.

Writing: Carol Motsinger

Full story: https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2017/08/31/they-came-italy-now-they-outnumber-us-all/591532001/

A Saturday unlike all others: The Beverly Hills Supper Club fire

After 40 years, a governor, a TV anchor, a teen volunteer and a hospital administrator remember the third deadliest fire in the nation’s history.

For the full story: https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2017/05/24/what-remains-fire-and-40-years/329254001/

In the dark: Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Meet the 22-year-old sexual assault survivor who ignited a federal investigation of how her university handles Title IX reports.


Fanfare for the Common Man: An anthem that unites us

As the nation prepares to vote on Tuesday, we retrace the origins of Aaron Copland’s "Fanfare for the Common Man." Written for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1942, it has become a musical monument to the power of democracy and unity.

There's a Cincinnati story hidden inside 'Hamilton' the musical

Andy Blankenbuehler choreographed his first musical as a junior at Cincinnati's St. Xavier High School in 1987. He moved onto the world's biggest stage. His choreography has earned three Tony awards for "In the Heights," "Hamilton" and "Bandstand."

Published May 4, 2018 for The Cincinnati Enquirer


Teamsters protest broken pension promises at U.S. Capitol

More than 400,000 retirees are at risk of losing half their benefits on average, if Congress doesn't act. Among the prepared speeches given by members of Congress and organizers over the weekend, was one woman from Cincinnati.

Gov. John Kasich drops out of the presidential race

Xavier's Blue Blob turns 30