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Hats off to Ian Ruhala



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November 10, 2010 - It's amazing how many people out there think the role of journalists, editorial writers and columnists should be to only write positive things, serve as cheerleaders and regurgitate – without any skepticism, criticism or analysis – whatever government folks tell us.

But every now and then I read something that gives me hope for the future of the Fourth Estate as we battle against the oppressive Stepford mentality.

I found that hope last week on Page 10 of The Paw Print, which is the official newspaper of Oxford Middle School.

An opinion piece written by student reporter Ian Ruhala piqued my interest as a newspaperman. It was entitled "TEXT, Good or Bad?" and I must say it was a nicely written column.

For those not familiar with it, TEXT – an acronym for "Talking and Exercising while listening to Tunes" – is an exercise program at OMS in which students spend 30 minutes per week walking around the gym while listening to prearranged music.

In a nutshell, Ruhala's opinion was the program's boring and unpopular. He believes it could use some changes to make it more fun and appealing.

He supported his opinion with not only his own observations, but quotes from other students who feel the same way.

But Ruhala didn't just pull an 'Andy Rooney' and complain about the program. He offered some suggestions to improve it such as allowing students to listen to their favorite music on their iPods or use cell phones and other electronic devices during the walking period.

Ruhala even suggested incorporating sports such as basketball and baseball into the TEXT program.

I agree with Ruhala – who wants to keep "walking in circles" every week. That's fine for hamsters and gerbils, but not people.

All in all, Ruhala's column had all the elements a good opinion piece should contain. That told me two things.

One, this cub reporter's got some natural talent, which is always good to see. Two, his teacher, Stacy Blaskowski, must be doing one heck of a job nurturing the next generation of journalists.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out Ruhala's courage for expressing an opinion that basically takes the school's administration to task for not doing something to liven up the TEXT program and make it more enjoyable for students. There's nothing wrong with challenging authority. More people should do it.

Blaskowski should be commended as well for supporting her student's freedom to express himself.

I remember back in my days as the editorial page editor for The Shamrock – the school newspaper for East Detroit High – I wrote a few opinion pieces that upset the administration and even the teachers union.

But to his credit, my journalism adviser, Jeff Nardone, never bowed to their pressure. He never gave in and silenced me. He always backed me, even though he personally disagreed with some of my opinions.

It's good to know budding young journalists are still getting that kind of support from their teachers.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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