Q & A - Director of Broadcasting and Cinematic arts to retire in fall


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BCA Director Dr. Peter Orlik sits at his desk on March 15 in room 344 on the third floor of Moore Hall. 

Peter Orlik will retire Aug. 15 after being employed by Central Michigan University for 40 years. He was the Director of the school of Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts from 1969-79 and returned to the position in 1996.

The senior director of NBC News, the general manager of WXYZ in Detroit and a director who won multiple Emmy’s for the show “Supernatural” are all graduates of the program he helped create.

Central Michigan Life sat down with Orlik to look back on his time at CMU.

What are some of the changes you’ve seen during your time here?

I’ve seen the Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts program move into a much broader area. We started off as a subarea of the old speech department. We became our own section in 1970, became our own department in ’79 and became our own school in 2006.

We’ve rapidly increased the size of our student body, faculty and the “whole shot.”

What do you hope people remember about your contributions at CMU?  

We have trained some wonderful students who achieved major success in electronic media and I think that’s the overwhelming legacy. These folks are making a significant and huge impact in our business.

People who came in as students who were great people, worked hard and went out and had such great success in our field.

What is the state of BCA now?

Overall, it’s very positive. We have the largest graduate program we’ve ever had and we have a great cadre of faculty and staff.

Looking at the other side, there are some real budgetary challenges. This is not an inexpensive program and we have been faced by a rolling series of budget cuts. It becomes very difficult because we have many fixed costs we must maintain, and it’s become increasingly difficult to make the budget balanced.

What does the future of BCA look like?

We hope all the strong programs we have in place will continue. We’ve won awards in competitions against some great programs that are much better funded than we are.

 We also are going to broaden out and increase our use of multimedia programs. We want that to expand and grow.

Are there any challenges with finding staff?

We are somewhat short-staffed and we do have some back logs that are difficult to handle. We do not hire anybody to be a generalist. When we hire someone to do a particular thing. They know ‘this is my thing to run with’ they aren’t going to be fighting with anyone else.

There’s been talk about BCA working closer with the Journalism Department. What are your thoughts on that?

You can use the term interdisciplinary or more collaboration, whatever you’d like. I think the idea of a merger is a bit extreme because when you look at the programs at our peer institutions, they have separate entities. But I think having a very basic, fundamental media writing class where you can branch off would be good.

I think the sharing of content back and forth between News Central and Central Michigan Life would be good, while realizing the differences that one is within the school of BCA and the other is an independent student media company, so they’re not the same animal.

What are some skills future students will need?

Some students think “I’m going into the media so I don’t need to write” and nothing could be further from the truth no matter what area you go into. Overwhelmingly, whatever you go into you need to write.

 Analytics are also becoming more and more critical and students are going to have to deal with it no matter what position they’re going into. We’ve created a new quantitative reasoning class to teach media measurement and analytics. It’s so important.

There’s also the need to cross-pollinate social media with legacy mass media and students will always need the ability to manage time.

What does your future look like?

All throughout my career, I’ve done some writing and I’ve written four textbooks right now. I’ll probably do some media consulting and I’ll stay active with the Broadcast Education Association. I’ll just say I’m looking forward to my retirement.

I’m very proud of the work I’ve done here. 

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