By Connor Zerniak
Brockport Beat Staff Writer
The Journalism, Broadcasting and Public Relations Department at SUNY Brockport has recently welcomed a new member to the staff. Michael Smith, a Brockport alumnus himself, is now the Chief Engineer at the college.
Smith was hired in February, 2020 at the college, where he is now starting a new chapter in his life. He had been looking for a career change for 3 years from his former job at News 10 NBC.
Virginia Orzel, an associate professor for the Journalism, Broadcasting and Public Relations department, was the chair of the hiring committee when looking for someone to fill the position and what she saw in Smith to offer him the position.
“We were looking for someone who could do radio and television, who could work in a studio and some of our equipment is older, so we were looking for someone who could be a visionary to bring us up to speed today for how people are doing things today,” she says.
Kim Young, Lecturer of the Journalism, Broadcasting and Public Relations department, has worked at News 10 NBC as well as Smith, and knows many of the same people that he has worked with.
“I had worked at News 10 NBC WHEC, and had been close friend with the chief engineer there, Greg and when we were looking for somebody, he had told me about Mike and suggested he might be a good fit,” says Young.
Smith’s career in the journalism field started while he was still in college.
“I started working at Channel 10 while I was still a student at Brockport in the fall of 1996,” says Smith.
“I was lucky enough that when I graduated from SUNY Brockport in May 1998 the station added a morning news that resulted in me being made full time in the tech operation the week after I graduated.”
Smith ended up continuing with that position for the next 17 years. Within that time, Smith also took classes at Finger Lakes Community College and his best advice for students getting ready to go into the field of journalism is to be a lifelong learner.
“I went back to college after being out of SUNY Brockport for 10 years. However, for me to get to where I wanted to be, I needed to learn a different skill set,” says Smith. “There’s no shame in realizing you don’t have all the knowledge to do something. The shame would be not getting more schooling to get to where you want to be.”
Making a career change after so long at in one place presented a new opportunity for Smith, but with the pandemic, it has been tough to start the job.
“The biggest challenge has been not being able to get on campus. There is so much there I want to familiarize myself with, but I just can’t do it right now,” says Smith.
This has been especially tough for making any changes to the technology in the studios and elsewhere in the department. When asked if there are plans to make any changes to the department now that Smith has been hired, Orzel said there were initial plans to do so, but with the coronavirus pandemic, many plans have been put on hold.
“We may not have a budget next year. We are going to need to be more frugal with our money. I think if we can get things for free, we may be able to make some software changes and we are going to have Mike look into that,” says Orzel.
Smith also talks about what he loves most about his job.
“I really love installing new equipment and making it come to life. I also like showing people how things work,” he says.
As the department works to update equipment and modernize it a bit more, Smith has a lot of expertise to offer from his time at News 10.
“I think most importantly he has all of the qualities and skills that we were looking for in a chief engineer. He is also a Brockport alum, which I think really helps. He had a really good understanding of the studio and the campus and the department. He was just really the perfect fit,” says Young.
Smith looks forward to meeting and working with students and staff once the campus reopens.
“He’s very interested in working with students. He comes from Channel 10 and during the summers he would work with interns and students and show them how television works behind the scenes,” says Orzel.
Outside of work, Smith enjoys traveling with his wife, Christen.
“We are trying to get to all 50 states before we turn 50. We’ve been to 47 states so far. We still need to get to Alaska, Hawaii and New Mexico,” he says.
Through hard work, determination and passion, Smith has demonstrated what it takes to move up in the ladder, not only in the world of journalism and broadcasting, but also for anyone trying to build a career.