Campus Closeup: Mike Lakenen
It was almost a decade ago that Mike Lakenen encountered the proverbial fork in the road. His professional path was about to take him to Phoenix, Ariz., where he planned to work as a freelance camera operator with a corporation that was contracted by professional sports franchises. But on a personal level, he was reluctant to venture from his hometown of Marquette because he knew it would be an ideal place to raise a family.
“A production associate job happened to open up at WNMU-TV,” he said. “My wife and I agreed that I should apply and if I got it, we’d stay; if not, we would move to Arizona. In June, it will be 10 years that I’ve been at Northern and I’m still the new guy on the staff at the TV station. There’s not a lot of turnover here, so I was lucky the position opened up when it did. It’s a team effort. Everyone steps up to get things done and done well.”
Lakenen said his favorite part of the job is working with the new three-camera system for live productions. The equipment was purchased with a portion of the grant used to upgrade the WNMU-TV control room. It is used jointly by the communication and performance studies department for courses and by the TV station for commencement, sports and special events.
“At the Olympic Trials and World Cup speedskating events last fall, this system provided the video that appeared on the four large screens in the Berry. It’s an HD system, so the quality’s great. All of the feeds go through one computer and you can work one camera or all three. It’s better with three because you can add replay and graphics. We’re trying to do more with it.”
In addition to field production, Lakenen is responsible for scheduling the crew for all locally produced WNMU-TV programs and preparing the studio—from furniture and lighting and audio and camera setup. He helps to train students in how to use equipment for Public Eye News and oversees the student entertainment program, Standing O. He also ensures that home hockey, basketball and football games are videotaped and streamed live through B2 Networks.
Lakenen holds three degrees from Northern: a bachelor’s in communications with a broadcast emphasis, a bachelor’s in finance and a master’s in public administration. Prior to being hired by his alma mater, Lakenen spent about six years honing his videography and editing skills with Superior Productions in Marquette.
“I did a lot of weddings. It’s funny because I would see couples after the fact and they seemed surprised I remembered them. I would say, ‘I spent eight hours editing your wedding video—of course I remember you.’ We also did commercial work and recorded events. I really liked events, and still do, because there’s no second chance. You only get one shot to do it right. I still find that exciting.”
Lakenen and his wife, Gretchen, have two children: 8-year-old Cross and 6-year-old Piper. They are often shuttling to and from activities such as hockey and recitals, but they also enjoy skiing, camping and biking together. One passion that Lakenen pursues with his children and his brother, Pat (Audio/Visual Services), is fishing.
“If people at work see that Pat and I are gone on the same dates in the calendar, they just assume we’re on a fly fishing trip,” he laughed. “We usually go on about four weekend trips a year. It might be to the St. Mary's River in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada for steelhead (he is pictured with one caught last year that was the biggest of the trip at about 10 pounds). Or we go to Montana for rainbow, browns and cutthroat trout. I also squeeze in as many daily outings as I can. My kids also love to go fishing and I love taking them."