Peter Musurlian, a journalist and documentary filmmaker of Armenian descent, is currently a senior producer at The Burbank Channel and a documentary filmmaker for Globalist Films. He is a two-time Los Angeles Area Emmy Award–winner, garnering eight nominations for this award.
Tell us about your professional focus. How did you come to choose the path of broadcast journalism?
I wrote for my high school newspaper and, as early as 15, I knew I wanted to report the news. Television journalism had audiovisual elements that interested me, so in college I headed in that direction and never turned back.
I graduated from USC in Los Angeles in 1983. I soon spent a year in Montana, two years in Texas, and two years in Washington, D.C., as a television news reporter.
For nearly two decades, I have created content for The Burbank Channel, a station that brings news and feature stories to the residents of Burbank, a city that borders Glendale, California.
But my most interesting and substantive work has been for my small production company: Globalist Films. I took the skills I perfected along the way (shooting, reporting, and editing) and pursued projects I am interested in, over which I have complete editorial control.
I couldn’t have done this when I started because I was too young and too inexperienced.
There are heated post-election discussions in the U.S. How involved is the media in this process? How do you assess tensions between Donald Trump and media?
“The media” is a broad term. The journalists who are impacted by President Trump are those in the national, mainstream media, like the Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, and other television news networks.
It is an unprecedented time, with Mr. Trump criticizing his press coverage like no other president ever has. Many people fear an authoritarian media crackdown, as we have seen in Russia or Turkey. For now, Trump’s words are brash and critical, but actual actions against individual reporters or media outlets would seem difficult to accomplish. But the media should be vigilant, do a job that is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and remain true to the values of good journalism.
Do you believe your actions can make a difference? Do you have creative freedom?
I have been fortunate to have a great deal of creative freedom throughout my career. During my early years, I was doing straight news, to which there is a certain formula to those 90-second news stories. The reporting is fair and balanced, and does not have a point of view.
But the documentaries and stories I have done for Globalist Films have allowed great creative freedom, which I think anyone of my generation, in this profession, cherishes.
I have done some very interesting and informative work in Armenia, Turkey, and Hungary… on subjects which I feel have not received enough attention.
I covered Armenian-American lawyer Mark Geragos arguing a case in Ohio, which dealt with a congresswoman feeling she had been defamed by a campaign opponent, David Krikorian, who asserted she was too cozy with Turkish interests.
Another story I am finishing up has to do with a divisive California politician, who, at times, was very hostile toward some of the Armenian-Americans he represented.
How do you assess the work of the media here in Armenia? Tell us a little about how the media is different in the U.S.
The internet certainly has allowed Armenian-Americans to stay informed on happenings in Armenia. I do wonder, though, if many are keeping up on the news there and, more importantly, getting unbiased coverage.
I try to watch some Armenian television, which is easily available in Glendale. But it is the internet that is a never-ending source of videos and stories from Armenia. The problem that someone like me has is trying to determine what is good reporting and what is slanted journalism.
I subscribe to many Armenian-American English-language newspapers. I know of many internet sites that report in English. I spend substantial time during the week consuming that news. But I still feel uninformed.
I have drawn some personal conclusions about those issues but am not convinced that one news source is reporting all it can on certain subjects.
I am not a political activist. I am a journalist. But I do understand there is advocacy journalism and point-of-view journalism being produced in Armenia. There is also some traditional journalism there that exposes big problems.
Did being an Armenian somehow affect your career choice?
My father’s father, born in 1899, was from a village near Gesaria. He, his mother, and three brothers survived the genocide. His five sisters died in marches through the Syrian desert. My grandfather’s wife was from Adana. My mother was from Istanbul and came to the U.S. in the 1950s.
My mother and father instilled in me an insatiable interest in Armenian things and subjects. That interest carries over to present-day Armenia.
I don’t think being Armenian led me in the direction of journalism. I find television journalism personally gratifying but not always financially rewarding.
Being an Armenian-American did affect my perspective on things, such as social justice and abuse of power. You can’t have your family go through a government-directed genocide and not have inherited a healthy skepticism about politicians and government officials.
I always try to stay unbiased as a journalist. But, I have a low tolerance for powerful bullies, and I am drawn to stories that might expose a person in power taking advantage of his or her position.