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NEXTGENRADIO: SOU student journalist Erika Soderstrom

NEXTGENRADIO: SOU student journalist Erika Soderstrom earns NPR fellowship

As co-editor of The Siskiyou student newspaper and production assistant for Jefferson Public Radio, communication major Erika Soderstrom has emerged as one of the top student journalists at Southern Oregon University. But even Soderstrom can reinvent her journalism practice, which she did via a NextGenRadio fellowship during Fall Term of 2018.

Co-sponsored by National Public Radio and dedicated to “Finding, coaching and training public media’s next generation,” NextGenRadio completely changed the way Soderstrom views journalism.

She was selected through a competitive application process to participate in a “pop-up” digital journalism training program geared toward news reporting and audio. Organizers hope that cohorts of student journalists can walk away with the skills and knowledge necessary to produce and report their own multimedia stories.

NextGenRadio participants are paired with professional journalists/mentors. Soderstrom partnered with Ericka Cruz Guevarra, a breaking news reporter for Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“I absolutely loved working with her,” Soderstrom said.

Soderstrom and Guevarra were assigned to find a resident who was creating positive community change in the Meadowview neighborhood of Sacramento. This is the neighborhood where Stephon Clark was shot and killed by police on the evening of March 18, 2018.

“Many media outlets went in and reported on how bad the community was and then left,” Soderstrom said. “We were tasked with reconstructing that narrative.”

That’s when Soderstrom found Paul Blanco’s story. Initially, she reached out to  Blanco because he had helped Clark’s grandparents rebuild their home after the police shooting.

However, Soderstrom and Guevarra decided that his personal story was worth showcasing. Blanco had a compelling perspective to share about living and raising his biracial children in the Meadowview community for the past 20 years. In a heart-string-pulling interview, Blanco sheds light on a father’s fear for his biracial children’s lives in the current day and age.

Through this experience, Soderstrom learned that stories change all the time and that “sometimes that’s for the best.” Her experience with NextGenRadio has exposed her to extensive professional connections and resources.

“My favorite part of this experience was being able to present my story and watch the fellow mentees present their final projects as well,” Soderstrom said. “I really enjoyed the community of people I had the opportunity to work with. I also enjoyed the connections that I’ve made and continue to have.”

Story by SOU student writer Sophie Passerini, @SophiePasserini