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NPR reporter and SOU alum Jeff Brady

SOU alum Jeff Brady: ready for NPR

Jeff Brady, a 1995 SOU graduate in communication, was an insecure kid from the southern Oregon coastal community of Gold Beach before he became a national desk reporter for NPR – National Public Radio. He didn’t make the cut to work as a reporter for his high school newspaper and didn’t think he was college material.

“I didn’t really feel I was destined for college,” he said. “I grew up in Gold Beach, and after graduating high school I went with my mom to Central Point where we ran a small grocery store. At the store, I worked a lot of hours and listened to NPR, and I got hooked.”

Brady jumped at the chance when he heard a call for volunteers to answer phones during a Jefferson Public Radio pledge drive. “I worked my way to the newsroom as a volunteer.”

Brady wanted more, but he needed a degree to work as a broadcaster. That’s when he took a leap and enrolled at SOU.

“No one in my family had graduated from college, and I had not even traveled outside southern Oregon,” Brady said. “The idea of college was intimidating, so SOU was a perfect launchpad. I felt safe to explore the world.”

Brady continued working at JPR while attending SOU. He even occasionally hosted a news program called the Jefferson Daily.

“That is what I am most proud of; I just did it,” he said. “I learned how to do live radio, to develop my voice and use it to tell stories.”

His first reporting job after college was at KBND in Bend, where he learned to work fast and efficiently – skills that would become critical as he moved through his career. He returned from there to southern Oregon and began a three-year stint at KTVL News Channel 10, producing morning newscasts, reporting on stories throughout the region and ultimately co-anchoring the weekend newscasts.

The year 1999 became a tipping point for Brady’s career, having moved to Portland to work at Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“I landed at OPB at an interesting time – Enron owned the local utility, the telephone industry was undergoing deregulation and the internet bubble was just about to burst,” he said. “This is where I first started learning about the energy business and its environmental effects.”

He has now traveled the nation, covering issues ranging from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline to Three Mile Island. “None of the broadcasting jobs I have had would have been possible without my training at SOU and JPR,” Brady said. “It is where I was allowed to experiment and become a real live broadcaster.

“SOU taught me that I have a capacity for intelligence. I didn’t get that message in high school, but at SOU I remember taking classes where we would analyze a piece of literature or discuss political situations. That process gave me the confidence to move forward and express myself.”

His life experiences also helped to shape the news he pursues, giving people who are often left out of conversations the opportunity to share their stories and be heard. Brady’s journey has come full circle. This once-insecure high school student looking for his voice is now helping others find theirs.

Brady, who was recognized in 2018 with SOU’s Distinguished Alumni Award, is credited with helping demystify the energy industry for listeners and establishing NPR’s Environment and Energy Collaborative for reporters at NPR member stations around the country.

Shared and updated from the Fall 2019 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

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