On The Air Everywhere
Comm Grad Erika Soderstrom Drove Straight From Commencement to a Production Role with Public Radio’s Marketplace Morning Report
Erika Soderstrom didn’t know where life would take her when she began writing for Southern Oregon University’s student newspaper, The Siskiyou during her sophomore year.
But that simple choice led to a strong internship in public radio journalism, and eventually a full-time position as the Director/Assistant Producer for American Public Media’s Marketplace Morning Report in Los Angeles. Soderstrom majored in Communication, graduated from SOU in 2019, and moved to L.A. and her new position one week later.
Tell us about your career journey after you graduated SOU in 2019?
The day before graduation, I got a call. I had applied to a bunch of places, as you normally do, and just kept on sending out my applications, hoping for the best. Nothing was really sticking. Not a lot of interviews. Then I interviewed for this place called Marketplace for their show called Marketplace Morning Report. I got a call the day before graduation that I had got the gig. I had a week to get down to L.A. and start my new job. So, I graduated, I took the weekend for myself to enjoy it, and then on Monday, I was frantically packing and looking for places to live in L.A.
The job was an internship, which started off as six months, and then got extended to a full year. Then I applied to be their Director/Assistant Producer position and got that job in March, 2020. I work with the engineer and the host throughout the live recording of Marketplace Morning Report, and I make sure the elements are in the right order, everything airs on time, and that the show ends on time. The show is seven and a half minutes of real life that you can start your day with. It’s challenging to cut it down to that length, but I think it helps with the pace of the show.
For readers who don’t know, what is Marketplace?
Marketplace focuses on business and economics, what the economy is doing, what economic policies are happening, and how those impacts people. What are these stimulus packages that are being suggested or have been passed? How are they impacting people? Are they impacting people in the best way that they can? We also hold conversations around food banks and the complications of getting food to people during a pandemic, and how to do that in a safe manner. Marketplace’s mission is centered around broadening the economic intelligence of the nation, and they have fun angles and relaxed interviews with hosts and experts.
Why did you choose Marketplace?
I just knew I wanted to be in radio. I fell in love with radio when I first started working for Jefferson Public Radio (JPR) my junior year. I was the Assistant Producer at JPR, which started off as a summer internship and then turned into an Assistant Producer position. I helped with their talk show, the Jefferson Exchange, and made sure that the show ran smoothly. I helped the writers do research and come up with some good topics for the Jefferson Exchange shows.
Marketplace was interesting to me. I honestly didn’t know as much as I wish I would have about the economy, and I’m learning so much. A lot of things boil down to money in the end, and so it’s interesting to look at the different structures of how money impacts people and institutions. Marketplace has a relaxed, conversational vibe to it, and I like that. When I worked at JPR, we played Marketplace Tech, which is more focused on the tech industry. I really liked Molly Wood, the host, she just made it sound like you could boil things down really easily. She said intricate, complex things I could understand in four minutes. So, I was like, well if this is what the rest of Marketplace is about, I’m definitely interested!
What support did you find at SOU?
I think all the college professors that I had were amazing. They just opened us up to a project and were like, “this is this is the assignment, fulfill this however you want to, go.”
I took a VR class with Precious Yamaguchi and Andrew Gay, where we had to create a VR video. My group decided to go down to Redding and document how the fires impacted everything. We thought it would be interesting to get a point of view from people and be able to show a VR perspective. I think that really helped motivate me into storytelling. Our group took the assignment and ran with it for my capstone and Precious Yamaguchi really supported us. I was able to really dive into the audio aspect at that point and get immersed in the story and how to tell a story through audio. I learned so much through that process, and I think that was great.
Erik Palmer’s Advanced Social Media Campaigns class was another course that impacted me. We worked with a nonprofit that helped LGBTQ youth and it was less journalistic and more promotional. I had my eyes opened to the power of being able to tell stories in various mediums. It was a course where I was like, wow, this is awesome! This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Just tell stories.
All the classes were super helpful, and I think the extracurriculars definitely helped because it kind of lit a fire. It gave me less assignments and more opportunities to do what I wanted to do.
What were some highlights of your experience as Co-Editor of The Siskiyou?
Being the Co-Editor of The Siskiyou was great. I learned a lot. It was really fun to be able to read through and edit staff articles, there are some incredible writers out there. I also enjoyed traveling up to Washington to cover the NAIA National Cross Country meet. We spent the day taking photos, conducting interviews, and getting some video of the race for a video news package. We then went to a coffee shop, wrote an article about the meet and headed home. It was a lot of fun and helped me realize how much I enjoy working in the field.
Tell us about your experience as a student-athlete in track & field at SOU. What were some highlights?
Being a student athlete was really hard and really fun. I learned a lot about time management and myself — what I’m capable of and what my limits are. Being a student-athlete was like I had a built in family at SOU. I had a group of people that supported me and believed in me when things were both good and bad. I created friendships with some incredible people. I will always be grateful for the time I had as a student athlete.
You also worked with NextGenRadio, a program that pairs young journalists with professionals to report on stories in their area. How did that experience influence your career arc?
I think NextGenRadio helped reinforce my passion for audio storytelling. I had the amazing opportunity to work with some incredible people that were in the field I wanted to be in. It was the first time I had the opportunity to really work on editing tape and focus on how stories can be told in an audio format. The program was a week long and by the end I didn’t want to leave, and I couldn’t wait to tell more stories. I highly recommend the program for anyone inserted in the field.
In 2019 you delivered the student address at commencement, what was that like?
In a word, terrifying. It wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind or thought was an opportunity for me, and as an introverted person, the idea of doing so was very scary. But when are you going to get another opportunity to do something like that again? So I went for it. It was a very cool way to celebrate graduating with my class. It was a nice opportunity to highlight some of the memories and experiences from my four years at SOU, and I hope it helped others remember some of the aspects that made their time at SOU memorable.
If you could travel back in time and talk to Erika as an SOU freshman, what would you say?
I think I would just say just try things out, just give it your best shot and go for it. If there is something that you find interesting or want to pursue, just do it because you don’t know where it could lead. I wanted to be a print journalist when I first started and I discovered I love working with audio, and that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t work with JPR. So just try things, because, I know it sounds corny, but you don’t know where it will lead you.
Interview by Autumn Micketti (@mountainmusicwoman), Community Manager for the Communication Program at Southern Oregon University.