Ryan Soderlin will speak at the Anvil Rural Journalism Conference on April 8 in Lincoln. We took a moment to get to know each other a little better. Register to attend the conference (in person or online) here. And here’s our five questions for Ryan.
Fly Over Media: What’s your current job? Or, what’s your particular area of focus these days?
Ryan Soderlin: I’m currently a staff photographer at the Omaha World-Herald. I create both still images and video.
FOM: What’s your personal background? How did you come into your field of work and study?
RS: As far as personal background, I’m one of five kids and we were raised mostly on a little farm located east of Newell, South Dakota, which has the distinction of being the sheep capital of the nation. I finished high school in Grant, Nebraska, and I graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with a bachelors of journalism. I’m married to Barbara Soderlin, who is a business reporter at the Omaha World-Herald and we have to daughters. Cee-Cee is seven and Clara is six.
FOM: You were raised in a rural community, as were many other Anvil speakers and panelists. How does that experience influence the way you work in rural communities today?
RS: How does being raised in a rural community influence my work in rural communities? I think it has made me a more patient person. Things on a ranch or a farm don’t magically happen. You have to work at them. Machines break, animals get sick and it doesn’t always rain, but you keep at it.
FOM: You’ve worked in a lot of communities could be called small cities – Salina, Kan., Gillette, Wyo., Rapid City, S.D. How do the newspapers in those places function differently than larger metropolitan areas like Omaha, Chicago or New York?
RS: How do some of the smaller papers function differently than some of the larger metro papers? It a lot of way they function the same. At a larger paper, you might have a few more resources, but at the end of the day you are still on the ground, meeting people and telling their stories. That never changes, no matter how big the paper. Especially for photographer, you can’t make pictures from the office.
FOM: Through photography, how do you avoid stereotypes when creating images that represent the cultural identity of rural people to share with a broad audience?
RS: How to avoid rural stereotypes? Get out of the office and talk with people. It’s hard to make a person a stereotype after you’ve talked with them face to face. But be careful, don’t romanticize rural areas too much. They are some of my favorite places in the world, but they too have issues that need to be explored by journalists. Rural areas deserve quality journalism that goes beyond the beautiful and the simplistic.