Erin OToole

Morning Edition Host

I started my career in Cincinnati, Ohio where I was a traffic reporter by day and a volunteer public radio music host by night.  Although I spent almost nine years in commercial radio, I have always had a passion for the creativity and intelligence of public broadcasting.

I moved to Colorado in 2009 from the San Bernardino/Riverside area of California where I served as Morning Edition host and reporter for an NPR member station. During my six years there I covered a broad variety of topics including healthcare, immigration and clean energy.  In 2008 I was selected as a USC/Annenberg Health Journalism fellow, studying and reporting primarily on healthcare reform, domestic violence and health awareness media campaigns.

I graduated with a B.A. in Communication Studies from California State University, San Bernardino.

In my spare time I enjoy hiking, reading (science fiction or politics – or any combination of the two), listening to and creating music, and watching my dog chase squirrels for the first time in his life.

Please feel free to send me story ideas… or just suggestions for your favorite things to do in Colorado!

Ways to Connect

Luke Runyon / KUNC

Nearly 78 million visitors hit popular spots in Colorado in 2015. They pumped more than $19 billion into the economy, according to the state’s tourism office, but that money comes with a dark side for wild places.

Once-hidden hot springs now overflow with people. Formerly pristine ecosystems are being damaged by people who don’t understand how fragile they are. And parking lots nearby are often packed before the sun comes up.

So how did we get to this point?

Margot Chobanian / KUNC/The Colorado Sound

Thomas Jefferson was one of America's founders, and a vocal proponent of democracy and individual freedoms. He authored the Declaration of Independence. He was the country’s third president. He was also a complicated figure who owned slaves who worked on plantations; yet later, as a law practitioner, sometimes defended slaves seeking their freedom.  

It's that kind of complexity that makes Thomas Jefferson so fascinating for historian and performer Bill Barker. He’s been bringing Jefferson to life for 35 years.

As Our Energy Wants Change, Where Does Coal Stand?

Jul 28, 2016
Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

As of 2015, Coal production is at its lowest level since 1986, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That means coal companies are struggling to operate in a weak market.

A local effect is that Routt County, home to the Twentymile Mine, found its budget falling short due to a missed tax payment. The small school district there was counting on those funds and the state had to step in with a loan – although Peabody Energy did eventually get permission from the bankruptcy court to pay its taxes. But the decline of the coal industry is massive and widespread.

Colorado State University

Many people around the world knew Thomas Sutherland as one of the U.S. citizens held hostage by terrorists in Beirut from 1985 - 1991. But many in the Fort Collins area will remember Sutherland as a beloved professor, a quietly generous benefactor of the arts, and a good friend.

Sutherland, 85, died Friday July 22, 2016, at his home in Northern Colorado.

courtesy Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

Halfway through the year, Colorado employment is holding steady.

According to state labor officials, Colorado added 5,000 jobs in June. The unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7 percent.

"That recent increase is mainly due to people being drawn back into the labor force due to Colorado’s relatively healthy job growth," said Ryan Gedney, an economist with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Inciweb

Colorado has a handful of burning wildfires, including the Cold Springs Fire near Nederland. At the height of the fire, almost 2,000 people had to evacuate their homes. It’s now fully contained, with more than 460 fire personnel and a dozen or so aircraft working the scene.

The approach is very different for the Beaver Creek Fire, burning in the Routt National Forest, north west of Walden. It’s charred more than 20,000 acres, but has just about 200 firefighters and looks like it’s being allowed to burn.

Which approach fire managers choose depends on a straightforward set of priorities.

Stephen Voss / NPR

In the West, the old saying goes "Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting" -- which is a fancy way of saying water is highly valued. Water is vital for agriculture, recreation, growing cities and, of course, it’s the main ingredient in craft beer.

It’s no surprise, then, that we talk about water a lot in Colorado. NPR Weekend All Things Considered host Michel Martin will open a dialogue at a live event on The Future of Water, May 24, 2016. Ahead of her visit to Fort Collins, Martin shared some of what she hopes the conversation on water will accomplish.

Algr

A civil trial is now underway questioning whether the Aurora movie theater bears any liability for the mass shooting where James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 70 others. The plaintiffs argue Cinemark failed to provide armed guards and other security measures that would have prevented the July 2012 attack at a midnight showing of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises.

Peter Pearsall / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Every April, the Mountain Plover arrives on Colorado’s eastern plains. Despite its unassuming size and appearance, it draws plenty of bird watching enthusiasts to the tiny community of Karval for the annual Mountain Plover festival.

"Karval has a population of, I think, about 30 -- there’s not much out there," said Betty Snow, a bird watcher who’s attending the festival for her third time. "It’s interesting to go and connect with the people and the farmers, and listen to what they do, and why they have gone to lengths to conserve this bird."

Michael Seraphim / Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Bears, some of them with young cubs, are starting to emerge from hibernation along Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. As they do, there’s a risk they will be killed or have to be euthanized -- something that’s been happening more frequently.

According to the most recent data provided to KUNC, 2,484 bears were killed between 2011 and 2015 by means other than licensed hunting. That’s almost a 75 percent increase over the previous five-year period.

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