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

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.

Jim Hill / KUNC

Colorado employment is off to a strong start in 2016. The state added 5,200 payroll jobs in January, and the unemployment rate dipped to 3.2 percent.

"It was 15 years ago that we saw unemployment numbers this low," said Alexandra Hall, Chief Economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

While those numbers are encouraging, economists are concerned about the impact of sustained low oil prices on jobs in the oil and gas industry.

Greeley officials have approved a plan that will allow 22 oil and gas wells within city limits. The massive project prompted strong opposition from some residents, and hundreds of people turned out for the hearing.

"I don’t think I’ve ever seen more people attend a city council meeting," said Sharon Dunn, business and energy reporter who covered the event for The Greeley Tribune.

courtesy of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce

Almost everyone who lives in Northern Colorado has probably heard of Loveland's Valentine remailing program. The U.S. Postal Service says the program, which turns 70 in 2016, is the largest of its kind in the country, handling between 150,000 and 200,000 pieces of mail each year.

Beginning as early as December, cards and letters start pouring in from all over the world. For about two weeks before Valentine’s Day, the sound of stamping fills the Loveland Chamber of Commerce.

F Delventhal / Creative Commons/Flickr

Colorado capped off 2015 with solid job gains and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. The state added 10,700 jobs in December, finishing the year with a historically low unemployment rate of 3.5 percent.

"The last time we had an unemployment rate lower than that was in May of 2001, when it was 3.3 percent," said Alexandra Hall, Chief Economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Poncie Rutsch / KUNC

Congress has until Dec. 11, 2015 to finish work on the budget before the current stopgap expires. In addition to taxes and highway funding, lawmakers will also have to deal with something that happens every five years, reauthorizing the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Although the idea of healthy school meals isn’t provocative, the USDA set nutritional guidelines the bill provides for have generated some pushback.

“We don’t want standards that are so rigid that students no longer want to eat school lunch,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokesperson for the School Nutrition Association, which advocates for healthy school meals - but has recently called for some flexibility in the guidelines.

by Mark Jarvis / Flickr/Creative Commons

Even with about a month left in 2015, it’s already been a record-setting year for visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park. Just over 3.9 million people visited the park between January and October – topping 3.4 million in 2014. Park officials say the number could easily top 4 million if trends continue.

"When you look back at what our visitation was last November and December [2014], we had roughly 170,000 people during those last two months," said park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson. "Given that we’re already really close, we’re assuming that we will likely hit the four-million mark – if not by the end of November, then certainly by the end of December."

At this point the park is less than 60,000 visitors away from hitting that milestone.

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