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Meet Erin O'Toole, The Colorado Edition Host Who Isn't Running For Prime Minister Of Canada

Erin O'Toole is the co-host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, a daily look at the stories, news, people and issues important to Coloradans.
Erin O'Toole is the co-host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, a daily look at the stories, news, people and issues important to Coloradans.

It's a tale of two Erins.

On Sunday night, Canada's Conservative Party chose Erin O'Toole as their leader in the upcoming election for prime minister of Canada. As the news spread, many Canadians took to Twitter and accidentally found not the Erin O'Toole north of the border, but KUNC's very own Erin O'Toole, co-host of Colorado Edition.

The next morning, Erin of Greeley, Colorado tried to clear up the case of mistaken identity, but ended up winning over the hearts of Canadians everywhere instead.

By the end of Monday, Erin had been appointed Twitter Ambassador of Canada, named an hono(u)rary Canadian and fielded multiple interview requests from Canadian broadcasters. The Canadians also wanted her to know, repeatedly, that they are very sorry for the mix-up.

Here at KUNC, it's no surprise that the people of Canada are so thoroughly charmed — we've long had the privilege of knowing that Erin is a gem. We sat down for a virtual Q&A today to give the rest of the world a glimpse into the life of a public radio host in Colorado.

Give us the quick, Twitter-length introduction to Colorado's Erin O’Toole.

I'm a longtime public radio reporter and host, and have been lucky to call Colorado my home for the last decade. Hosting Colorado Edition gives me the opportunity to cover an amazing range of stories and issues, from the economy and politics, to social justice and environmental issues. And although I'm quite interested in politics, I can honestly say I've never thought about running for office.

You’re apparently not the first American to be confused with a Canadian politician. Have you and Jason Kenney started a club?

It's such a strange coincidence! As soon as the Twitter mentions really started rolling in, several people mentioned him and even tagged him in a few tweets. Someone did suggest starting some kind of a group. Jason and I have not gone down that road just yet, but I would be really curious to ask him if the mix-up with his Canadian namesake has gone on for a while, or if it's a short-lived whirlwind kind of thing.

Have you ever been to Canada?

I have been to Canada. Many years ago, I went as a young teen with my family — mostly to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Everything was so beautiful and clean there. I remember crossing the border and seeing a McDonald's restaurant, but it had flowers and a beautiful wrought-iron fence in front of it, and I just thought "Wow. We could probably do a lot better in the States!"

How much do you follow Canadian politics?

Not closely at all. There are similarities with the U.S. system of government, and it's interesting that their most prominent parties seem to be the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. Not that different from here! But I may have to start digging into Canadian politics more closely — if for no other reason than to know what my counterpart is doing!

As we near the one-year anniversary of Colorado Edition becoming a daily show, what are some of your reflections on being its co-host? Do you have any favorite conversations from the past year?

It's hard to believe it's been almost a year since we launched the show. It's been quite a journey to start something and watch it grow — it's exciting and also incredibly humbling to realize that all the plans you thought up so carefully just go out the window when you actually start. And I'm lucky to work with the most outstanding team in the world — Henry Zimmerman, Lily Tyson, Rae Solomon, and our executive producer Brian Larson; and of course, the KUNC newsroom, whose work we have the privilege of featuring in the show. I'm just really proud and really grateful to be a part of this small but mighty show!

And it's way too hard to pick just a few of my favorite conversations, but I'll try: One is an interview with Ken Chlouber, who founded the Leadville 100 trail run; any of my conversations with the last three Colorado state historians; and I really feel proud of the special episode we produced on public health officials and who's making the decisions during the pandemic.

You’re not only a public radio host, but also a musician and half of the indie-electronic duo Dead Amps. What should we know about your music?

Yes! We've been creating music for at least the last 13 years (I've lost count!) and it's such a fun hobby to do with your spouse (Jonathan is the other half of the band). Fun fact: we have a small basement studio setup which has helped tremendously as we've had to shift to working from home. I'm terrible at describing it for people, but if you enjoy indie-electronic rock that walks a line between darker, synth-heavy lines and dreamy shoegaze, Dead Amps could be your thing!

Last but most importantly, tell us about your dogs!

I'm so glad we all agree that dogs are the most important thing! I have two, Hannah (a poodle mix) and Clancey (a dachshund mix). Like so many of us are learning, the dogs are the real winners of the remote working situation the pandemic has caused.

And one of the best things I learned from the whole Twitter experience is that most Canadians feel the same way that Coloradans do — our pets are the best part of us.

I'd like to add that both of mine are rescue dogs from the Weld County Humane Society, and I can't say enough how wonderful it is to adopt a shelter pet.

KUNC's Colorado Edition is available on our website, as well as on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

As KUNC's digital managing editor, I shape the online presence and visual presentation of our news coverage. I make our content accessible across various platforms, including the web, podcasts and social media, create data visualizations and take and edit photos and videos.
As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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