A version of story was originally published on KUNM.org and was republished with permission.
The KUNM community is heartbroken to say that News Director Hannah Colton died earlier this week at age 29.
She has been a brilliant news leader during the pandemic, guiding the team and editing stories about the virus, the calls to stop racist policing and the 2020 election.
She was passionate about equity and racial justice. She fought those fights in the field, in news content and on behalf of her staff.
Hannah loved being a reporter. She was a gifted storyteller. She was great at meeting people and talking with them, asking good questions and really listening to the answers.
She well-understood the urgency of this moment, and she gave it her whole heart, working around the clock to cover equity and education, the dangers of the virus for people who are incarcerated, protests and the pandemic’s impacts on people without shelter.
Hannah was originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was committed to this region and told me she wanted to stay here, doing this work— even though after this pandemic is over, she could have gone anywhere she wanted as a reporter or newsroom leader.
"Hannah Colton was a consummate Journalist and powerful advocate for reporting on equity, justice and those who are most vulnerable in New Mexico," said Richard Towne, general manager of KUNM. "Her death has a profound impact for all of us working at KUNM - our staff, students, volunteers, people on our Radio Board and our leadership in the Office of the Provost. Together, we are grieving Hannah's passing and her gift of leadership at KUNM. To our listeners and advocates, we resolve to continue our work on the path that Hannah paved for us. We share our grief and our healing with Hannah's family and friends across the country. Hannah lit a lamp for us to follow."
At a recent news meeting, someone asked her what she liked about being news director. She said it was saying “yes,” to reporters’ ideas and helping them grow their work.
She was a beautiful musician, playing violin and blowing the roof off the building during karaoke. She also loved to dance.
Hannah and I were friends outside of work. But these last months, she was also my partner in the field, as we faced dangerous situations together and tried to keep each other safe. Then we would stay up all night to get those stories on the air, no matter how tired--physically and emotionally--we were. I always had her back, and she absolutely had mine.
The people who worked alongside Hannah are devastated. We spoke with her every day at all hours of the day. Our team has been small and scrappy, doing its best to cover one of the longest and most brutal news cycles I've ever seen. We are very close. We have all held each other up emotionally. And Hannah was holding us all.
I love Hannah. The entire news team does. She struggled, as many do, with depression.
In April 2019, she shared on social media a story she did for KUNM called “Hands-On Therapy Helps Students Rebuild Self-Esteem After Trauma.” On that post, Hannah wrote: “The older I get and more work I do, the more convinced I am that most or all of us are traumatized to some degree by this messed up, unjust, patriarchal, white supremacist society. Healing is possible, but we cannot heal alone. And that’s why I love making pieces about mental health. Especially when I get to speak with compassionate, expert elders.”
Hannah’s absence will be felt keenly by her colleagues here, and her community. The entire state will miss hearing her beautiful speaking voice deliver news stories. And the loss is immense for her partner Keegan Kloer, her parents, Kathy and Brad Colton, her brother Tim and her niece Anya, and her many, many friends, including Aaron Bumgarner, Kolby Jane and Austin Fisher.
Please keep your loved ones close. And please know that if you need to talk to someone you don't know (because sometimes that really helps), there are places to do that, too.
There’s the state’s Warmline for non-crisis calls. 1-855-466-7100.
The Crisis and Access Line is 1-855-NM-CRISIS.
I am so sorry everyone. The loss is great for KUNM, and, no exaggeration, huge for the world. We lost a real warrior for truth. We lost a lovely and talented friend. We miss her so much already.
Details on memorial services for Hannah Colton are forthcoming. Visit KUNM.org in the coming weeks to read more about her work.