Hannah Colton, KUNM News Director And Reporter, Dies At 29

Nov 11, 2020

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 in the newsroom at KUNM, 2020
Credit Hannah Colton

Hannah was originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was committed to this region we know as New Mexico 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.

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.

Hannah playing her first solo live music set at the Tannex, Albuquerque, NM, 2018.
Credit Monica Demarco

She was a beautiful musician, playing violin and blowing the roof off the building during karaoke. The music I included in the audio above she wrote and performed. She also loved to dance.

Hannah and I were friends outside of work for years. 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.

Hannah Colton and Marisa Demarco
Credit Marisa Demarco

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 leads a remote KUNM newsroom meeting during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic
Credit KUNM News

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, sister-in-law Kirsten and her niece Anya, and her many, many friends, including Aaron Bumgarner, Kobe 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. 

Credit Courtesy of Austin Fisher

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.

We are still figuring out memorials. You will hear more about Hannah Colton’s amazing work in the coming weeks.