Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

FY23: A Year of Building Community

A snapshot of Colorado Public Radio's Annual Report

This feature was created by our marketing and communications department at Colorado Public Radio, which is solely responsible for the content. CPR News editors and reporters were not involved in its creation and no editorial judgment should be inferred.

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Colorado Public Radio is for the public. Each of our services is a vital presence in the community, and we couldn’t do it without strong support from our donors and sponsors. Thank you.

As you look through this snapshot of our Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Report, you'll see how CPR News content impacted legislation, how Denverite expanded some of its most important coverage for Spanish-speaking audiences, highlights from StoryCorps' residency in Colorado Springs, how new hosts at CPR Classical and Indie 102.3 are extending the stations’ reach into the community, and how our podcasts foster invaluable community conversations.

If you'd like to explore the full report, you can access it here.

Photo information: Colorado Matters host Chandra Thomas-Whitfield talks with students at Delta High School. February 2, 2023. Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News


“Parched,” a 10-part podcast on the Colorado River debuted April 18. A CPR team spent about a year reporting on the effects of drought on the river that supplies drinking water to more than 40 million people in the U.S. and Mexico. The goal of the podcast was not just to detail the dire condition of the river, but to profile those who are working on a variety of solutions to address the shortage of water.

“I could never have imagined that 'Parched,' a podcast series about Colorado River solutions, would receive the level of attention that it has. Listeners across the country showed us that people care deeply about the future of Western water in a warming world. One of those listeners approached me at a conference. She had recently been elected to an Arizona water board, and she told me that she listened to 'Parched' to help educate her on the Colorado River and inform her successful election campaign. She told me that her teenage daughter also loved the series, and they would listen in the car together. Her story shows the kind of impact that podcast series like 'Parched' can have on our world.”

- Host Michael Elizabeth Sakas

Lake Mead and the “bathtub ring” of mineral deposits made visible by a historically low water level, seen from the window seat of a passenger jet approaching Las Vegas, Nevada, on Oct. 2, 2022.
Jeannie Zei holds two of her puppies while standing on her home’s treasured front-lawn grass Oct. 6, 2022. Both the city and state have enacted stringent new laws designed to sharply reduce the amount of water Las Vegas and its environs use as water levels continue to fall in nearby Lake Mead on the Colorado River, including tearing out decorative grass on front lawns, and forbidding new housing developments from planting any grass at all. She caused some home owners association drama over those laws. Grass is a matter of homeownership pride for her.
Saguaro National Park’s Bajado Loop Drive, Jan. 8, 2023. What does climate change mean here? Park service monitoring data shows that the average annual temperature in the park has climbed steadily over the past century, between 10-15 degree Fahrenheit, and annual precipitation, already scant, has been dropping.
The San Juan River below Navajo Dam in New Mexico. The dam impounds water from the San Juan, Piedras and Los Pinos rivers, creating the Navajo Reservoir, which supplies water to the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and provides boating and fishing. Below the dam, the San Juan River flows into the Colorado River. March 5, 2023.
Arizona state legislator Tim Dunn in a broccoli field on his farm near Yuma, Arizona, believes serious thought needs to be given to the practicality and cost of pumping Mississippi River water up and across the central United States to irrigate farms like his that currently rely on Colorado River water.
Colorado Public Radio climate solutions journalist, and host of the CPR News podcast Parched, Michael Elizabeth Sakas, reported from Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California and Mexico to hear ideas about saving the Colorado River.
Clear, pure drinking water gets pumped through these pipes at Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, Jan. 25, 2023. The plant went into service in 2015 and produces 50 million gallons per day, supplying drinking water for 400,000 people, or about 10 percent of San Diego County's population.
A calm stretch of the Colorado River before it enters the Grand Canyon in Arizona, seen from Lees Ferry.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

CPR Classical's history-making morning host

CPR Classical welcomed Kabin Thomas late in 2022 as its new morning host. Kabin joined after being a professor of classical music, a game show host abroad, and a musician in a world where diversity is still hard to come by. He sat down with Chandra Thomas Whitfield of Colorado Matters to talk about how he picked up the tuba by accident and found a love for music, and himself, in the process.

"My first year with CPR has been transformative. The support, mentorship and creative liberty I've experienced is unparalleled. Being the only full-time African-American morning show classical host brings with it a profound responsibility. My interview with Chandra Thomas Whiftield on "Colorado Matters" emphasized why representation matters. It was an honor to discuss and amplify the importance of diversity in media. I am humbled by the community's response and look forward to more years of meaningful engagement with our listeners."

- Kabin Thomas

Photo: Kabin poses with Sergei Rachmaninoff in honor of the composer's 150th birthday.

StoryCorps parks in Colorado Springs

In June, KRCC and CPR were proud to host StoryCorps, the oral history project that travels around the country recording, preserving and sharing the stories of people from all backgrounds and beliefs. The mobile recording studio was parked in the Plaza of the Rockies via a partnership with the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, and residents of all stripes stopped by to tell their stories, including the former mayor of Colorado Springs, John Suthers. CPR and KRCC shared some of the stories on air, and StoryCorps will archive them in the Library of Congress.

Listen to Suthers' story:

Former Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers
The last day of the legislative session. May 8, 2023.The last day of the legislative session. May 8, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

CPR News Impact

In September 2022, CPR News sued the Adams County coroner’s office after it refused to release the amended autopsy for Elijah McClain, the teenager who died after a stop by Aurora police in 2019. Acting on a tip, reporter Allison Sherry filed a Colorado Open Records Act request for the amended autopsy. The coroner refused to release it, citing state grand jury secrecy. However, autopsies are not part of grand jury testimony. Attorney Steve Zansberg represented CPR News, and several other news organizations joined the lawsuit. Two courts ruled that the autopsy had to be released. Stories about the outcome and CPR’s lawsuit were published around the country, and Adams County was ordered to pay CPR’s legal fees.

During the legislative session in the first half of 2023, CPR News’ impact was seen in a number of bills that referenced our reporting. The legislature passed a nearly $3 million bill to fund wildfire investigations prompted by CPR News’ investigation into wildfire causes in 2021. Reporting on issues with the compost waste stream was cited in a bill to require more oversight of packaging that claims to be compostable. And our investigation into how Colorado’s Red Flag law is — or isn’t — being used led the legislature to allocate more money for a hotline.

Photo: Public Affairs Reporter Andrew Kenney on the last day of the 2023 Legislative Session. Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The work that CPR does is essential to a thriving democracy. Sharing the stories of our neighbors, close and far, is the foundation for developing a collective sense of community.

William, Niwot, Colorado

Fostering the next generation of public media talent

For the past year, CPR has been hard at work revamping its student development programming, with a goal of creating meaningful, paid internship and fellowship opportunities. Listen to work produced by each of the 2023 interns:

Jenna McMurtry:

Jessica Duran (pictured left) and Nicky Shapiro:

Elise-Hanielette Wee:

Real Talk

In March, CPR News launched a new joint project for both radio and TV. Real Talk with Denver7 and CPR News is a weekly program that tells unique Front Range stories and centers underserved communities in the conversations. Reporters Nathan Heffel of CPR News and Micah Smith of Denver7 provide a platform for open conversations on topics ranging from inequities in maternal healthcare to food deserts to Colorado’s Chicano history.

With Real Talk, we're reaching new people and inviting them to explore public radio in a way that hasn't been done before by CPR News. We did an episode on adoption, and I visited a camp just for adopted kids in Estes Park. As an adoptee myself, hearing their stories, spending the weekend with them and truly feeling a part of their community was profound. They were so honored to be featured by CPR News and truly felt seen and recognized as part of the Colorado fabric.

-Nathan Heffel

¿Quién Are We?

¿Quién Are We?, a podcast exploring “what it means to be Latino, Hispanic or Chicana, or however you identify,” launched in 2022 with nine interview episodes hosted by CPR News Host May Ortega. The show is a step in CPR’s efforts to create programming for Latino audiences made by Latino journalists and producers.

I just caught your "The Plant Papi" segment on NPR and found it incredibly entertaining. I would even say you are one of the most engaging and enjoyable radio reporters I have ever listened to. Keep up the great work.

-A listener in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Just finished The Baseball Fan episode on @futuromedia and while I'm not a baseball fan and I'm not from CA, I identified with @AllanEmsGM so much! @MayVOrtega the way you talked to him, como una amiga, is the new journalism I LOVE! Thank you both for such an inspiring story!

-Sonia Gutierrez on Twitter

I think CPR is really onto something here and I can't wait to see where the show goes. Its representation is obviously super important, but even as someone who doesn't identify with any of the identities of the show, I really love to hear about the place I love from unique angles. Appreciate the opportunity to hear stories from diverse story tellers, especially about subjects and people that are not always elevated in traditional media.

-A review on Apple Podcasts

I can't explain how excited I am to hear stories that sound like those of my friends, my community, and even... myself! I cant wait to tune in to even more!

-Rosemari Ochoa's review on Apple Podcasts
Ricci Autry closes his eyes as he rides an RTD W Line train before dawn. Feb. 22, 2023.Ricci Autry closes his eyes as he rides an RTD W Line train before dawn. Feb. 22, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Denverite's tireless reporting

Denverite tackled all sorts of issues this year, and made an impact with reporting such as a 20-hour journey on RTD on a snowy February day to meet people who ride trains and buses all day to stay warm and safe. This story featured detailed reporting from transportation reporter Nathaniel Minor and powerful photography from visual journalist Kevin J. Beaty. Their coverage led RTD to pause its implementation of a policy to ban these types of riders.

Indie 102.3 welcomes new hosts!

Indie 102.3 is Colorado's champion of local, independent and outside-the-box music. This year, Indie 102.3 featured 144 Colorado musicians on-air in our Local 303, sponsored over 250 shows in the community and gave away about a thousand concert tickets to ecstatic fans. And, we welcomed new hosts! Here are some reflections in their words.

In my 25 years in the industry, I've never seen any place with so much passion from the community, so much appreciation and love and respect for what's done day in and day out. Every time I'm out in public, regardless of whether I'm out for work or pleasure, I'm constantly being approached by people whose days and lives are positively affected by our work. Indie 102.3 and Colorado Public Radio are truly special to the people of Colorado.

-Morning Host Dana Meyers

The response to Indie 102.3 at the Underground Music Showcase was incredible. So many people would stop by the tent/table to talk about their attachment and appreciation for Indie 102.3. Not to mention the amount of new listeners who had only heard about the event because of discovering Indie.

-Host and Promotions Coordinator Shawn Lucero

Photo: Dana Meyers (right) snaps a selfie with Shawn Lucero (middle) and Events Coordinator Cayla Montoya-Manzo (left)

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

My Story So Far

My Story So Far, the flagship podcast for the division’s Community Audio work hosted by Luis Antonio Perez, launched on March 23. The podcast curates the best moments from a series of live storytelling events.

Each of the episodes in My Story So Far is created from a live event hosted by CPR. At the events, regular people tell their stories in front of audiences of people with shared experiences. One episode is the product of the Audio Innovations producers’ mentorship efforts with YEBO, a podcasting program for high schoolers based at Aurora’s Empower High School. One features formerly incarcerated people starting over in life. Others showcase life lessons from survivors of the devastating Marshall Fire that hit Superior and Louisville.

"I've received a handful of messages this month (from as far as Washington D.C.). Incredibly grateful to ya'll for elevating rural queer voices."

-Caleb, a storyteller in the episode "Pride on the Western Slope"

"It's vital for our community to hear these stories. It wakes us up to our shared humanity and opens doorways for needed dialogue about the prison system and the purpose we intend for it to serve. Thank you for taking the time, effort and care to tell your stories Ashley Furst, David Coleman and Luis Perez! And thank you CPR!"

-Laurie L. posting on LinkedIn

Voter Guides & Candidate Debates

In the 2022 fall election season, our voter guides reached the highest number of people ever seen for a midterm election, thanks not only to their thoroughness, but also to a new effort to reach Spanish-language audiences. The translation effort was the largest in CPR’s history, and was accompanied by a marketing campaign of billboards, radio ads and digital ads to spread awareness of this resource.

CPR also ensured the election coverage was wide-reaching geographically by hosting a debate with the candidates for Governor and U.S. Senate in Grand Junction in October 2022. Partnering with the Grand Junction Sentinel and Colorado Mesa University, the debate prioritized issues facing rural Coloradans. It reached a statewide audience through a first-ever collaboration between CPR News and nine independent public radio stations across the state.

In the spring, Denverite and KRCC covered monumental mayoral elections in Denver and Colorado Springs, respectively. Denverite hosted a candidate forum focused on issues facing communities of color, then participated in a run-off debate with Denver7 and The Denver Post. KRCC hosted candidate forums on-site in the Southern Colorado Public Media Center's Community Room.

Highlights from the CPR Performance Studio

The CPR Performance Studio continues to be activated with musical performances from classical and indie musicians. Check out two performances from this year:


CPR was honored to receive dozens of industry awards for our work in 2023. Here are a few of the selections:

View all of our recent awards.

Photo: The CPR delegation at the Colorado Broadcasters Association awards in April, where CPR was named "Station of the Year" for a second consecutive year.

Guests gather for dinner at a long table dinner at City Park. Oct. 15, 2022.Guests gather for dinner at a long table dinner at City Park. Oct. 15, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

From all of us at CPR, thank you for your support. Your investment and belief in the importance of public media is what motivates our work every day.

We hope you enjoyed this snapshot of our FY23 Annual Report. The full report contains more highlights from our year, including a letter from President & CEO Stewart Vanderwilt, new initiatives we started and more details on partnerships and events. You can download a copy by clicking on the button below.

Photo: Race, Diversity and Justice Reporter Elaine Tassy (in orange lanyard) at a "Longer Tables" dinner in City Park, Denver. Oct. 15, 2022. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)