Women To Watch: Kelsey Brunner, Aspen Public Radio


(By Charese Fruge’) Kelsey Brunner, newly appointed News Director at Aspen Public Radio, has worked nearly 10 years in journalism and is ready to lead her first newsroom. She will be working alongside an amazing team of female reporters: Kaya Williams, Halle Zander, Eleanor Bennett, and Caroline Llanes, all led by female Executive Director Breeze Richardson.

“Our coverage reaches from Aspen to Rifle, Colorado. We cover the area’s diverse interests, cultures, demographics, and political leanings,” says Brunner. “Including government, education, climate and the arts all throughout the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys.” 

It all started for Brunner in her sophomore year at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “I had a rock-climbing accident at the beginning of that year and broke my neck, which resulted in taking time off from school to recover,” she says. “To cheer me up, my mom took me to the National Geographic Museum. At that time, they were hosting their ‘Women in Vision’ exhibition. That exhibit and the women and women-identifying photojournalists inspired me to pursue my career in journalism. When I returned to school in the spring, I transitioned to a journalism major, and the rest, as they say, is history.” 

“I took my first full-time job at The Greeley Tribune during my senior year in college. After graduation, I pursued a master’s degree in photography, which had an emphasis in journalism. I then interned at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, the Colorado Springs Gazette, and The Denver Post before working as the chief photographer at The Aspen Times for three years. In 2022, I left the paper and pursued a full-time freelance photojournalism career until this amazing opportunity at Aspen Public Radio offered itself.” 

What made Brunner decide to enter the radio world? “I am putting together all the experience I have as a journalist and photojournalist in a new format that I’m excited about,” she says. “When the opportunity came up, I was so excited to continue learning and growing in a new medium.” 

“Aspen Public Radio serves an audience of over 40,000 users each month. In today’s media world, radio includes digital production, which really speaks to my digital storytelling experience. One of my roles in this position is to take APR’s production of local news online to a new level, which I think only benefits our community and listenership.” 

“Aspen Public Radio is an NPR member station, which serves about 18,000 listeners each week with free local and regional coverage. Not only do we tune our listeners into events that happen in our own backyard, but we also try to bring innovative reporting and live broadcasts to our community. Our valley is a unique place, and the work that we do reflects that. Our 2023 Impact Report showed that 60% of listeners rely on our station for their local news, with an additional 25% of listeners reporting that it is their main source for local news. We also belong to a radio coalition that allows us to share coverage with other community radio newsrooms throughout the Rocky Mountains to bring in-depth regional news coverage to our airwaves, which is a great service to our listeners.” 

The question everyone in radio is asking right now is how to bring back the younger generation. “From my observation, this next generation is involved and interested in political and social issues,” says Brunner.

“Being a generation of technology and social media, I think that’s where we have to start assessing their listenership and engaging that audience. Our radio station still has a great number of listeners who tune in on their commute; however, we know that people rely on their phones as a significant source of information. So, we need to utilize podcasts and social media to pay attention to how our younger listeners are getting their news and where they’re getting it from.” 

As for what keeps Brunner up at night: “I have a feeling this isn’t what you meant, but what truly keeps me up at night is my dog, Jerry,” she says. “He loves to sleep on my head and then proceeds to move to my feet and then back again… all while contemplating ways to get us to play with him or take him outside at two in the morning.”

“As for work stress, I do sometimes find myself editing in my dreams. It’s a habit I’ve had since I was young. Often, I would ‘read’ chapters of books in my sleep. In this job, I’m still in the honeymoon phase and enjoying every minute of the opportunity. I hope that never changes, but I’m happy to revisit that question in a year!”

“I think anyone in journalism, no matter which medium you work in, will say that finding balance in both work life and personal life is difficult. As a journalist, my work is my passion (at least one of them) and it really isn’t the kind of job you can clock out from. I’m not sure I have a direct solution to finding balance, but I strive to keep my priorities in focus. My fiancé, our dog, spending meaningful time with family, reading for pleasure, enjoying the beautiful outdoor space that we live in (Aspen)… all these things define me as much as my job title.” 

“As for advice for women who want to achieve success in the industry. My advice has probably changed since accepting this new role. Throughout my whole career, I’ve always had photojournalism as the path in my mind. When this opportunity presented itself, I saw it as an opportunity to gain new skills and challenges, for which I am ready. The question of ‘what can I offer this team?’ really weighed on me, because the reporters at Aspen Public Radio are incredibly talented and passionate people. I have taken my experiences before this to decide the kind of manager I want to be.”

“We have all had experiences with exceptional leadership as well as leadership that hasn’t served us well. My advice is to learn from those experiences and move forward — and to go with your heart. Trust that you are where you are for a reason. Don’t let self-doubt hold you back. It’s scary to jump into a new situation and role, but we’re meant to continue learning and growing– and what a gift that is!” 

As for Brunner’s immediate future, going back to in-office employment after freelancing for the last year and a half is already a huge adjustment. But she’s ready for the adventure. In her personal life, she’s planning a wedding for September. “My fiancé and I are extremely excited for this next chapter in our lives.” 

Follow Kelsey Brunner for photography on Instagram @kelseybrunnerphoto and online at kelseybrunner.com. Follow Aspen Public Radio on Instagram @aspenpublicradio and at the station’s website.

Charese Fruge’ is an award-winning Content, Broadcast, and Marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, San Diego, and Las Vegas. As the owner of MC Media, she works with radio brands and individual talents, especially young women, helping them grow their brands and negotiate on their own behalf. Find her at @MCMediaOnline. See more Women to Watch here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here