Salt Lake City diversity force Donna Land Maldonado dies at 78.
Utah lost a reckoning force on the community radio stage on Sunday.
Donna Land Maldonado, one of the original staff of Salt Lake City station KRCL-FM 90.9 who eventually served as general manager, raising various voices as she rose through the ranks, has died. The Northern Ute tribesman was 78 years old.
“She was willing to do what needed to be done and it wasn’t always easy to do,” said Stephen Holbrook, founder of station KRCL. He introduced Maldonado in July 1979, just five months before the station went on the air in December 1979.
The magnitude of Maldonado’s work at the station, Holbrook said, is even greater when considering the context of the media landscape as Maldonado debuted. His position was originally funded by grants under a federal anti-poverty program introduced by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Holbrook said.
“She was completely new to [broadcasting]“recalls Holbrook. “It was unique to have a Native American woman [on board], [especially at] a time when there weren’t many women in the workplace in general.
Maldonado’s main responsibility was to find various underrepresented groups and recruit people who could be on the air to represent those groups, Holbrook said.
While at the station, she launched several shows, including “Living the Circle of Life”, the state’s only music show dedicated to Indigenous peoples, and “Concerning Gays and Lesbians”, formerly known as ” Gayjavu”, a one-hour show. dedicated to the LGBTQ community. It was the first such program on a regular basis in America for many years, Holbrook said.
Maldonado received significant pushback for this particular program, Holbrook recalled. When she became chief executive in 1998, Holbrook knew KRCL would be in good hands.
“She knew what [KRCL]’s purpose in the community was,” says Holbrook. He will remember her as a dedicated person who was willing to assert herself, even if it was against her nature.
For others, like Ebay Hamilton, the current director of programming and afternoon host at KRCL, Maldonado will be remembered as a mentor – someone who pushed those around him to be better. .
He was only 14 when he interviewed Maldonado on a summer youth program, which he heard about while listening to the station with his family. He was a shy kid, and it was his very first interview, so he mumbled, he said.
When Maldonado called after the interview, she said, “I didn’t understand a word you said. I think accepting you as a summer intern would be really good for you.
Later, with advice from Maldonado, the station would offer Hamilton his own radio show.
“I learned so much about radio and working with the community from Donna,” Hamilton said. “I certainly wouldn’t do what I do without her.”
Everyone who worked with her at the station has an individual story to remember her by, Hamilton said.
“She not only acknowledged that she had this opportunity; she made sure others had that opportunity to move forward,” Hamilton said. “She always pushed, always made sure we had diverse voices on air.”
Maldonado has always rooted for the underdog, he said. When she left the station in 2009 and still today, 13 years later, the staff strives to carry on this legacy.
“We know what she wants from us, but we also believe in the importance of doing it,” Hamilton said. “It’s in the spirit of community radio and in the spirit of Donna that we continue to make sure there is a place for marginalized and underserved communities to have the opportunity to be on the air.”
In a 2019 interview for the station’s 40th anniversary, Maldonado spoke about his work at KRCL, saying, “I spent 30 years there, most of my adult life, so KRCL is in my DNA. .”
KRCL plans to air tribute programming honoring Maldonado from 6-7 p.m. Thursday, where stories about him will be shared.
His cause of death was not publicly known Thursday morning. No details on funeral services were immediately announced.