Leia Larsen, of the Ogden Standard-Examiner, will join Montana Free Press this fall as State Capital Reporter. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Leia Larsen brings deep knowledge of Western issues to Montana’s premier statewide nonprofit news organization

HELENA — Montana Free Press founder and editor John S. Adams announced Tuesday that the nonprofit news organization has hired its first full-time staff reporter, marking a major expansion of state government reporting for the state.

Award-winning journalist and Utah native Leia Larsen, formerly of the Ogden Standard-Examiner, will join Montana Free Press this fall as the organization’s State Capital Reporter. Larsen has covered the environment and public policy from the rural headwaters of the Colorado River to Utah’s urban Wasatch Front, and brings to Helena a breadth of experience reporting on critical issues facing the West.

“Whether she’s reporting on water, public lands, or health care, Leia has an uncanny ability to unpack complex topics and bring a human element to her storytelling,” Adams said.

Larsen has covered mountain communities adapting to devastating bark beetle damage, anglers working for improved riverbed access, and industries grappling with the diminishing Great Salt Lake. She has investigated controversial gang-policing policies, county embezzlement scandals, and the impacts of international trade wars on local farmers.

“Leia understands how politics and public policy impacts people and places,” Adams said. “I’m very much looking forward to working with her at the Capitol this winter.”

Adams and Larsen will provide in-depth coverage of the upcoming 2019 Legislature, which begins in January.

In addition to her print reporting, Larsen also produced and co-hosted an award-winning science and environment podcast, “Out Standing in a Field.”

“We plan to expand the ways in which we deliver in-depth news to our rapidly growing audience, and we expect podcasting will play a big part in engaging younger audiences,” Adams said.

Leia Larsen brings her love of the outdoors to Montana. Credit: Courtesy photo

Anne Christnovich, a former managing editor of the Standard-Examiner who worked with Larsen in Ogden, said Larsen is a great journalist because she practices a cardinal rule of journalism: trust, but verify.

“She pays attention to the details and the fine print to form independent conclusions about what the reporting shows,” Christnovich said. “She’s absolutely hawkish about debunking junk science, too. Then there’s Leia’s writing, which is thoughtful, engaging and often downright beautiful.”

Greg Halling, the former executive editor of the Standard-Examiner, called Larsen a “gifted and fearless reporter.”

“As part of the Free Press, she’ll serve the people of Montana well,” Halling said.

Larsen has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder. She grew up in the West and enjoys exploring its many landscapes. When she’s not in the office or chasing down leads for her next story, she spends her time climbing, skiing and mountain biking

Montana Free Press was founded by veteran award-winning investigative and political reporter John S. Adams. John was formerly the Capital Bureau Chief of the Great Falls Tribune and a correspondent for USA TODAY. John is known as a dogged investigator and the host of the MT Lowdown podcast whose unbiased reporting has changed the shape of Montana politics. Contact John at jadams@montanafreepress.org, or follow him on Twitter.