Montana Lowdown features in-depth conversations with top newsmakers, journalists, politicians, and experts about significant issues facing America’s “last best place.” Hosted by veteran award-winning journalist and Montana Free Press founder John S. Adams. Subscribe to the Montana Lowdown podcast on iTunes, Google PlaySpotify, or Stitcher.


Episode 3: Newsroom Roundtable

Montana Free Press reporter Leia Larsen and independent data journalist Eric Dietrich talk about what inspires them to pursue the news, and their hopes for the future of nonprofit journalism.

John S. Adams / Montana Free Press

Leia Larsen and Eric Dietrich

Leia Larsen is an award-winning reporter who has covered the environment and public policy in Colorado, Utah, and now at the Montana Capitol. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and she’s the first full-time staff writer for the Montana Free Press.

“You know, we cover a lot of policy at the legislature, but I like to take that policy and then go to an actual person in the field and say… ‘let’s get out of these marble rooms, and what is this doing to you? How are you feeling this?’ I think that’s what I like, just connecting with people,” Larsen said.

Eric Dietrich is a journalist and data designer who recently moved to Helena to help us out at the Montana Free Press. Eric is the lead reporter on the Long Streets collaborative economics reporting project, and he has previously worked for the Great Falls Tribune, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and, more recently, for the Solutions Journalism Network.

“Thinking about journalism from the perspective of an engineer, the media can be such a powerful tool for helping us understand and solve our problems,” Dietrich said.

Episode 2: Minority Report

Democrats may be in the minority in the Legislature, but the Governor’s veto pen gives them a seat at the table


Democrats haven’t had a ruling majority in the Montana House of Representatives since 1991, and yet they still manage to get some of their legislative priorities passed each session.


Rep. Casey Schreiner

Montana Rep. Casey Schreiner says it comes down to pragmatism and bipartisanship.

“Through this whole time in the Legislature, I really have tried to focus my vision on being pragmatic and accomplishing goals,” said Schreiner, the House Minority Leader in the 2019 Legislative session. “Let’s make sure we’re pragmatic. Let’s make sure we’re solutions-oriented.”

It takes 51 votes in the House, 26 votes in the Senate, and the signature of the governor for a bill to become law. That means the success of any legislation relies on some level of bipartisanship. From health care, to education, to infrastructure, some across-the-aisle cooperation is required if the state is going to adopt a balanced budget before the 90 legislative days are up.

In Episode 2 of the Montana Lowdown podcast, House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner talks about the importance of working across the aisle to get work done that benefits the majority of Montanas.

Episode 1: A House Divided

GOP feud threatens to boil-over in first week of the Montana Legislature

It’s a new year, and a new legislative session is upon us, but an old rift has re-emerged among Montana’s Republican lawmakers.

For more than a decade GOP legislators have been at war with each other over the heart and soul of their party. On one side are hard-line conservatives who view their longstanding legislative majorities as a mandate to oppose Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s agenda at every turn.

On the other side is a growing group of lawmakers, ranging from moderate to conservative Republicans, who understand that if they want to pass a budget, they will have to negotiate with Democrats.

Four-term Republican Rep. Nancy Ballance, of Hamilton, has chaired the powerful House Appropriations Committee the past two sessions and will co-chair that committee in 2019. Ballance, regarded by most lawmakers as a staunch conservative and an expert on the budget, now finds herself accused by some members of her caucus of supporting a liberal Democratic agenda.

In our inaugural episode of the Montana Lowdown podcast, host John S. Adams of the Montana Free Press sits down with Rep. Ballance for a candid conversation about the tensions in the House GOP caucus that threaten to boil over in the first week of the 2019 legislative session.