Your Western News has a new reporter who recently trekked here from Tennessee to cover Libby city and schools, spot news, courts and plenty more.
Rima Austin has been practicing journalism for about 15 years total, most of them as a freelancer. And it’s a calling she takes very seriously.
After reading a book series in college with a journalist as the protagonist, Austin — who was studying history at the time — went down to the journalism department on the school paper’s deadline day.
“Everybody was running around, screaming, cussing each other, and I was, like, “Yeah, this is where I want to be, right here,” she said.
Austin said she enjoys the stress, and finds she works best when there is something on the line.
But while the stress and deadlines of journalism may have got her interested, what drives Austin now is the desire to keep the public informed, she said. Her favorite stories are the controversial ones.
“If someone in town or in a government position is doing something that they don’t really want the public to know, I’m the first one that wants the public to know,” she said.
If someone in power has something to hide from the public, Austin enjoys getting under their skin and spoiling their plans to keep things hushed up, she said.
“Especially if they’re elected officials. It’s public information, and I like to make sure the public knows what’s going on with their elected officials,” Austin said.
Austin said that at her last job at the Sparta Expositor in Sparta, Tennessee, she was used to making some people angry.
“But, the thing about it is, I didn’t write anything that they didn’t say, or that wasn’t the truth. And I won’t do that,” she said.
The entire purpose of community news organizations is to inform the public about what is going on in their community, she said.”That’s what I like to do.”
Austin said she sometimes worries that the public doesn’t realize how much of a roll they can have in their local government by attending meetings and participating.
“I would like a lot more people to realize that those meetings are open, and you voted for these people. If you don’t like what’s going on, or you have questions about where your money’s going, go to those meetings,” she said.
But, for those who can’t make it to the meetings, Austin said she sees it as her job to make sure they find out what goes on there.
While Austin said she wants people to know that she is a nice person, she also said she does not shirk from taking a stand when it is warranted.
“I was a battered woman for three years. So, I lived that, and ever since then, that’s been one of my things is, I want to stand against it,” she said. “If anyone is not doing the women and the children right, I will speak out about it.”
Coming to Montana, Austin said she would like to get out into the wilderness of Lincoln County, and she had even looked for any hiking clubs she could join.
But she also wants to get involved in the community, and has taken interest in the Kootenai Kiwanis and what they do for local children, she said.