Austin Jenkins

Olympia Correspondent

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia–based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. He regularly files stories for NPR News. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin was a freelance general assignment reporter at KING–TV, the NBC affiliate in Seattle. He also worked as a freelance education reporter for KPLU–FM, the Tacoma–based NPR station. Austin spent 2001 in Washington, D.C. as a Knight Foundation/American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. Austin has also worked as a television reporter in Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; Casper, Wyoming; and Bozeman, Montana. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and has a B.A. in Government from Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Over the years Austin has won numerous professional awards for his reporting. He lives in Olympia with his wife Jennifer Huntley and their two children.

Read Austin's blog, "The Washington Ledge: Dispatches From Olympia."

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Fireworks Accident
7:36 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Shows Go On For Northwest Fireworks Company ‘Shaken’ By Workplace Death

Brandon Weaver, right, and his fellow crew members pose in the back of a Budget rental truck. They say being back at work is helping them cope with the death of their co-worker.
Credit Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

People in the fireworks business say their job is to make people happy. But as the Fourth of July approaches, one of the largest fireworks companies in the Northwest is reeling. This month, a longtime seasonal employee was killed in an on-the-job explosion and fire. Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports on how the company and its employees are coping in the midst of their busiest season.

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Reimbursing Volunteer Drivers
11:19 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Why A Volunteer for DSHS Was Paid $10,000

Longtime foster youth Andre Fayette poses with his foster mother Mary-Jeanne Smith. For five years, a volunteer driver for the Washington Department of Social and Health Services shuttled Andre to visits with his biological sisters in Spokane.
Credit Photo courtesy: Mary-Jeanne Smith

Imagine driving your personal car for work so much that your boss cuts you a $10,000 mileage reimbursement check. That’s what happened recently at Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services. Only the person who got the check isn’t an employee. And she’s not the only one who’s logging high miles and collecting large reimbursements from DSHS. Who are these road warriors? Austin Jenkins finds out.

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State In Contempt
7:20 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Washington Supreme Court Orders ‘State’ To Contempt Hearing

The interior of the Wasington State Supreme Court.
Credit Cacophony / Wikimedia Commons

A frustrated Washington Supreme Court appears ready to hold state officials in contempt. The high court late Thursday ordered the “state” to appear at a hearing in September to address the lack of a plan to fully fund basic education. The court’s highly unusual move follows a 2012 ruling that the state isn’t meeting its constitutional obligation to school children. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins has details.

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Same-Sex Health Coverage
7:45 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Washington AG Puts Health Plans On Notice To Cover Same-Sex Spouses

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson
Credit Photo courtesy Washington Attorney General's office

Washington’s attorney general is reminding employers they may not discriminate against same-sex spouses when it comes to health coverage. That warning Thursday follows a discrimination complaint earlier this year against O’Reilly Auto Parts. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

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Rainier Climbing Accident
7:45 am
Mon June 2, 2014

Recovery Of Climbing Victims Dependent On Many Factors

Recovering the bodies of climbers presumed dead on Mt. Rainier is still considered dangerous.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Family members of six climbers presumed dead on Mount Rainier met privately Sunday with park officials. The victims are two professional guides with Seattle-based Alpine Ascents and four clients. They were attempting to summit via the north-facing Liberty Ridge – one of the most technical and advanced routes on the 14,000-foot mountain. Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

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Kickstarter Lawsuit
8:06 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Washington Attorney General Targets Kickstarter Campaign

s believed to be the first government action against a failed crowdfunding campaign. Sites like Kickstarter have  become a popular way to finance start-up projects. But there’s also financial risk when you kick in money to get a music or art project off the ground. Sometimes the sponsor doesn’t deliver. Some 30 victims in Washington now know that firsthand. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

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Kickstarter Lawsuit
7:24 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Victim Happy That Washington Filed Crowdfunding Lawsuit

One of the victims of an alleged crowdfunding scam says he’s not counting on getting his money back. But he’s glad Washington’s attorney general has filed a consumer protection lawsuit. It’s believed to be the first state action against a crowdfunding project sponsor. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins has details.

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Millennial Politicians
11:04 am
Thu May 1, 2014

Despite Party Differences, Millennial State Lawmakers Find Common Ground

The four youngest members of the Washington legislature are two Democrats and two Republicans who find generational common ground in spite of their political differences.
Credit Austin Jenkins

The Washington legislature is trending a bit younger these day.  Nine of the 147 members are under-34 year olds. 

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School Safety
6:16 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Washington Schools Face Multiple Threats From Natural Disasters

A new draft report finds that Washington schools face threats from nine different kinds of natural hazards.
Credit Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Oso landslide appears to rank as the third deadliest natural disaster in Washington history – after the 1910 Stevens Pass avalanche and the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. But what if there had been a school in the path of the debris field? A new hazard report from the state shows dozens of Washington schools potentially sit in slide zones. But at least one of those schools doesn’t have to worry.

Holmes Elementary in Spokane is about three blocks from the Spokane River. The new report says it’s one of 28 Washington schools near a slope with a high risk of failure.

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Obama Visits Oso
7:36 am
Wed April 23, 2014

President Tours Disaster Zone, Offers Support One Month After Deadly Landslide

Christian Johnson, right, waits at the Oso firehouse for President Obama to speak. Johnson was a volunteer searcher after the landslide last month.
Credit Austin Jenkins

President Obama says the “whole country” is thinking about the victims of the Oso landslide in Snohomish County. The president visited the slide zone Tuesday to mark the one month anniversary of the tragedy. The death toll currently stands at 41 with two people still missing.

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