Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), a potential 2016 presidential candidate, is walking back Monday’s report in the Indianapolis Star that he is launching a taxpayer-funded, state-run “news” site.
On Tuesday, the Star reported that Pence said he is “clarifying” the nature of his site known as “Just IN,” and has referred to the report about it as an “understandable misunderstanding.”
As Breitbart News reported Monday, the Star indicated that Pence’s Just IN site would “offer pre-written articles to Indiana news outlets, as well as sometimes break news stories about his administration.”
“We expect reporters to find the site useful, and some features are designed specifically for media professionals,” the documents obtained by the Star state. “Just IN, however, will function as a news outlet in its own right for thousands of Hoosiers — transparent in functioning as a voice of the State of Indiana’s executive branch.”
Now Pence is saying:
Reports that this was intended to be a news agency, I think just represent an understandable misunderstanding based on some internal communications that I read about in the press…
My understanding is that the website that has become a source of controversy was simply to have a one-stop shopping website for press releases and information. It’s meant to be a resource, not a news source, and we’ll be clarifying that in the days ahead.
Pence reportedly addressed questions about the Just IN site as he also announced that he had won an alternative expansion of Medicaid from the federal government.
Documents pertaining to Just IN can be seen at the Star and include references to a “managing editor,” an “editorial board,” and a “governance board,” roles that are typically found at news companies or publication sites. The document shows a graphically designed logo for Just IN, followed by a subtitle: “The State of Indiana News Service.”
A section of the document titled “Editor’s Role” provides the following job description:
The Managing Editor will serve as the curator and content administrator of Just IN. The position will work with agency communications directors to identify story opportunities and to ensure agencies are generating high quality contents. He/she also will work closely with the Just IN Editorial Board and Just IN Governance Committee. The Managing Editor will determine content placement and make decisions affecting the production and presentation of Just IN. He/she also will assist in building a photo library and determining graphic needs of the news site. As needed, the position will handle production and write news pieces.
The documents also indicate that Pence has already hired former Indianapolis Star reporter Bill McCleery to be the “managing editor.” The Governor’s communications director Christy Denault and press secretary Kara Brooks are slated, according to the Star, to evaluate stories for inclusion on Just IN that are submitted by agency press secretaries.
Reports of Pence’s state news site sparked considerable alarm and criticism, as Breitbart News reported. Dave Read of the Central Indiana Coalition of Tea Parties referred to the report of the state news site as “a shocking development.”
“To think it will be anything but a well crafted PR machine for the Governor’s presidential aspirations is naïve,” Read told Breitbart News. “Instead of naming it ‘Just In’ he might as well call it ‘Pravda’ and call it a day.”
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, McCleery reportedly said, “posting press releases” was “nothing new in state government.”
According to the Star, Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D) said he was disappointed that the controversy over Pence’s Just IN news service had distracted from the news of the state’s having won a Medicaid expansion from the federal government.
“It just blows everything off the headlines. And that’s unfortunate,” Pelath said, suggesting that Pence “pull the plug on the whole thing. In public service, it’s OK to be the object of scorn, but not of ridicule. And this has become the object of ridicule.”