Indiana’s Governor Is Introducing A State-Run News Service To Compete With Regular Media

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is starting up his own state-run news service. Called Just IN, this news service will offer pre-written stories to various news outlets across Indiana, according to Talking Points Memo. It will also offer breaking news about the administration. Pence plans to launch Just IN next month.

The Indianapolis Star obtained documents on the state-run news service, which say that state press secretaries will write up the stories, and Bill McCleery, a former Star reporter, will oversee the whole thing. The Star posted some information from one of the question-and-answer sheets circulated by Pence’s office, which said:

“At times, Just IN will break news — publishing information ahead of any other news outlet. Strategies for determining how and when to give priority to such ‘exclusive’ coverage remain under discussion.”

This state-run news service will receive funding from taxpayers, but the Star hasn’t found out just how much yet. The taxpayer funding is just one of the problems with this, however. According to the Star, Jack Ronald, the publisher of the Portland Commercial Review, said:

“I think it’s a ludicrous idea. I have no problem with public information services — the Purdue University agriculture extension service does a great job. But the notion of elected officials presenting material that will inevitably have a pro-administration point of view is antithetical to the idea of an independent press.”

He’s right. That is generally a fundamental problem with state-run news services. Why would they print or report anything that’s critical of their activities or their people? It often becomes propaganda, rather than news; or, at best, it’s strongly spun news intended to make mistakes, missteps, and other problems look somehow good.

However, depending on how Just IN runs, and how the independent media is expected to handle the articles and releases, it may not be all bad. Illinois has its own state-run news service, called the Illinois Government News Network (IGNN). The service has been around since at least 1999, and publishes news and releases on their site, which has a statement at the top saying:

“The Governor’s Office News page provides access to all press releases from the Governor’s Press Office, addressing topics such as education, budget issues, Illinois resources, public safety, health care, and much more.”

It doesn’t appear that IGNN tries to compete with, or influence, how Illinois media outlets report on the government’s activities (if they do, they don’t seem to be doing a particularly good job). Rather, it just looks like they provide information on one site, making it easier to find. Sure, that information is probably selective in some ways, but it’s better than trying to compete outright with the independent media, or unduly influence them.

However, the Star says that Pence actually intends to use his state-run news service to try and either circumvent the independent media, or, at the very least, try and control the message going out. Pence had something alarming to say about it:

“We expect reporters to find the site useful, and some features are designed specifically for media professionals. 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.” [emphasis mine]

Governor Pence is considering a run for the White House in 2016. Depending on his end-game with this state-run news service, it might help him because it could show that he supports transparency and information-sharing. But, given what he’s actually said about this, it looks like he wants Just IN to be on par with the rest of the media. That’s not good news.

 

Featured image by Mark Taylor. Licensed under CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr