“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,” a question-and-answer sheet distributed to state agencies and obtained by the Indianapolis Star says.
The news site will have an editorial board overseen by Bill McCleery, a former Star reporter, and Pence’s communications staff. The state has hired two dedicated employees to work on the news service at a combined salary of almost $100,000 — though it’s not clear just how much taxpayer money the state will spend on the site.
Pence’s administration thinks the news service could write stories that would be picked up by smaller newspapers that don’t have big newsrooms.
“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,” one of the documents obtained by the Star says.
But editors and columnists across the state were aghast at the idea.
“A state-run news agency? What in the name of Vladimir Putin is the Pence administration thinking?” wrote Matthew Tully, a Star columnist. “The state’s conservative governor is creating his own news agency, one that will seek to compete with the traditional media and be funded by taxpayers. You can’t make this stuff up. Unless you work at The Onion, I guess.”
The administration sought to downplay the significance of Just IN. In a tweet late Monday, Pence said the new site would offer the same service as the current state calendar of press releases, but with a new look. A draft article written by McCleery spotlights a Purdue University professor who is creating torches for Indiana’s upcoming bicentennial.