Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) is starting a state-run news agency that will offer pre-written stories to news outlets in the state, according to The Indianapolis Star, which obtained documents about the news service.
The new news service, called “Just IN” will also sometimes offer stories about Pence’s administration. The site is set to launch in the later half of February. Stories will be written by state press secretaries and will be overseen by Bill McCleery, a former reporter for the Star.
“At times, Just IN will break news —publishing information ahead of any other news outlet,” a question and answer sheet that went out to communications directors for state agencies said. “Strategies for determining how and when to give priority to such ‘exclusive’ coverage remain under discussion.”
A governance board of communications directors will oversee the agency. The editorial board will be made up of Pence’s communications team and McCleery.
According to the Just IN documents, the service will pitch stories both to reporters and to the public directly.
“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 said.
A big part of Just IN’s audience will be small news outlets in the state like The Commercial Review in Portland, Indiana. The publisher called the news agency “a ludicrous idea.”
“I have no problem with public information services —the Purdue University agriculture extension service does a great job,” Commercial Review publisher Jack Ronald told the Star. “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.”