Pence administration on ‘JustIN’: We used the wrong words

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 28, 2015) - Officials from Gov. Mike Pence’s office looked to clear the air Wednesday, regarding their proposed website that has sparked a national controversy.

The governor’s communications director told reporters the JustIN website was intended to be an updated version of the state’s existing press release resource site.

Pence staffers proceeded to give reporters some of the internal documents that have been circulated for months.  The documents, however, told a different story.

“JustIN: Indiana’s news service will provide daily online news…” was the headline gracing the front page of the JustIN internal resource circulated to Pence’s press staff.

In a document entitled “An Introduction to JustIN – an Indiana state news service,” a question asks: “Does JustIN cater to media or a general audience?” The answer reads, JustIN “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.”

Pence’s Communications Director Christy Denault backtracked at a Wednesday morning press briefing.

“We were very dismayed that we caused so much consternation and confusion, that was never the intent,” she said.

Denault shared regret over documents’ use of news terminology such as, breaking news, an outlet run by a managing editor, feature and exclusive stories.  She said the terminology muddied the real intention of JustIN, which she said was to provide an updated version of the state’s existing press release website to media and the public.

“I think we need to better explain the intent and adjust the language because we’re crossing worlds here and that’s not fair,” she told reporters.

“They ought to cancel the plans for this news bureau operation and go back to standard public relations,” said Jim Brown, a former journalism professor at IUPUI.

Brown is worried about the ethical implications a state-run news service could have.

“This seems to me to be a system that has the potential to use taxpayer dollars to enhance his own reputation through generated stories,” he said.

The governor’s press office told reporters Wednesday that the office staff plans to consult the Society of Professional Journalists to determine how best to roll out JustIN.  Initial plans were to have the website up and running by the end of February.