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Over Easy: This ‘Just IN’

Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Indiana Governor Mike Pence

The Indianapolis Star revealed on Monday that Republican Governor Mike Pence plans to launch a state-run news agency to provide pre-written stories to news outlets in the state. This announcement was met with a storm of criticism, from Republicans and Democrats, some of it quite amusing.

Just IN is intended to offer news articles about Pence’s administration, written by Pence’s administration, and funded by Indiana taxpayers. The Governor plans to launch Just IN the latter part of February. State press secretaries will write stories overseen by Bill McCleery, who was formerly an IndyStar reporter. An editorial board of communications directors, comprised of McCleery and Pence’s communications team, will oversee the agency. According to a Q&A sheet distributed to statewide news agency communications directors and obtained by the IndyStar,

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.

Short version: Just IN will compete with the actual Indiana press.

IndyStar political columnist Matthew Tully calls it Mike Pence’s horrible idea.

One can only imagine how the state-run, taxpayer-funded Mike Pence News Service would have covered some recent news stories.

Take the governor’s mind-boggling decision in October to turn his back on an all-but guaranteed $80 million federal grant that could have funded preschool programs for thousands of low-income Indiana children. The likely Pence Propaganda Service headline: “Governor generously steers $80 million federal grant to the children of Iowa.”

Or how about the ongoing battles between the governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz? Well, I don’t know what the headline would be. But my guess is the reader comments section would prohibit all of those reminders that Ritz got 57,000 more votes than Pence did in the 2012 elections.

The IndyStar’s Tim Swarens, opinion editor/columnist, wrote “Governor, kill the Pence ‘News’ Agency now”

Beyond the effort to improperly control the news, it’s also disappointing that a self-described fiscal and small-government conservative would latch on to such a wasteful expense and such an unnecessary expansion of the government’s reach. Governor, it goes against everything you say you stand for in terms of the government’s role and purpose.

A final point: Whatever good you originally hoped to accomplish with this scheme is now impractical. The plan to launch this “news” agency has been met with such scorn that any work it churns out in the future would be all but guaranteed to fail. The thing with the news business is that once your credibility is gone, it’s pretty much gone for good. And the Pence “News” Agency would have zero credibility from the start.

So, governor, do the right thing and pull the plug on this horrible, terrible, really no-good idea. And do it now.

An IndyStar editorial cartoonist, Gary Varvel, summed it up perfectly with a cartoon. Pence News Network cartoon

Pence is suffering nearly universal scorn and ridicule, even from fellow Indiana Republicans, for his plan to launch Just IN.

On Twitter, people have been calling the new agency “Pravda on the Plains” and “Izvestia in Indiana.” Chicago’s CBS affiliate WBBM, which broadcasts into northwest Indiana, was particularly sarcastic in an opinion piece on its website titled “Welcome to the Gulag, Love Mike Pence.” Being termed “Emperor Pence” probably isn’t the reaction he was expecting.

Pence frantically backpedaled later in the week,

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,” Pence added. “It’s meant to be a resource, not a news source and we’ll be clarifying that in the days ahead.

As an Indiana resident, I’m hoping this is one more nail in the coffin of Pence’s considerable presidential ambitions. He’s a legend in his own mind. Dasvidanya, Mike!

Credits: Pence photo Governor Pence home page. Gary Varvel cartoon, IndyStar.

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I retired from the University of Notre Dame in the Office of Information Technology in 2010. I'm divorced, with two grown children and 8 grandchildren. I'm a lifelong liberal and a "nonbeliever."