Gov. Pence press officials explain intent of “JustIN”

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 28, 2015) - CBS4 received more internal documents Wednesday, shedding light on the proposed JustIN website that has caused a national firestorm.

Officials from the Governor’s press office said Wednesday, JustIn was to act as an updated version of the state’s existing press release website.

But newly released documents, internal mock-ups of the website, and emails to the site’s staff that have been in the works for months, tell a very different story.

“JustIN: Indiana’s news service will provide daily online news…” is the headline gracing the front page of the JustIN internal resource that was 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 Communication Director Christy Denault backtracked at a Wednesday morning press briefing.

“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 said.

Denault explained the news language used in the office’s internal documents, muddied the real intention of JustIN, which she said was to be an updated version of the state’s existing press release website.

Internal documents using specific news terms like “breaking news,” an outlet run by a “managing editor,” and “feature and narrative stories,” are all words administration officials admit they regret using.

“When we’re thinking about exclusives, we’re thinking about the kind of content an agency may not generate like a feature story – Sorry, there I am again,” said Denault.

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

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.

Pence press officials told reporters Wednesday, they plan 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.

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