INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WOWO): JustIN is dead before it even started.
The state “news” agency that prompted criticism from news organizations as well as lawmakers from both political parties was spiked by Governor Pence, one day after he alluded to possibly doing so during an appearance on Greg Garrison‘s show on 93 WIBC. “However well intentioned, after thorough review of the preliminary planning and careful consideration of the concerns expressed, I am writing to inform you that I have made a decision to terminate development of the JustIN website immediately,” the memo from Pence read.
Details on JustIN were leaked to Tom LoBianco of the Indianapolis Star and later spread among other news organizations. Internal memos on the website indicated that it would not only publish press releases from executive branch agencies, it would also publish “news stories” and sometimes “break news” ahead of other, independent news departments. The effort would have been led by a “managing editor”, believed to be former Star reporter Bill McCleery, and would have been governed by an editorial board comprised of communications directors from state agencies.
Initially, Pence‘s media team tried to explain that the “news” wording was a misunderstanding, and Pence told Garrison it was his understanding that the site would simply be a clearinghouse for press releases from state agencies. “We don‘t have editors in state government, for heaven‘s sakes. We don‘t have editorial boards in state government,” Pence said during his radio appearance, saying he did not approve of the language used in the internal memo.
His memo distributed on Thursday echoed that. “The original intent of this project was to make press releases more readily available in a one-stop website for the convenience of the press and the public,” the memo read. “At present, approximately 50 of the 90 executive branch state agencies and commissions post press releases on the state‘s current public calendar website. This results in the press and the public having to visit multiple sources to stay informed about state activities.”
Pence instead told agencies to continue working to make their releases more accessible. “(R)ather than developing a new website, I have instructed the Office of Information Technology update the current public calendar website to ensure that the press and the public have unfiltered and convenient access to all press releases and public meeting notices.”
JustIN brought ridicule from across the country, with allusions to the state-run “news” services of totalitarian countries like China and Iran. Pence‘s memo to kill the site became public shortly after an attempt by House Democrats to kill state funding for it. A JustIN de-funding amendment to a bill dealing with qualifications for state building commissioners was killed in a procedural vote in the House, despite sympathy for the amendment from House Republicans.