Governor Mike Pence Can Make His Own State-Sponsored News, Thanks

Move raises ethical questions

Holy Pravda, Batman!

You may remember a post from nearly a year ago about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attempts to present the public with a more “transparent” (read: flattering) portrait of his administration via its own YouTube channel.

While the “pilot” episode of the government vlog “The State of New York” (which does NOT run on taxpayer dollars) no longer lives online, the series continues. Here’s its latest weekly webisode:

Note the anemic number of views for these videos; when we made the mistake of scrolling through the comments on the original last February, we encountered overwhelmingly negative sentiments as citizens criticized Cuomo for making an attempt to direct the public narrative about his government.

We repeated our headline from February because last night we learned that Indiana Governor Mike Pence has chosen to follow Cuomo’s lead in creating a “state-run news outlet” to compete with local media. (For partisan context, Cuomo is a Democrat and Pence is a Republican.)

As for the “why,” here’s The Indianapolis Star:

“[Just IN] will make pre-written news stories available to Indiana media, as well as sometimes break news about his administration…”

In other words, it will be an extension of the administration’s media relations wing. The Star notes that most of the stories distributed to local organizations by Just IN will be written by “state communications directors,” or Pence’s own PR people. And unlike Cuomo’s project, it will require some public funds:

“The news service has two dedicated employees, whose combined salary is nearly $100,000, according to a search of state employee salary data.”

Not great for Manhattan, but pretty good for Indianapolis. Pence sort of explained himself on Twitter last night:

So the news service will effectively be a collection of press releases. But the site will have a managing editor, and its “common questions” doc notes that it will also seek to “function as a news outlet in its own right for thousands of Hoosiers” — including those who responded to Pence’s tweet with references to history’s worst dictators. (Note that Pence is a “small government conservative” with Presidential ambitions who opposes the expansion of federal Medicaid services in his state.)

The new effort plans to start by targeting smaller publications with few employees, or the kind that often struggle to produce enough of their own content; both journalists and Pence’s conservative constituents appear less than impressed.

Maybe the problem lay in the rollout…or maybe this is just the new political reality.