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Opening Arguments

This just in

A lot of people in the press are grumbling over the state's intrusion on their turf after Gov. Mike Pence announced that the state its creating its own news agency. Called "Just IN," the website "will feature stories written by state press secretaries and is being overseen by a former Indianapolis Star reporter, Bill McCleery" and stories there will "range from straightforward news to lighter features, including personality profiles."

Clearly, part of the motivation is to bypass the regular media and go directly to Hoosiers with stories the state can put its own spin on. So there is that objection. Remember how Pence ended up apologizing after his office deleted hundreds of comments on the governor's official Facebook page for disagreeing with his stance in opposition of same-sex marriage recognition?

And Reason's Scott Shackford points out another objection:

So the idea that Gov. Mike Pence (R) wants to start a state-run media outlet may inspire all sorts of outrage about government propaganda, but really the concern should be about pointless government waste and the creation of unnecessary taxpayer-funded jobs.

[. . .]

Who doesn't want to read "personality profiles" written by a state communications director? No doubt Indiana citizens are chomping at the bit to hear all about the hobbies of the new file clerk that processes fishing licenses at the state's Department of Natural Resources. Because make no mistake, that's exactly the kind of crap that's going to come out of this endeavor.

In my experience as an editor, whenever a government agency gets upset that the media isn't reporting what it wants to report, yes, sometimes it's because they aren't getting favorable coverage on controversial or complex matters. But in addition, government functionaries often really, really think that whatever they do is so very, very important and cannot fathom the idea that the public doesn't want to hear all about it. Declining to cover a road crew worker getting a county award for safety or a $10,000 federal grant to facilitate pet adoptions confuses and even offends them sometimes.

Oh, well. Governments have been doing this forever. They're called "press releases," and putting them on a website and calling them "news" won't change anything. When I was a young reporter in Michign City, btw, we had a business editor who moonlighted as a flak for the Chamber of Commerce. He would get paid money by the Chamber to write its press releases and then by the newspaper to turn them into news stories. The ethics of this profession, at least, have evolved somewhat.

Oh, and the Reason entry is marred somewhat by the fact that the writer has apparently never heard of "Hoosiers." The headline on the piece is, "Clearly What Indianans Need Is a Taxpayer-Funded News Outlet." Indianans. Really? Couldn't we at least be Indigans?