The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 4:17 pm

Pence staffers apologize for botched roll out of state news service

Niki KellyThe Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS - Staffers for Gov. Mike Pence apologized Wednesday for using incorrect terminology in its botched roll out of a state press release and calendar revamp.

"We're crossing worlds here and that's not fair," said Pence Communications Director Christy Denault. "If we're going to do this we want to do this right. We were very dismayed we caused so much consternation and confusion."

The language used in internal documents referred to Just IN as a state news service that would write and break exclusive stories, have a managing editor and an editorial board and function as a news outlet.

She said the stories referred to are press releases and said the staff is happy to adjust the terms to avoid journalistic phrases.

Denault wouldn't say who wrote the governance documents specifically - only that it was a team effort.

News of the state-run news outlet spread quickly Monday and diminished a major healthcare announcement by Pence Tuesday. It also resulted in national reports mocking the idea and making comparisons to communist countries controlling the press. 

"I think there are some very clever media out there," Denault said. "I certainly understand the sentiment."

She said the plan was never meant to be an end-run around the press. Instead it was supposed to be a clearinghouse of improved press releases in a better format than the current calendar to better serve both the media and the public.

But even during Wednesday's meeting with reporters she kept referring to press releases as stories.

Two people have been hired to managed Just IN - one a former reporter. She said they will polish and prioritize the releases and place them on the website with photos. The employees make $100,000 together.

Denault said it is still possible that the site might write and post feature articles, for instance a story on a veteran BMV customer service clerk.

She and her staff will meet with the Hoosier State Press Association and the Society of Professional Journalists to discuss the issue further.

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