Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's recently unveiled plans to disseminate news and press releases to the masses has many in the media up in arms.
That website, called "Just IN", is being launched in February and will "serve as a one-stop resource for press releases from the governor, lieutenant governor and the agencies they oversee," the Associated Press reported.
The Indianapolis Star obtained internal documents about the site's launch that detailed a plan to have state communications officials write news stories and distribute them through "Just IN." The site, the newspaper reported Monday, would include stories and news releases written by state press secretaries for the public and the media and at times would break news.
The Associated Press also reported that the notion of stories pre-written for the media set off a wave of criticism from journalists around the country, who likened the Indiana endeavor to state-run media in Russia and China. Headlines like "Pravda in the Plains" accompanied calls for Pence to scrap the idea.
Call me naive, but I am not too worried.
If Pence is really after what everyone fears, then it shouldn't take long for the real journalists to separate fact from fiction and make this feared "news outlet" one that is visited only by journalists, politicians and the governor's cronies.
For example, let's say a "communication official" breaks some news on this updated website. If I were to then publish it in The Brazil Times as-is, without any sort of fact-checking, editing out the biased baloney or adding opinions from opposing sources, I would be doing our readers a disservice.
I get dozens of press release from public officials, businesses and others each week. Most of them knowingly include bias or opinion and understand the media's obligation to whittle out the fluff and portray both sides, or multiple angles, of the story. There are always a few who are taken aback when information they feel is important is taken out or if they are made uncomfortable by follow-up questions.
But, as journalists, we are supposed to make sense of whatever we are presented and present a fair and accurate report. Sure, that task has grown more challenging with less people to tackle the evolving medium, but, in my opinion, it is the core of our profession.