OUR VIEW: Readers must think critically about sources with Pence's planned state-run news service

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AT ISSUE: Critics take to social media after Pence announces state-run news service

Journalists and citizens alike took to social media to protest Gov. Mike Pence’s latest idea: Just IN, a state-run news service focusing on news releases and feature stories.

A parody Twitter account, @Just_IN_News, tweeted, “To those asking for a comment, you’re too late. We already interviewed ourselves and wrote a story.” But that account is not the only one tweeting about the news service; the #JustIN hashtag is gaining a lot of traffic as well.

STORIFY: Social media reacts to #JustIN announcement

Though Pence tried to downplay his news service as a resource, the damage had already been done.

But people may be reacting too quickly. We know very little information at the moment, so Just IN could turn out to be a more streamlined press release system, paid for by Indiana’s taxpayers.

It may be too soon to tell what effect Just IN will have, but there are many reasons why journalists and news consumers should be concerned going forward.

Including an editorial board implies that the news outlet will have a deeper purpose than press release distribution. It would have made more sense for Pence to issue a reorganization of the press release creation, rather than creating an entire outlet that competes with independent media.

That matters to journalists.

What matters to the everyday news consumer is that a state-run news service is the very definition of conflict of interest. How can readers trust a source that reports on itself? Rather than performing the service of an informative news outlet, Just IN has potential to turn into a source of propaganda.

The First Amendment proclaims the rights of freedom of the press, and in many ways, “Just IN” could infringe on those rights.

According to a question-and-answer sheet distributed to the communications directors for state agencies, “Just IN will break news — publishing information ahead of any other news outlet. Strategies for determining how and when to give priority to such ‘exclusive’ coverage remain under discussion.”

If this news service has potential to break news and give exclusive articles to certain media outlets, it is inherently disadvantageous to independent media.

State-run news services exist all around the world. The most notable of these are PressTV from Iran and Xinhua from China. These essentially serve as propaganda machines for their governments.

By no means are we saying Pence’s state-run news service is Press TV. But the conflict of interest crosses a significant line in the news presented to Indiana’s citizens, especially when those citizens are paying for potentially biased content through taxes.

No matter your opinion on the liberal media or the mainstream bias of news, removing “watchdog” from the job description of journalists degrades integrity of the stories readers consume every day.

Now more than ever, it is essential that readers think critically about the information they receive and who that information is coming from.

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