Indiana Gov. Mike Pence moved Tuesday to distance himself from reports that his administration will launch a state-run news site, characterizing descriptions of the site as a "misunderstanding" based on internal documents.
Pence said the "Just IN" website being launched in February will serve as a one-stop resource for press releases from the governor, lieutenant governor and the agencies they oversee.
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 notion of stories prewritten 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.
Pence said Tuesday that the characterization of the site as a news agency represented "an understandable misunderstanding."
"My understanding is that the website that has become a source of controversy was simply to have a one-stop shopping website for press releases and information," he said. "It's meant to be a resource, not a news source.
"I have great, great respect for the role that the media plays. I've been a champion of that throughout my career and will make sure this website reflects that proper role," he said.
The former radio talk show host advocated for the media while in Congress, supporting shield laws to protect journalists from being compelled to reveal confidential sources. He also opposed the Fairness Doctrine, which allowed the government more control over political speech on the airwaves. The doctrine was struck down in 1987.
The flap over the website comes as Pence draws increased scrutiny over a possible 2016 White House bid.