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Indiana’s NPR-hating Tea Party governor sets up state-run news agency to sidestep media

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Indiana’s NPR-hating Tea Party governor is setting up a taxpayer-funded state media outlet that will complete with other media outlets.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence plans a late February launch for “Just IN,” a website and news outlet that will publish feature and news stories written by state press secretaries, reported the Indianapolis Star.

The state-run news outlet will make those stories available to other media outlets and also “break” news about the Pence administration ahead of other media operations, the newspaper reported.

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The operation will be overseen by former Star reporter Bill McCleery and will employ one other dedicated employee, and their salaries will be nearly $100,000 combined.

The communications directors and other government employees who will contribute content – including “straightforward news to lighter features, including personality profiles” – are already paid by state taxpayers.

The Pence administration has not yet determined how and when it will give priority to “exclusive” coverage to other media outlets, according to documents obtained by the Star.

Pence urged an end to public funding for National Public Radio in 2011 after undercover video recorded by conservative provocateur James O’Keefe caught a former senior vice president for fundraising making critical comments about Tea Party members.

“It’s time to end public funding for NPR, it’s time to end public funding for Planned Parenthood of America, (for) these organizations that have a particular viewpoint, that advance a particular liberal viewpoint,” Pence, then a congressman, told Fox News.

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He pointed out to the conservative news network that NPR got most of its funding from corporate grants, but he said public funding should be ended to help cut the deficit and because its “biases are this clear and in the open.”

A spokeswoman for the governor, who is considering a presidential run, said Pence’s state-run news agency would be basically similar to Indiana’s current online news releases, but she said the site would be redesigned.

It’s not clear how the agency would differ from the Illinois Government News Network, which distributes press releases written in a ready-to-publish news format.

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“The real story is they’re leapfrogging all the mainstream media people,” said John Strauss, who runs Ball State University’s public broadcasting operation.

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