IUPUI media professor discusses RFRA coverage

USA Today features Religious Freedom Restoration Act on front page. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)–Gov. Mike Pence is in the national spotlight as he defends against backlash that he says he never expected.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was a top story on CNN Tuesday, and local newspapers in San Francisco, Chicago and Charlotte all mentioned the bill on their front pages.

Locally, The Indianapolis Star led with an editorial urging lawmakers to protect LGBT citizens from discrimination.

“I think it’s extraordinary,” said Jonas Bjork, Chair of the Journalism and Public Relations Department at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

“I’ve been a Star reader for 28 years and I can’t think of anything similar. I think that drives home how big this issue has become,” Bjork said.

Bjork said that, because the issue is so important, the Star made the right call.

The bill’s been a hot topic for media, and for IUPUI students. Bjork said a PR class recently analyzed the Governor’s ABC interview.

“We use that as a teachable moment, as they say, as perhaps how not to do public relations,” he said.

After the interview, Gov. Pence faced criticism from gay rights advocates for defending the law. The next day, he penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed emphasizing that the bill is not a license to discriminate.

Tuesday, in a news conference that aired on 24-Hour News 8 and CNN, he asked lawmakers to draft a bill to help clarify RFRA.

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