Madison television political reporter Greg Neumann apparently took issue with White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus’ call for reporters to stop using anonymous sources. In fact, anonymous sources are a staple of reporting. It is accepted in journalism that, at times, it is necessary for a reporter to provide anonymity to a source in order to get a story published or aired. But Neumann used a suspect analogy in a tweet to make that point to Preibus:
Hey @Reince – I'll name every anonymous source as soon as you tell me the name of every GOP Super PAC donor.
— Greg Neumann (@gneumann_wkow) February 19, 2017
In fact, Super PACs are required to disclose their donors.
Technically known as independent expenditure-only committees, super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. Unlike traditional PACs, super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates, and their spending must not be coordinated with that of the candidates they benefit. Super PACs are required to report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or semiannual basis – the super PAC’s choice – in off-years, and monthly in the year of an election.
Campaign Freedom states it very clearly:
One major misconception about Super PACs is the incorrect belief that they do not disclose their donors. In fact, all Super PACs are required by law to disclose their donors. This disclosure includes the name of the individual, group, or other entity that is contributing, the date on which the contribution occurred, and the amount given. Additionally, Super PACs must report all of their expenditures.
Neumann’s Twitter handle includes the call letters of his television employer, WKOW in Madison. This raises the question of whether journalists who tweet are expressing their own opinion or speaking in their professional capacity as a reporter, just on a non-traditional platform. Neumann’s identity as a journalist is clear on his Twitter feed. Should he and other reporters be held to journalistic standards on Twitter?
Reporters who are accused of bias by omission for not reporting stories on their primary media platform will sometimes claim “I tweeted that.” Does that make Twitter simply another platform from which they report? If so, does that mean this tweet by Neumann constitutes erroneous reporting? It also raises questions about other tweets by Neumann:
Media Trackers reached out to Neumann for comment and didn’t get a response. However, a short time later we found ourselves blocked from viewing his Twitter feed.