Policies and standards
Learn more about our Policies and Standard below.
Forum Communications Co. newsrooms abide by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which is below.
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.
The Society declares these four principles as the foundation of ethical journalism and encourages their use in its practice by all people in all media.
Seek Truth and Report It
Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
- Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
- Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
- Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
- Gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
- Be cautious when making promises, but keep the promises they make.
- Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.
- Consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Explain why anonymity was granted.
- Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.
- Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
- Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.
- Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
- Recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government. Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.
- Provide access to source material when it is relevant and appropriate.
- Boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience. Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.
- Avoid stereotyping. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.
- Label advocacy and commentary.
- Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. Clearly label illustrations and re-enactments.
- Never plagiarize. Always attribute.
Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.
- Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
- Show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent. Consider cultural differences in approach and treatment.
- Recognize that legal access to information differs from an ethical justification to publish or broadcast.
- Realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than public figures and others who seek power, influence or attention. Weigh the consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information.
- Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.
- Balance a suspect’s right to a fair trial with the public’s right to know. Consider the implications of identifying criminal suspects before they face legal charges.
- Consider the long-term implications of the extended reach and permanence of publication. Provide updated and more complete information as appropriate.
The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
- Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
- Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
- Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
- Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.
Be Accountable and Transparent
Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public.
- Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
- Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
- Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.
- Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.
- Abide by the same high standards they expect of others.
The SPJ Code of Ethics is a statement of abiding principles supported by additional explanations and position papers that address changing journalistic practices. It is not a set of rules, rather a guide that encourages all who engage in journalism to take responsibility for the information they provide, regardless of medium. The code should be read as a whole; individual principles should not be taken out of context. It is not, nor can it be under the First Amendment, legally enforceable.
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Forum Communications Co. is a family-owned network of community-driven newsrooms, award-winning broadcast stations and new media products. Our vision is to create connected and informed communities. We are a next-generation multimedia company developing and delivering content, technology and business services to our network of customers and communities. All editorial decisions are made locally by local editors. The company has been owned and operated by the Black/Marcil family since 1917.
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Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of staff. Often, that byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, that require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
Also, on Forum Communications Company websites, you will also sometimes see that stories are written by other organizations/agencies/services. Below is a list of news services FCC sites use and a description of each.
Reuters: Reuters journalists provide news coverage in over 16 languages and reach billions of people worldwide every day. The organization has operated since 1851. More about Reuters.
Tribune News Service: Operated jointly by the Tribune Company, Tribune News Service serves more than 1,200 media clients across the globe and works with 600-plus contributors worldwide. More about Tribune News Service.
Minnesota Public Radio: Minnesota Public Radio produces programming for radio, digital and live audiences and operates a 46-station radio network serving nearly all of Minnesota and parts of surrounding states. More about MPR.
South Dakota News Watch: South Dakota News Watch, founded in 2017, is an independent non-profit committed to reporting the most important statewide stories, from agriculture to education, public safety to politics. More about South Dakota News Watch.
Kaiser Health News: KHN is a nonprofit news organization covering healthcare policy and politics. KHN's mission is to provide high-quality coverage of health policy issues and developments at the federal and state levels. More about KHN.
North Dakota Newspaper Association: The North Dakota Newspaper Association was founded in 1885 to support and advocate for all North Dakota newspapers. More about the North Dakota Newspaper Association.
Minnesota Newspaper Association: The Minnesota Newspaper Association is the voluntary trade association of all general-interest newspapers in the state of Minnesota. More about the Minnesota Newspaper Association.
Field Level Media: Field Level Media provides sports news and analysis. It was founded "by sports media executives with more than 40 years of combined experience working with print and digital content platforms with the most influential media companies in the industry." More about Field Level Media.
South Dakota News Watch: Founded in 2017, this organization is an independent non-profit reporting on statewide stories, from agriculture to education, public safety to politics. Learn more about South Dakota News Watch.
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Social media policy
We want our social media channels to be a space where members of our community can engage in respectful dialogue and commentary related to news and information. We support the diversity of opinion, presuming that opinion is expressed in a civilized manner. We reserve the right to hide or remove comments we believe go against these community guidelines and may block users who consistently abuse these rules. Moderation decisions are subjective, but we will make them as diligently and consistently as possible.
In an effort to maintain a safe space for all within our social channels, we will not tolerate:
- Profanity, vulgarity, racial slurs or personal attacks
- Harassment of others or inappropriate commentary regarding tragedies
- Threats of violence
- Disturbing or R-rated images
- Spam, including irrelevant links or photos not pertaining to our content
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As journalists, we’re reluctant to use unnamed sources and will do so only with the approval of the editor. We only use anonymous sources when their information is essential to an important story, we can’t get the information any other way and editors know the name of the source. Using an unnamed source is rare and reporters do not grant “off the record” interviews without discussion with an editor.
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We’re in this together, and we love to hear from you. Questions? Comments? Tips? Feedback from readers is incredibly important to us as we strive to tell the most impactful stories and news of our local communities. Our readers are often the eyes and ears we rely on to help us do just this. Contact us through email, letter or phone.
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Find our contact info here.
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