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Policies and standards

Forum Building
The Forum building.
2015

We believe that transparency and honesty are at the center of good journalism. We strive for this in our coverage and conduct. This section of our site is a part of that effort and a part of our involvement with the Trust Project, a global network of news organizations working to amplify journalism's commitment to transparency, accuracy, inclusion and fairness. Learn more about the Trust Project.

Here we describe our standards for how we report the news, who our leadership team is, how you can contact us, our mission and more. We hope it provides you — our reader — a transparent look at the ideals, people and processes that guide the work we do in the community we share.

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Mission statement and coverage priorities

Every day we strive to produce journalism that truly matters to North Dakotans and Minnesotans. Our highest priority is public service – shining light on issues that deeply affect their lives and holding local and state governments and institutions accountable. With the largest newsroom in the state, we feel a responsibility to give readers coverage that is ambitious, broad and fair. We also want to make certain that we show the bright side of the news, stories of people making a positive difference in their communities.

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Ethics policy

Forum Communications Co. newsrooms abide by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which is below.

Preamble
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.

Journalists should:

  • 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. 

Minimize Harm
Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.

Journalists should:

  • 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. 

Act independently
The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.

Journalists should:

  • 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.

Journalists should:

  • 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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Conflicts of interest

Conflicts of interest can present themselves on several different fronts. As journalists, we strive to maintain trust with our audience and avoid conflicts of interest.

As a rule journalists avoid:

  • Reporting on family or close friends
  • Taking positions on political or social issues
  • Accepting gifts and discounts or free copies of products, books, films and games for review (unsolicited items sent to the newsroom should be used only to the extent of completing a review or coverage)

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Diverse voices policy

Our readership is diverse, and we aim to provide our audiences with diverse voices and contributions. We seek diversity not just in ethnicity, but in political affiliation, gender, ages, geography and areas of interest. Our mission is to serve underrepresented communities and create a safe space where diverse voices have the freedom to share their views and ideas.

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Diverse staffing report

Inclusiveness is at the heart of thinking and acting as journalists. The complex issues we face as a society require respect for different viewpoints. Race, class, generation, gender and geography all affect point of view. Reflecting these differences in our reporting leads to better, more nuanced stories and a better-informed community.

This section details the race/ethnicity, gender and age demographics of Forum Communications newsrooms for North Dakota, Minnesota and in aggregate.

Minnesota

North Dakota

All Forum Communications newsrooms

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Corrections

Every effort is made to report stories that are fair, accurate and thorough. Even the best journalists have to make corrections or clarifications through no fault of their own (incorrect information provided, for instance).

If a correction or clarification is needed, the original online story will be amended and noted as “updated.” At the end of the story, readers will see an italicized note explaining the change.

When possible, corrections and clarifications will be filed in the print or e-edition immediately following discovery of the error, in consultation with an editor. Corrections will refer to the headline, page and edition while clearly stating the correct facts. We will not restate the error.

Contact us to request a correction.

Removal policy

Forum Communications Co. publishes a wide range of news reports and information. News can take various formats, such as news articles or publication of official records, and generally we will not unpublish what we consider to be news or part of the historical public record.

We strive for information to be accurate, complete and up-to-date -- and consider requests for updating or correcting archived content. Removal requests can be made by submitting this form.

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Datelines

Local story datelines indicate where the story originated from.

The following cities in Minnesota are large enough and/or well known enough to stand alone: Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, Moorhead, Mankato, Rochester, St. Cloud, St. Paul and, of course, Minneapolis.

The following cities in North Dakota are large enough and/or well known enough to stand alone: Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown, Dickinson, Minot, Devils Lake, Bismarck.

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Ownership structure

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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Founding date

1878

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Senior editorial team

Matthew Von Pinnon, Editor-in-chief
I've been at The Forum for nearly 28 years, the last 15 as editor-in-chief. I delivered The Forum as a boy and started working at The Forum as a summer intern. I've also worked as a reporter, copy editor, page designer, weekend editor, city editor and managing editor at The Forum. I grew up in Moorhead, attended Minnesota State University-Moorhead, lived in Fargo for 15 years and now live in West Fargo with my wife and two daughters.Contact Matthew Von Pinnon.

Paula Quam, InForum Managing Digital Editor
I have been working at Forum Communications since 2011, but my career in news goes way back. A Glyndon, Minn. native, I served as an Air Force broadcaster in Turkey and Italy before moving "back home" to join the news business in Fargo. It’s here that I worked as a TV news anchor/reporter for six years before moving from broadcast to newspaper work as a reporter/editor. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Minnesota State University Moorhead. My husband Donavon and I live in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota with our four children. Contact Paula Quam.

Jeff Nelson, News Director WDAY-TV
I have been working in local news for 27 years and I have been the News Director at WDAY for the last 17 years. I grew up in northern Minnesota and graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in history. I have worked for stations in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota. I have been married for 27 years and have two adult children. Contact Jeff Nelson.

Drew Trafton, WDAY-TV assistant news director
I've been at WDAY since 2013. I started out as the weekend anchor and reporter and have since held several different positions. I became the assistant news director in 2016. I spend most of my working hours these days on our morning newscast. I grew up in Billings, MT and attended the University of Montana. I live in Moorhead, MN with my wife and two children. Contact Drew Trafton.

Archie Ingersoll, news editor
I've worked at The Forum since 2013, first as a reporter covering criminal justice, refugee populations and various other topics. I became the paper's news editor in 2017. I currently lead a team of five reporters in Fargo and three reporters in Bismarck. I previously worked in newsrooms in Grand Forks, Dickinson, Minneapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana. I live in Fargo with my wife and five kids. Contact Archie Ingersoll.

Kaity Young, news editor
I joined Forum Communications as a copy editor in 2018 and started working at The Forum as a news editor the following year. I grew up in the tiny town of Dent, Minnesota. I studied English at Gustavus Adolphus College and went on to earn my master’s degree at the University of Minnesota Duluth. I live in Fargo with my fiance, two cats, and a tortoise. Contact Kaity Young.

Angela Wieck, business editor
I joined The Forum in 2004 as assistant to the editor and public editor. In 2008, I began reporting on business. I was named the business editor in 2016. I grew up on a farm in southeast North Dakota. I earned degrees in English and business administration at the University of Jamestown. Contact Angela Wieck.

Tom Larson, sports editor
I began my professional journalism career in 1983 while in college at the University of Minnesota and have worked as a news reporter, sports reporter and columnist and news and sports editor at the St. Cloud Times, the Duluth News Tribune, the former Morris Sun-Tribune and the West Central Tribune. I’ve worked at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead since January 2021. I am a native of Benson, Minn. Contact Tom Larson.

John Miller, assistant sports editor
I joined The Forum as a part-time sports clerk in 2017 and became a full-time employee as a public information reporter in August 2018. I was named The Forum’s assistant sports editor in January 2021. I grew up near the small town of Melrose, Minnesota. I studied communication studies and sports communications in college at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Contact John Miller.

Ryan Johnson, features editor
I was born in Grand Forks, N.D., and I’ve lived in the Red River Valley for most of my life. I started my journalism career in the 2000s, writing news, feature stories and columns for the Dakota Student newspaper at the University of North Dakota before being hired at the Grand Forks Herald in 2009. Over the years, I’ve covered political campaigns and local government meetings, wrote concert reviews and event previews, regularly published personal columns, kept up with local business news and filed way too many stories about weather in North Dakota and Minnesota. I’ve worked at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead since 2012 and served as the features editor since 2018. Contact Ryan Johnson.

Michael Vosburg, photo editor
I am a Fargo native and a 1990 graduate of North Dakota State University. I earned a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism and worked for newspapers in Norfolk, Neb., Columbia, Mo., and San Angelo, Tex., before joining The Forum in 2002. I now live in Fargo with my wife. We have two adult daughters. Contact Michael Vosburg.

Wendy Reuer, assistant West Fargo Pioneer editor
I joined The Forum as a night reporter in 2010. In 2014, I started my unique position of reporter and West Fargo Pioneer assistant editor. I grew up in Tappen, N.D., and Jamestown, N.D., where my parents still raise, train and race quarter horses. I attended the University of Minnesota, Morris, where I studied psychology, liberal arts and communications. I now live in West Fargo, where I am often trying DIY remodeling projects. Contact Wendy Reuer.

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Policy on articles with staff or agency/service bylines

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.

Mayo News Network: The Mayo Clinic News Network is a public facing news site that offers consumer news, health tips, science research, news releases and patient stories. More about Mayo News Network.

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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Daily polls

The daily polls our our site are not scientifically-controlled polls. Any reader can participate. Results of these polls merely reflect the responses of those who chose to answer the question, and should not be interpreted as representative of the population as a whole.

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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:

  1. Profanity, vulgarity, racial slurs or personal attacks
  2. Harassment of others or inappropriate commentary regarding tragedies
  3. Threats of violence
  4. Disturbing or R-rated images
  5. Spam, including irrelevant links or photos not pertaining to our content

InForum social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
WDAY social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Verification standards (fact-checking)

Forum Communications newsrooms commit to publishing accurate news and information across its network. We take many steps to ensure accuracy – we investigate claims with skepticism, question assumptions, challenge conventional wisdom, confirm information with experts and seek to corroborate sources. We verify content against source documents or make clear who is providing the information. We may share relevant components of a story with a primary source or an outside expert to verify them.

We stand by the information as accurate. If it’s not, we will change it as quickly as possible and be transparent with our readers about the error.

We guide our journalists to ask the following questions when they double-check information in a quest for the truth.

  • How do you know?
  • How can you be sure?
  • What is the evidence?
  • Who is the source, and how does the source know?
  • What is the support documentation?

We include the name and contact information of the reporter for each news item we publish.
We welcome feedback from our readers and sources regarding the information that we publish.

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Unnamed sources

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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Feedback statement

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. You can also reach out via Facebook or Twitter.

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Privacy policy

Read our privacy policy here.

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Contact info

Tips and corrections
news@forumcomm.com
news@wday.com

Newsroom contact info
Forum newsroom: news@forumcomm.com
WDAY newsroom: news@wday.com
Letters to the editor: letters@forumcomm.com
Sports information: sports@forumcomm.com | sports@wday.com

To request that content be removed from the website, please read our guidelines and policy prior to submitting a form.

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About the Trust Project

The Trust Project is a global network of news organizations building "Trust Indicators" and working with technology platforms to affirm and amplify journalism's commitment to transparency, accuracy, inclusion and fairness so that the public can make informed news choices.

The Trust Project logo

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