Policies and standards

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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

With a focus on quality storytelling in print and online, we at the Perham Focus strive to produce and deliver local journalism that truly matters to the people of Perham, Otter Tail County and the surrounding areas. Our highest priorities are truth, accuracy and public service – shining light on issues that affect our readers’ lives, and holding local governments and institutions accountable. We also endeavor to show the brighter side of the news, sharing stories about the people and organizations that make a positive difference in our communities.

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Ethics policy

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.

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 Minnesota and in aggregate.


All Forum Communications newsrooms

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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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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

June 26, 1913

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Senior editorial team

Tris Anderson, Managing Editor

Nathan Bowe, News Editor
Bowe has worked as a reporter, editor and news editor of the Detroit Lakes Tribune since 2001; he took on the additional role of news editor of the Perham Focus at the start of 2022. He has also worked at newspapers in Bemidji, Fargo, and Wahpeton, N.D. since graduating from North Dakota State University in 1989.

Bowe covers the Becker County Board and the court system for the Tribune, and handles both newspapers’ opinion pages. As news editor, he is the go-to contact person for readers and the general public: breaking or hard news tips, story ideas, questions and general feedback should be directed to him.

Originally from Fargo, Bowe has lived in Detroit Lakes since 1996. His family has had a cabin on Cotton Lake since the 1950s.

Bowe has been married to Teresa for 25 years and their son, Jonah, also lives in Detroit Lakes. Son Matthew and daughter Aimee are married, with children, and live in the Twin Cities. Daughter Jessica works in chemical dependency treatment in Thailand.

In his free time, Bowe enjoys long walks with his pug, Jeb, and bulldog-Lab mix, Margot. Not surprisingly, he follows the news avidly, likes to read, and enjoys watching the Twins and the Vikings.

Contact Nathan Bowe.

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Policy on articles with staff or agency/service bylines and on the use of artificial intelligence in reporting

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.

A note about how we use - and don’t use - artificial intelligence (AI)
We believe that journalism is a product of the human mind. So we do not use AI to replace original journalistic reporting and writing. Reporters and editors are not allowed to use AI-generated content in their stories, unless it’s relevant and labeled accordingly.

AI tools might be used to allow journalists to focus on complex reporting, sort through data and engage with new audiences. We will be fully transparent about all uses and will label it accordingly.

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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

Social media: Facebook | Twitter

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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 love to get feedback from our readers – whether it be good, bad or somewhere in-between.  We rely on reader feedback to help us identify under-covered issues in our community and shed light on the subjects that matter most to YOU. Feedback helps guide our editorial team and local news coverage. To reach our office, contact any member of our newsroom or call the general office line at (218) 346-5900. You may also email editor@perhamfocus.com or find us on Facebook.

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Privacy policy

Read our privacy policy here.

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Contact info

Tips and corrections
With news tips or corrections, reach us at (218) 346-5900 or editor@perhamfocus.com.

Newsroom contact info

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.

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