Star Tribune policies and standards
A news organization’s policies and standards are by necessity organic. After his family purchased the Minneapolis Star in 1935, Gardner Cowles Sr. offered a broad vision for its role in the community:
“Ideas about what constitutes a good newspaper may change with the times in some respects. But the fundamental obligation will not, I think, change. The good newspaper must be honest, it must be fair, it must be truly efficient in every aspect of the job of delivering to a free people with the maximum speed the information by which alone they can manage their common affairs themselves as a self-governing group.”
With input from our readers and our staff, we regularly update our standards and guidelines to adapt to the changing news environment with integrity, clarity and resolve.
Star Tribune covers more of what matters to Minnesota, all day, every day – helping us stay informed, and navigate and take part in our world.
Company core values
Our core values form the foundation that underlies our work, business practices and decisions. They guide our interactions with others. In an ever-changing world, our core values are constant:
We serve Minnesotans — all day, every day. They are our customers, our advertisers and our community. We play an essential role in their lives by delivering products and services that help them stay informed, navigate their world and take part in the community.
We have high standards — all day, every day. We demonstrate the highest degree of integrity to each other, to our customers and to our community. Our products and services are trusted and deeply relevant to our community. We honor that trust.
Respect for all
We communicate with respect — all day, every day. We believe in the fair, ethical treatment of all. We appreciate diverse perspectives within our company and our community.
Newsroom coverage priorities
Every day we strive to produce journalism that truly matters to Minnesotans. Our highest priority is public service – shining light on issues that deeply affect their lives and holding local and state government 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.
Conduct and ethics
For a thoughtful, comprehensive presentation of current journalistic ethics, we recommend the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, which can be found here.
Those principles inform many of the Star Tribune’s own policies, standards and guidelines, which are synthesized here.
Conflicts of interest
Star Tribune newsroom journalists will avoid behavior or actions that could be a real or perceived conflict between their personal interests and their jobs as objective or impartial journalists. Even the appearance of conflicts of interest should be avoided.
Star Tribune journalists will not use their position to influence public officials or others, nor should they accept gifts or favors. It is critical for our readers to know that no one can gain favor at the Star Tribune through contributions of any kind.
Staff members will not seek free tickets or obtain special treatment, such as access to seats not available to the general public. Staff members and freelance writers do not accept free travel. Reviewers and those involved in covering an event can use press tickets for attendance related to coverage. Review copies of CDs, DVDs, games and books provided to the Star Tribune are used by critics and sometimes kept for future comparison. Unsolicited items that are sent to the newsroom and not used in coverage are sold in an internal sale, with proceeds given to charity or journalism scholarship funds.
Star Tribune journalists strive to approach their jobs through the difficult professional discipline of objectivity or impartiality. It is important to us that sources and readers feel their points of view will be fairly and completely portrayed. For that reason, we avoid participating in public displays that reveal partisan sentiments, such as protests, social action and politics. That includes showing restraint in our comments and posts in social media, which should not disclose our personal political leanings. Our private and professional behavior must not compromise the Star Tribune’s image as a fair arbiter of news. Business or social relationships of family members and close friends that could create the appearance of a conflict should be disclosed to the editors.
However, we do encourage staff members to actively advocate for open public records and government processes, First Amendment issues and press freedom.
Accountability and public engagement
We seek to be transparent about our practices — that is the reason for making these standards public.
Readers who e-mail or call editors and reporters at the Star Tribune often receive a personal response. It is not unusual for classes from local high schools and universities to attend our daily news meetings and meet with reporters and editors to discuss the Star Tribune and its practices. Star Tribune editors, columnists and reporters are frequent speakers in the community. We also host community meetings and regularly solicit engagement online. We sometimes invite leaders from various communities to speak with our staff to increase our understanding of their perspectives and concerns.
We reach out to the community through informal online surveys and through large, statistically rigorous statewide public opinion polls.
We work to respond promptly to questions raised about our coverage. See the section on our corrections policy for details on how we address issues related to fairness, accuracy and context.
We seek to be transparent in our reporting, making it clear when we obtain information from wire services, other media, websites or other sources of information.
Plagiarism is not permitted.
In our reporting and writing, we strive for journalistic responsibility, accuracy and reliability of sources. We strive to be particularly rigorous about balance and fairness in coverage of politics, local civic issues and social issues.
The Star Tribune is concerned with the right of all defendants to a fair trial. With some exceptions, the Star Tribune will not identify crime suspects before they are arrested. After arrest, in most cases we will wait to identify suspects until charges are filed. Factors in those decisions include the facts of the case, the element of public safety, statements from authorities, and whether the subject is a public figure or official. We will not name a suspect simply because other media choose to do so.
The race of a suspect in a crime may be relevant if there are public safety concerns. Race may be used as part of a larger description of a crime suspect if that description is complete with regard to standard categories of identification such as age, build or weight, height, hairstyle or color, or includes some of those categories plus other very specific identifiers such as scars or clothing.
The Star Tribune generally will identify crime victims by name, just as it generally will use names in other news stories. Our credibility depends on the reader knowing the sources of our information, and in the case of crime coverage, the use of names serves the further purpose of humanizing the impact of violence in our community. But a victim’s name might be withheld if the victim is in imminent danger of physical harm, when the victim is particularly vulnerable because of such factors as age or infirmity, or when the crime involves sexual matters.
Living victims of rape and sexual assault are generally not identified, with rare exceptions. Among the exceptions are cases where the victim actively seeks to be identified.
Obscenity and profanity
We generally avoid using inappropriate language. An obscene word or phrase, or a profanity or blasphemy, might be used in a direct quote if essential to the story or column.
If the offending word or phrase is removed, it is not our practice to replace letters with dashes. There may be instances, however, when the use of “[expletive]” is the best solution. A verbatim transcript could fall into this category.
Where fitting, we may paraphrase the remark or characterize a person’s speech as being laced with expletives without repeating the actual words.
We are conscious of the public trust that readers place in us. The use of photos containing graphic violence, dead bodies, nudity, sex or other potentially offensive or controversial content is discussed by senior editors who consider the potential harm and benefit of each image on a case-by-case basis. They consider such issues as whether words alone can convey the news, the power and news value of the image, and where and how it will be published in the newspaper and online.
Our basic principle regarding photo editing is simple: Do not mislead, trick or lie to readers. These standards guide us:
- In general, it is acceptable to remove dust spots, scratches and transmission flaws from photographs.
- Photographs altered by artists for use in illustrations generally will be labeled photo/illustration.
- Any other alteration of a photograph’s content must be discussed with senior editors before a decision is made. If content is altered, the caption of the photo/illustration will explain what was done and how.
- These standards apply to both manual and electronic alteration of photographs.
- Most photographs in the Star Tribune carry a credit line to make clear the source of the photograph. An exception would be small mugshots that sometimes run with news stories.
The Star Tribune is affiliated with the Trust Project, a consortium of news companies developing transparency standards to help readers easily assess the quality and credibility of journalism. Other partners include the Economist, the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Washington Post, among others. Issues addressed in this document, identified as “trust indicators” by the project, were recommended based on interviews with news consumers by researchers at the Santa Clara University Markkula Center for Applied Ethics in California. You can learn more about the Trust Project here.
Diversity is essential to our journalism. When we include voices from more segments of our communities in our coverage, the result is more accurate and nuanced storytelling. Our commitment to diversity extends to our own staff, where different backgrounds and experiences enrich our approach to news coverage.
We submit data on our staff diversity annually to the American Society of News Editors. You can find it here.
When material in the Star Tribune is found to contain significant errors of fact, to be misleading or to have serious omissions, a correction or clarification will be published on Page A2 in the daily newspaper or B2 in the Sunday newspaper.
When an error is caused by wrong information provided to the Star Tribune, the correction will say so. If the error is the fault of wire services we subscribe to, we will identify them as the source of the error. But we will generally not identify other organizations and individuals when they cause an error, instead noting that the correction is due to incorrect information provided to the Star Tribune.
We generally will avoid repeating the specific error in the correction.
Articles, blog posts and other content appearing on StarTribune.com and our mobile apps may be updated repeatedly as new information becomes available or as the item is improved by a reporter or editor. This is especially true in a breaking news situation. Because the timestamp automatically updates when an item is republished, no note is required to alert readers to new information — unless editors determine there is a specific reason to add one. Grammatical or typographical errors may also be corrected without note. However, if a significant error of fact is corrected, we inform readers of the change.
When a significant factual error is made on StarTribune.com and our mobile apps, we will promptly change the content and publish a correction explaining the change at either the top or bottom of the item.
Corrections to social media posts should be made on the platform(s) to which the incorrect information was originally posted.
Clarifications in print and online
Sometimes an item may technically be correct but lack sufficient detail or context to provide full understanding. We may rewrite it and add a note of clarification to the bottom of the print or online article explaining the change.
Fact checking and verification
We strive to be fair and accurate in the way we present facts and quotations. We do this through observation, by speaking with sources and by verifying facts through research, source documents and public records.
Most stories are subject to several layers of editing, which varies depending on the nature of the story, its urgency, its complexity and other factors.
A typical story is first reviewed by a reporter’s direct editor, known in the Star Tribune newsroom as a team leader. This editor works with the reporter to refine the writing, challenge facts and assumptions, and otherwise ensure the piece is fair, accurate and clear. Depending on the story, it may also be read by editors above the team leader level, including senior editors, the managing editor and executive editor. Ultimately, stories will be read by copy editors, who examine the piece for accuracy, clarity and style, and raise questions about facts and assertions as necessary. Copy editors often write or refine headlines and captions.
Editors typically produce news alerts, headlines and other materials written to promote stories in print, online and on social platforms.
Errors found after publication in print or online are corrected according to the corrections policy.
Use of anonymous sources
The Star Tribune’s strong preference is to name the sources of information we publish. Once a Star Tribune reporter has identified himself or herself as a reporter, we assume that the interview that follows is on the record, meaning it can be published and attributed to the source by name. The reporter is not obliged to grant anonymity retroactively for information a source has already provided without any request for anonymity.
But sometimes there is no way to provide important information to our readers unless we grant anonymity or confidentiality to a source. We know that frequent reliance on anonymous sources increases the risk of inaccurate or unfair journalism and can damage the newspaper’s credibility with readers.
Because of that, anonymous statements and quotes are published in the Star Tribune only when necessary to provide important information and only after we are satisfied that we are meeting our standards for accuracy and fairness. Publication of information from anonymous sources must be approved by a senior editor, often the managing editor or executive editor.
We avoid making promises of confidentiality that are not in the news organization’s or the readers’ best interest, but we will honor the promises we make except in rare and extraordinary circumstances — such as when we discover a source has lied about information we have published or if we are compelled to do so by a court, although we generally challenge such actions.
Before deciding to publish anonymous information or quotes, we must be satisfied that it is not feasible to obtain the same information or quote on the record, that the news value is significant and that we have no reason to doubt the reliability of the information.
We seek to ascertain, and, if appropriate, explain to readers, how an anonymous source knows the information he or she imparts. The reporter will review ground rules with the source about how the information will be used and attributed and will clarify that while the source will not be named in a story, the reporter will share the source’s identity confidentially with an editor.
We strive to be as specific as possible about the source’s qualifications, affiliations or biases without revealing his or her identity. We will seek out additional corroboration and sources. We also try to explain why the source does not want to be identified.
We cannot scrutinize wire stories in the same way as stories written by our reporters. However, we insist that their use of anonymous sources meets our standards for importance and fairness. As with stories generated by our staff, publication of information from unnamed sources in wire stories will be approved by a senior editor.
Separation of editorial department and newsroom
The Opinion section and content is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.
Opinion section editors do not participate in decisions about news coverage, and newsroom editors do not participate in formation of the Star Tribune’s editorial positions.
A guide to Editorial and Commentary is provided here by the Editorial staff.
Star Tribune Media Company LLC is independently owned by Glen Taylor, whose holdings represent more than 80 businesses worldwide, including dozens of companies in communications and printing, the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, and the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. He was formerly a Republican member of the Minnesota Senate.
The Star Tribune was founded in 1867. More information on our history is here.
Feedback and contact information
Feedback from readers often helps us develop coverage and identify related or under-covered issues. We have a variety of ways to listen to readers, including our social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We regularly solicit reader input on a variety of news and opinion topics using the online reader engagement tool Hearken.
- Keep it civil and stay on topic.
- No profanity, vulgarity, racial slurs or personal attacks.
- Comments with web links are not permitted.
- Comments that violate the above will be removed. Repeat violators may lose their commenting privileges on StarTribune.com.
- Comments may be reviewed before being published.
How to contact us
We try to make our staff easy to reach by publishing the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of reporters with their stories. Staff bios, with e-mail addresses and phone numbers, are searchable by keyword (such as Minneapolis, politics, education, etc.). Find a specific reporter covering a particular beat here.
Here are other ways you can reach us:
- If you have a news tip or story ideas, call the newsroom at 612-673-4414 and you will be routed to the appropriate person.
- Tips also can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about how to communicate securely with Star Tribune journalists.
- Requests for corrections can be submitted by e-mailing email@example.com. If you would like to share feedback or are having problems with StarTribune.com, please visit startribune.com/feedback.
- Letters to the editor and commentary submissions can be made online here.
Michael J. Klingensmith, Publisher and CEO
Glen Taylor, Owner
Rene Sanchez, Editor and Senior Vice President
Suki Dardarian, Senior Managing Editor and Vice President
Derek Simmons, Chief Creative Officer
Colleen Stoxen, Deputy Managing Editor for Newsroom Operations
Eric Wieffering, Deputy Managing Editor/Enterprise and Investigations
Thom Kupper, Assistant Managing Editor/News
Terry Sauer, Assistant Managing Editor/Digital
Tom Buckingham, Assistant Managing Editor/Nights and Page One
Sue Campbell, Assistant Managing Editor/Features
Chris Carr, Assistant Managing Editor/Sports
Josh Penrod, Assistant Managing Editor/Digital Design
Kate Parry, Assistant Managing Editor/Development and Special Projects
Deb Pastner, Director of Photography/Multimedia
Courtnay Peifer, National Editor
Baird Helgeson, Deputy Metro Editor
Allie Shah, Deputy Metro Editor
Scott Gillespie, Editor and Vice President