Germany: Der Spiegel says star reporter made up parts of stories

Claas Relotius a reporter and editor admitted to fabricating parts of at least 14 stories following the magazine’s investigation. The publication said the issue “marks a low point in the 70-year history of Der Spiegel.”
Der Spiegel says top journalist faked stories for years
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21 December, 2018

Relotius, who had previously been awarded CNN's "Journalist of the Year" award, said he was "sick" and "needed help". Notably, the list of his stories that were proven to be at least partially fake included several pieces that had won journalism awards, including stories about Iraqi children kidnapped by Islamic State and prisoners in Guantanamo.

Claas Relotius, a reporter and editor, falsified his articles on a grand scale and even invented characters, deceiving both readers and his colleagues. "Claas Relotius faked, he cheated on us all".

Almost everything else, including a coal plant employee named Neil Becker, who doesn't actually exist, or quotes from a restaurant employee, who was falsely called the owner of a restaurant and whose son was given a fictional illness, was made up. It described the episode as "a low point in Spiegel's 70-year history".

"I'm so angry, horrified, shocked, stunned", Der Spiegel deputy foreign editor Mathieu von Rohr tweeted Wednesday.

The article's co-author, Juan Moreno, grew suspicious and collected evidence against Relotius during a subsequent trip to America on another story. The publication said he admitted to fabricating at least 14 articles in question.

Relotius, who has admitted to faking some of his reporting, had written dozens of articles for Der Spiegel since 2011.

The publication said concerns were first raised in November by a fellow reporter who worked with Relotius on a story about a border militia in Arizona and discovered that supposed interviews had never taken place.

German news magazine Spiegel arranged on a table in Berlin
German news magazine Spiegel arranged on a table in Berlin

The reporter also wrote for a string of other well-known outlets, including the German newspapers taz, Welt and the Frankfurter Allgemeine's Sunday edition.

Earlier this month, he secured the German "Reporter Preis" (Reporter of the Year) for his story about a young Syrian boy, which the jurors praised for its "lightness, poetry and relevance".

Relotius told his editors: "It was not about having the next big thing".

Several major features Relotius wrote for Der Spiegel that were also nominated for or won journalism awards are now under scrutiny, according to the magazine. Some of the reports, they found, were nothing more than "concocted bunk".

Anderson and Jake Krohn, who co-authored the Medium piece, are receiving global praise for their rebuttal article exposing the fraudulent Der Spiegel story.

Claas Relotius committed his deception intentionally, methodically and with criminal intent. Meanwhile, the magazine's management has set up a special investigative commission consisting of what it calls "experienced internal and external persons" to look through all of the journalist's pieces and prepare recommendations to improve "safety mechanisms".

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