Der Spiegel Admits Top Reporter Faked Stories for Years

German news magazine Der Spiegel sacks journalist for fabricating stories

Der Spiegel says top journalist faked stories for years

German weekly Der Spiegel says one of its star reporters has left the publication after committing journalistic fraud "on a grand scale" over a number of years.

Anderson and Jake Krohn, who co-authored the Medium piece, are receiving worldwide praise for their rebuttal article exposing the fraudulent Der Spiegel story. The magazine said it has published nearly 60 articles by Relotius, who wrote his first article for the publication as a freelancer in 2011.

The first suspicions emerged following the publication in November 2018 of the article "Hunter's border" about an American vigilante group that patrols the border between Mexico and the United States.

Relotius admitted that he invented entire passages in the story as well as others. For example, he included individuals in his stories who he had never met or spoken to, telling their stories or quoting them.

The scandal "marks a low point in the 70-year history of Der Spiegel", according to the publication. It also acknowledged that although Relotius had admitted to some untruths, the full extent of his deception might not yet be known.

Relotius also drew the fury of locals in Fergus Falls, Minn., after spending three weeks in town and fabricating facts, characters and quotes from people in an effort to portray the town in a negative light.

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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.

Since 2011, Relotius had 60 articles published in Der Spiegel's print and online versions. The only thing that can be stated with certainty right now is that the work in uncovering that has only just begun. By his own admission, there are at least 14 articles in question that are at least in part fabrications.

Relotius also recounts a number of events that never occurred, including an an iPad for Beginners class at City Hall, a Super Bowl viewing at Union Pizza, a "Western evening" (allegedly attended by Maria and the fictional Neil), and a high school trip to NY.

"During his time as a freelance journalist, his work got published by other media including Cicero, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung am Sonntag, the Financial Times Deutschland, Die Tageszeitung, Die Welt, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, Weltwoche, Zeit Online and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung", the magazine said.

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

Four years ago, Claas Relotius was named CNN's Journalist of the Year. 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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