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Journalist Der Spiegel and winner of many awards for years invented materials. He was caught on fake and fired 

The editors recognized this as the “low point” of their history. Awards took away.

Klaas Relotius Photo by European Press Prize
Klaas Relotius Photo by European Press Prize

The editors of the German Der Spiegel, one of the leading European media, toldabout the dismissal of the 33-year-old journalist Klaas Relotius for writing fakes many times. The reporter collaborated with the publication of seven years. During this time, he received prestigious journalistic awards, including for falsified materials.

After an internal investigation, Rolotius admitted that he was inventing both details, like quotations and characters, and whole stories. And it turned out largely due to the suspicions of his colleagues.

Who is Klaas Relotius

Relotius was born in Hamburg in 1985, and studied journalism in several European cities at once. In 2011, he came to Der Spiegel, where he initially worked as a freelancer and later grew to an editor in the state. In just seven years of cooperation, the journalist published in the German weekly and on the website of the publication almost 60 materials.

As the reporter admitted, inaccurate information contains at least his 14 articles. Der Spiegel doubted this figure and suggested that there could be much more fakes. “The only thing that can be said with confidence now is that the investigation has just begun,” the editorial board said.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Relotius explained his actions with the fear of being revealed: “The more successful I became, the more I felt that I had no right to fail.”[/perfectpullquote]

In addition to Der Spiegel, Relotius wrote to other prestigious publications, including the Financial Times Deutschland, Die Welt and Zeit Online. It is not excluded that he published fictional stories there as well, however, there is no evidence of this yet.

How did the editors find out about the lies of a journalist seven years later

In November 2018, Der Spiegel published the story ” Jager ‘s Frontier ” – a report that Relotius wrote with journalist Juan Moreno. It tells about the former military, who organized a self-defense detachment to patrol the borders of the United States and Mexico.

Moreno was the first to suspect Relotius of deception. He saw a photo of the head of the volunteer detachment with the signature that he avoids the attention of journalists. Moreno knew that this was not the case, since the “vigilantes” had long since established a tourist attraction from their initiative.

Juan shared his concern with the editors of Der Spiegel, but she ignored him, and Klaas deftly and subtly defended his work. When Moreno next time flew to the US to work on new material, he simultaneously collected information about his colleague.

“Jaeger’s Border” Screenshot from Der Spiegel website

Moreno met with sources to which Relotius referred in his part of the material, and learned that they had never communicated with him. Juan also confirmed that Relotius invented replicas for the heroes and built several stories around the old Mother Jones material. Under the weight of evidence, the reporter still admitted to fakes.

How else did a German journalist lie

All fakie in the materials of Relotius have not yet been found, but Der Spiegel has already named several falsified stories. Among them is the “ Last Witness ” about an American who is allegedly present in someone else’s execution, “ Children of the Lion ” about two Iraqi children who were allegedly kidnapped and reformed by the Islamic State and “ Number 440 ” about alleged prisoners in Guantanamo prison.

Against the background of Relotius’s dismissal, residents of Fergus Falls in Minnesota, Jake Kron and Michel Anderson, said that the journalist had partly made up a story about their small town. The German went there in 2017 to describe the typical place that voted for Donald Trump. “I would tell him how I watched the counting of votes and saw my colleagues and friends crying out of fear and annoyance because they knew who the next president would be,” Kron said.

According to local residents, in three weeks the reporter did not speak with anyone, but only asked to pose for pictures. And in the end he composed all the conversations. Relotius said that in the town they were allegedly crazy about the film “American Sniper” so much that he goes to the local cinema for the second year. He also invented a character, an employee of the plant, attaching a photo of another person – the owner of the fitness center. “The only truth for 7300 words was the number of residents of our city, the average annual temperature, the names of companies and the names of public figures – things that a child would have found in Google,” said Fergus Falls Americans.

Caught fake journalist began to return awards

Relotius was considered one of the best journalists of Der Spiegel. In 2014, CNN presented him with two awards as the best reporter. He won four times – in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2018 – the Deutscher Reporterpreis Award, which is awarded for outstanding reports. In 2017, he took a similar European award to the European Press Prize.

After the fake story became known, CNN stated that he had never collaborated with Relotius as an author and had not hired him as an author. The independent jury, which awarded the German, gathered again and voted unanimously for the deprivation of his prizes.

Klaas Relotius receives a CNN award for reporting in 2014.  Photo channel

The organizers of the Deutscher Reporterpreis reported on their website that they were “shocked” by the exposure of Relotius and also held an unscheduled meeting. But the reporter played on the lead: he himself wrote a message to the organizers, apologized and returned four awards.

The editors of Der Spiegel did not hide the incident

Der Spiegel recognized the incident as the “low point” of its 70-year history. How exactly the editors missed so many fakes, is not yet clear, but she has already promised to change the verification procedures. One of the main difficulties is connected with the style of Relotius, who often wrote not reports in pure form, but materials close to fiction. In addition, the editors noted him for his performance and desire to engage in routine topics.

The site Der Spiegel appeared not only a report, but also answers to questions about the case and an explanation of the standards for verifying information. Relotius materials are still available, but with editorial notes. The publication plans not to delete articles with fraud until it completes the investigation.

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