On Wednesday German magazine Der Spiegel revealed one of its top award-winning journalists had been fired because he fabricated many of his articles, inventing characters, sources, and their quotes “on a grand scale” for many years.
Claas Relotius, a reporter and editor, admitted to fabricating parts of at least 14 stories following the magazine’s internal investigation. The publication said the issue “marks a low point in the 70-year history of Der Spiegel.”
“I am sick and I need to get help,” he reportedly told the magazine.
Relotius contributed nearly 60 articles to Der Spiegel, a leading German magazine for ‘investigative reporting.’ The reporter previously worked for other publications in Europe and won awards such as CNN Journalist of the Year in 2014.
The fabricated articles include a phone interview with the parents Colin Kaepernick and a story about an American woman who claimed to have volunteered to witness the executions of death row inmates.
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.
“What happened is beyond what I could have ever imagined: An article titled ‘Where they pray for Trump on Sundays,’ and endless pages of an insulting, if not hilarious, excuse for journalism,” wrote Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn who investigated Relotius’ Der Spiegel article about the town.
Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn eventually went on to reveal that the article doesn’t contain any truth except for the town’s population, the average temperature, and names of the businesses or public figures.
Nearly everything else about the story doesn’t actually exist.
Relotius’ work was first called into question in November after another reporter for the magazine worked with him on a story about a border militia in Arizona. The reporter found that the supposed interviews never happened.
This case resembles past instances where journalists have been caught fabricating major stories. The accused previously have included Stephen Glass, who was fired from the New Republic magazine, Jayson Blair, fired from the New York Times, and Janet Cooke, a Washington Post reporter whose story about a child addicted to heroin won a Pulitzer Prize before it was revealed to be a fabrication.
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