Claas Relotius was a top reporter at the German news magazine Der Spiegel before he was forced to resign after it was discovered he had falsified his stories for years.
Relotius, 33, was named CNN Journalist of the Year in 2014. On Wednesday, Der Spiegel announced he had resigned after seven years at the magazine. Der Spiegel said in a statement that Relotius had “made up stories and invented protagonists” in at least 14 of the 60 articles that he had published in the magazine.
Relotius told Der Spiegel that he was regretful and ashamed.
“I am sick and I need to get help,” he was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Der Spiegel: Claas Relotius ‘Falsified His Articles on a Grand Scale’
Der Spiegel announced Wednesday that Relotius “falsified his articles on a grand scale and even invented characters, deceiving both readers and his colleagues.”
“This has been uncovered as a result of tips, internal research and, ultimately, a comprehensive confession by the editor himself,” the magazine said.
Since 2011, Relotius had 60 articles published in Der Spiegel’s print and online versions. He admitted to falsifying at least 14 articles.
“Is he to be believed? Could that figure actually be considerably higher? The only thing that can be stated with certainty right now is that the work in uncovering that has only just begun,” the magazine admitted.
2. Claas Relotius Was Exposed by Colleague
Juan Moreno, a journalist who reported on a story about an American vigilante group that patrols the United States-Mexico border with Relotius for Der Speigel, brought his concerns to editors after the story was published in November.
“He didn’t relent, and he took advantage of a trip to the U.S. for reporting on another story to gather incriminating information about Relotius — and also in order to take steps to protect himself, given that his byline had also appeared on the article,” Der Spiegel said.
The Guardian reported that Moreno tracked down sources Relotius quoted in the article, both of whom said they never met Relotius. Further investigation revealed that he had made up a story about seeing a handpainted sign that said “Mexicans keep out.”
“For three to four weeks Moreno went through hell because colleagues and those senior to him did not want to believe his accusations at first,” Der Spiegel wrote. “Relotius cleverly rebuffed all the attacks, all of Moreno’s well-researched pieces of evidence … until there came a point when that didn’t work any more, until he finally couldn’t sleep any more, hunted by the fear of being discovered.”
Relotius admitted that he invented entire passages in the story as well as others.
“It wasn’t because of the next big thing. It was fear of failing,” he said in his confession. “My pressure to not be able to fail got ever bigger the more successful I became.”
3. Claas Relotius Falsified at Least 14 Articles
“Claas Relotius committed his deception intentionally, methodically and with criminal intent,” Der Spiegel said, adding that the reporter invented sources and quotes.
Der Spiegel said at least 14 of the 60 articles he had published were falsified by his own admission. The articles include award-nominated works like “The last witness,” about an American man who allegedly travels to an execution as a witness, “The Lion Children,” about two Iraqi children kidnapped and radicalized by ISIS, and “Number 440,” a story about alleged prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
“Until the allegations have been sufficiently clarified, articles available online that have been written by Relotius will be left unaltered in the archive, but with a notification about this development, until the matter has been sufficiently investigated — in part to help facilitate transparent research into the issue,” Der Spiegel said.
4. Claas Relotius May Have Falsified Articles in Other Outlets
Der Spiegel warned that Relotius may have falsified stories for other outlets.
“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.
Relotius was named CNN Journalist of the Year in 2014 for his investigative journalist. Earlier this year, Relotius received the German Reporter of the Year award for his story about a young Syrian boy, which was praised for its “lightness, poetry and relevance.”
In 2014, CNN announced:
Claas Relotius was named CNN Journalist of the Year for the story “Murderers as Carers.” The story, first published in Swiss magazine Reportagen, also won the Print category award on Thursday night.
According to Relotius’ report, many U.S. prisons are struggling to provide care for long-term inmates suffering from dementia. But one high-security facility has found an unconventional solution to the problem — by teaching its own inmates to become carers.
“The report takes a poetic and interesting approach to a major social problem. Claas Relotius paints pictures in the reader’s mind that unfold like a film,’ said Franz Fischlin, chairman of the judging panel.
5. Der Spiegel Says Claas Relotius Revelations Like a ‘Death in the Family’
Der Spiegel described the revelation a “low point in Spiegel’s 70-year history.”
“All [his] colleagues are deeply shattered,” the magazine wrote. “[His] colleagues are astounded and sad … the affair feels like a death in the family”.
“The management of DER SPIEGEL will set up a commission of experienced internal and external persons to investigate the indications of falsification,” the magazine said. “DER SPIEGEL will also report publicly on their findings and recommendations for improving safety mechanisms.”