An award-winning German reporter and editor has been exposed for falsifying information on a respected news outlet.
According to an announcement by German news site Der Spiegel, journalist Claas Relotius has been falsifying his articles “on a grand scale” with fabricated situations and characters.
Relotuis was discovered after a number of tips, internal research, and in the end, his own confession. It began with an article posted in November 2018 called Jaeger’s Border, which reported on American vigilante groups that would patrol the US Mexico border. Co-worker Juan Moreno grew suspicious of Relotuis’ work. When Moreno was in the United States for separate business, he used the chance to investigate some of Relotuis’ claims.
The investigation concluded with Relotius admitting to having invented entire passages in not just Jaeger’s Border, but in a number of older articles as well. Relotius put great effort into these fabrications. Instead of simply making up characters and quotes, he manipulated existing depictions of individuals to fit the narrative he was aiming for.
Relotius has posted around 60 articles for Der Spiegel in his employment over the last seven years. He claims that there are at least 14 articles that were falsely altered, but investigations have yet to confirm this number or not. Some of the articles listed included The Last Witness, Lion Children, and Number 440, which later went on to win or be nominated for journalism rewards.
Der Speigel may not be the only one affected by Relotius’ work. He has written for a number of other publications over the years. They have yet to make a formal statement at this time, however.
In the meantime, Der Spiegel is keeping the articles in question up, with a notice of the recent discovery added to the page. They will be adjusted as investigations continue.
This is an important reminder that even trusted news sources are susceptible to lying to us to get clicks and acclaim. Behind every major organization is a team of individuals, and they are only as strong in morals as the weakest member. Don’t trust everything you see online, no matter who it’s from. There is always a risk that it was manipulated for someone elses personal gain.
And yes, I see the irony of me saying that.