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German reporter — former CNN 'Journalist of the Year' — admits to faking stories 'on a grand scale'

Star journalist at Der Spiegel fired after internal investigation discovers fraud

Image source: YouTube screenshot

German publication Der Spiegel revealed Wednesday that it discovered one of its star journalists had been fabricating stories for years.

Celebrated reporter Claas Relotius — who was named CNN "Journalist of the Year" in 2014 — admitted to journalistic fraud "on a grand scale," and has stepped down from his position at Der Spiegel.

What are the details?

According to Der Spiegel's report on the fake news discovery, Relotius was finally busted after an Arizona woman named Jan Foley emailed the journalist in early December. Foley questioned Relotius' reporting of a story about Arizona Border Recon. The story was titled, "Jaeger's Grenze" (English translation "Hunter's Border"), and concerned a vigilante group conducting patrols along the southwestern border to Mexico. Foley wanted to know how he was able to write such an extensive piece without even interviewing the group — for which she handled media.

Weeks prior, the co-author of the "Hunter's Border," Juan Morena, had sounded the alarm to higher-ups that his award-winning colleague was making things up. After enduring nearly a month of ridicule and even risking his own job, Morena's concerns were validated.

Der Spiegel conducted an internal investigation, and discovered a number of falsehoods in Relotius' articles. The journalist initially denied spinning lies for his stories, but confessed to several fabrications after being presented with evidence of falsified reports "on a grand scale."

Relotius was fired, and Der Spiegel is sounding the alarm that the 55 articles they published of his work since 2014 are now being heavily scrutinized. Some of the reports, they found, were nothing more than "concocted bunk."

Other publications should beware, too. Relotius worked as a freelancer for years, writing for several outlets in Germany and abroad.

In addition to being named CNN's "Journalist of the Year" in 2014, Relotius previously landed on the Forbes magazine list of "30 Under 30" in European media, won the German Reporter Prize four times, the Catholic and Coburger media award, the Peter Scholl Latour Prize, the European Press Prize, the Reemtsma Liberty Award and numerous other honors for his reporting.

Anything else?

Der Spiegel is launching a committee comprised of internal and external investigators to determine the full scale of the damage done by Relotius. The publication — long considered one of the most reputable in Germany — said "the Relotius case marks a low point in the 70-year history of Der Spiegel."

One last thing…
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