The German magazine Spiegel, one of the most important weekly magazines in the world, told in a long article (and in a shorter one in English) that he discovered that one of his most famous journalists had invented things for years. The journalist is called Claas Relotius, 33 years old and was involved in journalistic investigations, for which the Spiegel is well known and appreciated. After the investigation of his own newspaper on him, Relotius resigned. Spiegel wrote that the discovery represents "one of the lowest points in the magazine's 70-year history", and added:
Let us say that Claas Relotius, one of the most prominent journalists, one of the most respected authors [of the magazine], an idol for his generation, is not a journalist. But only one who often invented fairy tales.
Italian readers may find this kind of communication and even this harshness unusual, but in the foreign press the cases of plagiarism and journalistic fraud are made public by the newspapers concerned and treated with great severity. Spiegel apologized to readers and to all people falsely quoted or in some way touched by false news or information, and recalled that the magazine's motto is "Sagen, was ist", translatable with "say what it is".
The article explains that much of the credit for having discovered the deceptions and lies of Relotius is by Juan Moreno, another journalist who works for the magazine since 2007. Moreno and Relotius had found themselves working together in an investigation and Moreno he had been the first to notice many things that did not come back to Relotius' approach to work, and to the fact that many of his sources or information left great doubts. Moreno then began to investigate, even winning the initial resistance of colleagues who did not want to believe that Relotius had lied. The article explains that for several days Relotius had tried to deny the accusations, but he finally admitted it all on December 13th. In admitting his faults, he said: "The more I succeeded, the more I felt the pressure of not being able to fail."
In his years at Spiegel, Relotius wrote about 60 different articles, three of which were also translated into the English version of the site. In his ten years as a journalist, however, has also worked with other newspapers, including the German version of the Financial Times, Die Welt, the site of TIME and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. It also seems that Relotius said he had worked with the Guardian, even if his articles on that magazine were not found. One of his best-known articles, published in 2016, told the story of a Yemenite unjustly imprisoned in Guantanamo. Over the years, Relotius had also dealt with other issues: those condemned to death in the United States, Syria, ISIS and alleged abuse in an Arizona school, among other things. He had also won many awards, including the CNN award for the journalist of the year, in 2014, and a German award for best reportage of the year, a few months ago.
Spiegel's article cites some of the most well-known articles by Relotius, explaining the things that have turned out to be invented or falsified. In at least 14 articles, Relotius lied in several ways: he invented interviews and statements from people he had never met, he said he saw things on which there is no evidence and even invented people who do not exist and whose stories were invented or fruit of the union of the stories of different people. It is also thought to have written that he has visited places he has never been to.
Spiegel explained that the question will arise of how it was possible that, even exploiting the fame of the newspaper, Relotius could get away with it for years. There is also talk of "questions to ask about the internal organization of the magazine", of internal issues that must be dealt with immediately and of a commission, also composed of members external to the newspaper, who will take care of the matter. The weekly has reminded that there is a careful check of what is written by its journalists, but that not everything can be verified.