Top editors at the German magazine Der Spiegel gave a lengthy apology on Thursday after news emerged that one of their most celebrated reporters, Claas Relotius, had fabricated stories for years.
“Claas Relotius wrote many seemingly excellent reportages for DER SPIEGEL, but unfortunately most of them apparently contain fabricated passages,” the website’s incoming editor-in-chief Steffen Klusmann and current deputy editor-in-chief Dirk Kurbjuweit, said in a joint statement. “We are deeply sorry about what has happened. We have a large readership which can now be forgiven for wondering if DER SPIEGEL should still be trusted.”
The editors said they were painfully aware that the Relotius scandal was also a broader setback in the fight against “fake news.”
“We are aware that the Relotius case makes the fight against fake news that much more difficult,” they wrote. “But we can assure them: We understand the gravity of the situation. And we will do everything we can to learn from our mistakes.”
Although he was a Der Spiegel employee, the story of Relotius made headlines in the United States primarily because of a decision to honor him with the CNN “journalist of the year” award back in 2014.
“CNN continues to do its part to support quality journalism by sharing our experience with journalism colleagues around the world through a number of different programs, such as the CNN Journalist Award, now in its ninth year,” Parisa Khosravi, senior vice president for CNN Worldwide, said in a statement lauding Relotius at the time.
“It’s so heartening to see strong journalism thrive and grow through such competitions and we’re delighted to support this initiative for German-speaking journalists.”
The award was revoked Thursday.
A rep for CNN did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap but the network’s comms chief Matt Dornic, took to Twitter Thursday evening to say that Relotius had never worked or published for CNN and that the jury that awarded the prize had been independent from the network.
1) He never worked for CNN, never published by CNN.
2) Honored for a piece published by a Swiss magazine – 4+ yrs ago.
3) German award & unique to that market.
4) The award was sponsored by CNN but judged by an independent jury.
5) His award was revoked by that panel this AM.
— Matt Dornic (@mdornic) December 20, 2018