It was a blow for the reputation of journalism in Germany, for Germany's most traditional news magazine it was the GAU: The scandal surrounding the forger Claas Relotius at "Spiegel" shook the media industry in 2018. Sky is showing a remarkable documentary on the case from this Friday (March 24). The title: "Invented Truth".
The film begins with a young man who begins to speak from the off. About his probationary period at "Spiegel". About how excited he was. The viewer might think it is Relotius who is talking about his beginnings at Hamburger Magazin.
Relotius is considered a child prodigy
But it is not the man who has remained silent since it became known that he invented almost everything he wrote for "Spiegel". It is the local journalist Dennis Betzholz who is speaking. At that time, Betzholz competed against Relotius during the test work for the "Spiegel" - and had lost out against the supposed child prodigy. The wrong decision, as we know today.
"A huge system failure" is what happened before his time as editor-in-chief with Relotius and its fake reports at "Spiegel", says today's editor-in-chief Steffen Klusmann in the documentation. He speaks of a "slap in the neck". He says: "This shakes the foundations."
Looking back, Klusmann says of Relotius' reports: "Such stories really only exist in fairy tales - or in Hollywood." The documentation very cleverly cuts the reports by Relotius - read from the off by a narrator - with images of the places that he allegedly describes against each other to show: The simplest things are not right here.
There were early indications of fakes
In addition to Klusmann, Juan Moreno also has his say, Relotius' former colleague, who characteristically uncovered the fraud through excellent journalistic research and for a long time threatened to bite his teeth at those responsible for "Spiegel", who did not want to believe all of it.
"The picture was just too beautiful. And now everything is collapsing because this shitty Spaniard is shitting us in the soup here," is the explanation for the photographer Mirco Taliercio, who uncovered the scandal with Moreno, why Germany's leading News magazine that has made "Say what is" its motto, in relation to Relotius nobody wanted to see what is for a long time.
A scene shows one of the many award ceremonies where Relotius was honored in his meteoric career. The jury found "that it is actually literature". "Are you just writing that down?" Relotius is asked. Hiding in plain sight is something like that in English (roughly: to hide in plain sight).
Editor-in-chief Klusmann says there were never any indications from the outside. A statement that conflicts with that of the Kurdish cameraman Syara Kareb. Because he claims to have informed "Spiegel TV" in 2017 that Relotius had never met a boy in a prison in northern Iraq. Relotius wrote the report "Löwenkinder" about him after the boy planned a suicide attack with his brother - and then, unlike his brother, did not commit it.
When Kareb later interviewed this boy for "Spiegel TV", he stated that he had never spoken to Relotius. His corresponding reference to Hamburg was obviously not heard, says Kareb - because Relotius continued to counterfeit there for a year and a half.
The "Spiegel", concerned about reputation and image, claims to have worked up the scandal, set up a commission - also with internal employees - and published a final report on it. Compliance expert Paul Milata has his say in the documentation. He says how the "mirror" dealt with the matter is "far from normal". The magazine should have "done a lot more".
Trailer for the series Invented Truth