Thank you for this enlightening writeup, and greetings from Germany. Spiegel’s official response to the Fergus Falls fabrication is more telling than they might like to think. From Google’s auto-translation of their editor-in-chief:
“Only a month later, at the end of March 2017, a snapshot from Fergus Falls in Minnesota appears in the SPIEGEL “In a Small Town”. The idea behind it was that it originated in the editorial office in Hamburg, not only to demonize the first months of US President Trump from the top down from a European point of view, but also to look at it from the perspective of those who had presumably chosen the great Donald : Americans from the country. The plan was for Relotius to rent in Fergus Falls, meet people, listen, and record a small time image that would make you understand the Americans a little better.
The plan goes awry and such things happen in journalism all the time. Relotius finds no protagonists with whom he can do anything, he finds no access to the substance. He writes emails home, even to colleagues, that he stands on the hose that he gets stuck. He gets into a situation that every reporter knows: There is simply no story, no one can be found.”
The “idea” was created before Claas even visited. The “plan” then didn’t work out. Of course, Spiegel likes to think, a reputable journalist should cancel now! But how can they not see that part of the problem here is their system — apparent for years in article after article — in which their publication’s world view already determined what the story should be beforehand… instead of trying to neutrally uncover what’s really there?