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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Jason Snell

A (completely fabricated) tale of small-town America

So I’m reading a New York Times story by Alan Yuhas about how a journalist at Der Spiegel was fired for fabricating stories on a “grand scale”. It’s what you’d expect. These things don’t happen often, but they’re a black eye for journalism when they do. This guy, Claas Relotius, admitted that he invented quotes and fabricated characters for major articles he wrote. It’s pretty disgusting.

But in that story there’s a hyperlink to a Medium post by Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn that is just fantastic. Anderson and Krohn live in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, a rural town that was profiled by Relotius in a story headlined “In a small town: The small town of Fergus Falls in Minnesota is typical of the rural America that made Trump president. Who are the people who live there? A month with the people who pray for Donald Trump on Sundays.”

In their Medium post, the pair provide (in excruciating detail) the “top 11 most absurd lies (we couldn’t do just 10)” generated by Relotius, including the city administrator who has never seen the ocean or had a girlfriend (he’s lived with his girlfriend for three years and the post includes a picture of the pair together with the ocean in the background); the coal plant employee who doesn’t exist but resembles a local UPS driver; the windowless diner whose windows overlook the coal plant; and the utterly fabricated local geography, including a forest that doesn’t exist and a city slogan (“home of damn good folks”) that is nowhere to be found.

Amazing. Kudos to Anderson and Krohn for detailing it all.