March 4, 2024

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SZ journalist Alexandra Federl-Schmidt was found alive

SZ journalist Alexandra Federl-Schmidt was found alive

The deputy editor of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” has been accused of plagiarism for several weeks.

Journalist Alexandra Föderl-Schmidt has temporarily disappeared.

Roland Schlager / ABA / Keystone

Austrian journalist Alexandra Föderl-Schmidt, who had been missing since Thursday, was found alive on Friday. According to Austrian police, a woman missing since Thursday was found hypothermic under a bridge over a hostel in Braunau on the German-Austrian border. In a statement on Friday afternoon, the publisher and editorial board of “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (“SZ”) confirmed that it was the deputy editor-in-chief of the paper.

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According to “SZ”, Föderl-Schmid was taken to the hospital with hypothermia. Austrian newspaper “Der Standard” previously reported that the hospital in Braunau did not want to comment for data protection reasons. However, according to “Der Standard”, they do not deny that Föderl-Schmid is not in danger.

The “SZ” editorial board was informed that the missing colleague was alive. According to a report in “Spiegel”, the news in “SZ” was received with great relief. According to the Hamburg press, headmaster Wolfgang Kracht tearfully announced this in front of about 250 employees. It was “the most beautiful day of the last 20 years of the 'Süddeutsche Zeitung',” said Grach.

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This ended hours of uncertainty over the whereabouts of the 53-year-old. It was earlier feared that he might have committed suicide. According to press reports, this was indicated by a farewell letter and witness statements that allegedly saw the woman at the River Inn.

The principal was looking for a leak

The journalist has been facing plagiarism charges for weeks. German industry magazine “Medianinsider” published relevant information in December last year. The editor-in-chief of the “SZ” initially saw this primarily as a “right-wing” campaign and stood behind Föderl-Schmid. “Media Insider” reported extensively on the internal editorial debate.

As a result, the editor-in-chief of “SZ” launched an investigation into the contact details of the editors to find information that had sent inside information to “media insiders”. The editor-in-chief of “SZ” recently admitted this in an editorial meeting. Even “Media Insider” reported on this in detail last week.

From this point, several media outlets, including NZZ, picked up on the matter. Journalists' organization Reporters Without Borders saw the editor-in-chief's approach as endangering the safety of sources and a central tenet of journalism. “SZ” defended its actions by citing editorial confidentiality. The study was also carried out in consultation with the working group and editorial representatives. No content of phone calls or emails is verified, only connection data. But the search was unsuccessful.

No new “Relotius case”.

Shortly afterwards, “SZ” announced that the charges against Föderl-Schmid would be investigated externally. To do this, the newspaper appointed a team led by former “Spiegel” editor-in-chief Steffen Klussmann. At that time, he also had to verify allegations against former “Spiegel” editor Klaus Relotius.

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However, the two cases are not comparable. According to “SZ”, it should be investigated whether Föderl-Schmid mishandled sources while writing the texts and thereby violated journalistic standards. On the other hand, Relotius was able to prove that he had invented a large part of the protagonists and events in his reports.

An external investigation was prompted by additional allegations of plagiarism related to Föderl-Schmid's dissertation at the University of Salzburg. The Austrian plagiarism assessor Stefan Weber The newspaper reported that he found “plagiarism” in academic work. Föderl-Schmid later asked the university to investigate and announced that she would withdraw from the newspaper's operational business until the allegations were clarified.

It became known this week that the German portal “Nius” is covering the costs of a systematic review of Föderl-Schmid's dissertation. Stealth hunter Weber initially turned to “Media Insider.” But due to lack of budget, the commission is said to have been rejected. According to Weber, “News” accepted expenses that were in the four-digit range.