Wilfried Rütten, 25.05.1952 – 30.07.2022

We’re terribly sad to share the news that our dear friend Willi Rütten, one of Lie Detectors’ strongest supporters, has died after a short illness. 

Willi was at the heart of Lie Detectors – one of its founding members, board member and advisor, and one of our most active visiting journalists.

It was Willi who helped us write our first business plan, flipcharts filled with ideas on how Lie Detectors would one day function. He believed in the power of news literacy from the start, and opened important doors for our fledgling startup. He took calls whether he was in Havana, Perugia, Madrid or Cologne – his needle always pointing us north. “It’ll all turn out right,” he told Juliane. We could not have done it without him.

Willi was a consummate journalist, irreverent and funny, sharp-witted, writing like an angel, an enormous network at his fingertips, never a part of the establishment, and always respected. His generosity in sharing all of this was remarkable. Past retirement, through the pandemic and into spring 2022, in more than 40 sessions, he was one of Lie Detectors’ most active and committed participating journalists. 

Willi told us recently about his classroom work. “I am still nervous. Each and every time I go inside, I wonder, what will it be like? Will the internet work, will the teacher be nice, will the kids listen to me?,” he said.  

“But the kids are nice. They ask all these questions, about the job of a journalist and sometimes about things like whether 9/11 was real. It’s challenging and you have to improvise. That’s why I like it and why I keep doing it. We’re just planting little seeds in their heads – telling them to check it out, to trust themselves.”  

It struck a chord on the other side too. “Thanks to you I now check whether things are true on TikTok,” one 10-year-old student wrote after a visit by Willi this spring. “Real-world examples coming from a journalist can be very powerful,” wrote a teacher. 

This autumn, Lie Detectors was planning to work with Willi to expand our training for teachers. He is gone too early and we and the world of journalism are poorer for it. Juliane last saw Willi just three weeks ago, in early July. Over coffee on his terrace he said he would change nothing about his life. But he said it with infinite sadness, because he didn’t want to leave it.

Rest in peace, dear Willi. We miss you terribly.