Editor’s Note: Story on Jennings’ Defeat Was Responsible Reporting

Sep 13, 2004  •  Post A Comment

TelevisionWeek‘s decision to publish a story on our Web site last Wednesday about the coming end of Ken Jennings’ winning streak on “Jeopardy!” brought us a rush of attention, a few compliments and some very pointed criticism.

We received fewer than a dozen e-mails the day after our story appeared, but several were blistering. Here is a sampling of comments (without the expletives): “You utter morons!!! How dare you ruin the fun of watching the show.” “Shame on you.” “You’ve ruined an enjoyable show.” “Why don’t you make sure every young child knows there is not a Santa Claus?” An online trade newsletter called us “party poopers.”

Officially, the “Jeopardy!” camp wouldn’t go on the record. Unofficially, we received complaints that we could hurt the show’s ratings, and that it was not the job of a trade paper to break a story of this nature.

We must disagree with that last part. While we are sensitive to the impact of what we do, what we do is break news stories of importance to our audience. We take this as a serious responsibility. This particular story clearly was important. The increase in ratings for “Jeopardy!” last season following rule changes in its 20th season, which in turn followed changes on other game shows, has been discussed throughout the television industry.

We also are aware that we exist in a rapidly changing news environment. Today there are many legitimate news outlets; and, of course, there is also the Internet, which can be a hotbed of rumors. We would never publish information only because it appeared on the Internet. We put out the story only after we found multiple credible sources of our own to confirm the information we had obtained independently.

So while the “Jeopardy!” producers and distributors still will not confirm our report, we stand by our story and our decision.