‘Jeopardy!’ Researchers Once ‘Overruled’ Ted Williams on a Clue About Himself

Longtime Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek, reads rapid-fire clues to eager contestants on the iconic game show. But before the 79-year-old dishes out trivia from a game board filled with catchy categories and clues, all of the information has to be carefully crafted. The program’s team of writers develop content which is then checked by researchers. Keep reading to find out more about the Jeopardy! researchers and the time they “overruled” baseball legend Ted Williams. 

‘Jeopardy!’ researchers fact check 14,030 clues every season

Alex Trebek stands on the set of 'Jeopardy!' The Greatest of All Time
Alex Trebek on Jeopardy! | Eric McCandless via Getty Images

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According to the official Jeopardy! website, the game show’s writers have to produce enough categories and clues for a total of 230 games each season. That means they write a staggering 14,030 clues. Now with Jeopardy! Season 36 completed, it’s safe to say the writers have plenty of experience coming up with questions.

In turn, the researchers who have to fact check literally thousands and thousands of clues are on top of their game too. Before any clue finds its way to the game board viewers see on TV, it has to go through a detailed process to make sure every fact in every clue is accurate. 

They have to double-source every fact

To make sure Trebek doesn’t present incorrect information to contestants, the writers and researchers work together to confirm every part of every single clue. After a clue is written, it’s passed to a researcher who confirms its accuracy.  In a post on the official Jeopardy! website, researchers opened up about their jobs.  

As far as clues go, researcher Margaret Choi has to start with confirming the information presented to her before she labels it a fact. 

“I can’t call it a fact until it’s verified,” she said. 

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How does one do that? The standard for Jeopardy! is two sources. 

“You’ve got to back up your sources twice,” researcher Eric Johnson said. 

While it might seem a tad excessive, there’s logic to the method. 

“You essentially try to confirm that the first source was right,” Johnson added.

A straightforward clue Trebek reads contestants might sound simple but upon closer inspection, there could be multiple facts, meaning a researcher has to have two sources for each one. 

Researches ‘overruled’ Ted Williams on a fact about his final home run

When it comes to fact-checking, going straight to the source is helpful. But in the case of Williams and his last home run hit, things got tricky.  

“We reached Ted Williams himself, and he said he hadn’t said it the way it had been reported,” Johnson said. 

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Of course, the researchers did more digging. After speaking with multiple eyewitnesses they determined Williams’ memory of that particular moment wasn’t accurate. 

“We basically overruled Ted Williams,” he added. 

‘Jeopardy!’ researchers go straight to the source when possible

While go-to sources for the Jeopardy! researchers include the Oxford English Dictionary and Britannica, sometimes talking to a person can’t be beaten. Like they did with Williams, it’s not unheard of for researchers to get on the phone.  

“We usually get on the fast track to talking to someone,” Suzanne Stone, a Jeopardy! senior researcher said. “I spoke with Neil Armstrong when he was teaching at the University of Cincinnati.”

As for problematic clues, if they can’t be sourced properly they don’t make it to the Jeopardy! game board.

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