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Claire Chick,
September 01 2021

Lessons from the Jeopardy Debacle

Answer: This beloved TV show has made severe missteps in the last few weeks.

Question: What is Jeopardy?

Fans of the game show Jeopardy, including me, have been eagerly watching to see who will be taking over as host for the beloved Alex Trebek, who died last fall. The show has had 14 guest hosts filling in as the producers determined who would take over.  These guest hosts were essentially trying out for the gig in public and fans were very vocal on their favorites. After much fanfare over choosing a host, the show announced that Mike Richards, the current executive producer would be the new host.

Richards had filled in as the first guest host and did a credible job. But fan perception was that the show needed to find someone quickly to do the show after Trebek’s death, and Richards was only hosting until the other guest hosts were sorted out. It was never made clear that he was trying out.

The outcry was swift and loud. Adding to the mess, it was discovered that Richards had some pretty ugly skeletons in his closet from comments he made years ago on his podcast “The Randumb Show”. Richards apologized for his careless words, but the damage was done. He agreed to step down as host (without ever starting) but will remain as executive producer. The show is now in damage control mode from several PR crises of its own creation.

Here are a few takeaway lessons:

  • Communicate your intention clearly to your audience. The show should have announced that Richards was a candidate for the job and taken away his role as producer. While he stated he was not involved in the selection, it appears that he just chose himself, and the guest hosts never had a shot at the job.
  • Be careful what you post online. Once you post something, it never really goes away. Richards found this out the hard way when he tried to delete the offensive material, only to discover it had been archived.
  • Review your posts before hitting send. It’s better to err on the side of caution on social media and not post something if it can even remotely be considered offensive. The internet has a long memory and while Richards apologized for the remarks he made many years ago, the damage was done.
  • Be sure to vet job candidates thoroughly. The show had months to do a deep dive into each of the candidates, but it appears (rightly or wrongly) that they didn’t really vet Richards at all, since he already worked on the show.

The show has enough fans that this won’t mark the end of the show. Fans will be willing to forgive one mistake, but the show will need to be extremely careful with its next hire.

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