Ken Jennings


May 3, 2016

Since 2012–almost four years!–I’ve been writing a weekly news quiz for Slate magazine. But I told Slate last month that I was giving up the assignment. Last week, for the first time ever, the Slate Quiz was written by someone else.

I was sorry to have to step away, because the quiz is always a lot of fun to write, and spending hours reading about the news every week means I’m an unusually well-informed citizen, especially about weird animal rampages and dumb criminals. Did you know that ten people tried to file their taxes from Coachella this year? That was the officially the last week I’ll know about stuff like that.

I was starting to have two problems with the quiz: I’m behind on a book, and having to spent a big chunk of every Wednesday on an unrelated deadline wasn’t helping. A news quiz can’t be written in advance, you see. Even if I was traveling or on vacation, I’d have to figure out when to research and write and file the quiz.

The other problem was, the more experience I had with the quiz, the longer it seemed to take to write! I chalk this up to perfectionism. This earthquake question is sort of boring…is there a way to make this destructive earthquake in Ecuador seem a little more, well, fun? (Without trivializing it, of course.) Is this Donald Trump joke really as funny as last week’s Donald Trump joke? You’d think I would have gotten more efficient at this, but it just seemed like I was always trying to get every question to capture some elusive perfection I may have glimpsed at one time on a past quiz.

I’m sorry if you were a fan of the quiz…it’s continuing at the moment, written collaboratively by Slate staffers, and I think they’re circling another writer they want to take over. When the book is done, maybe I’ll suddenly decide I’m bored every Wednesday afternoon and ask if Slate is hiring quizmasters, who knows. I certainly have more “Slate quizmaster” experience that any other applicant they’ll get. I like my odds.

Posted by Ken at 9:46 am