Indiana copy editor wins $24,400 on ‘Jeopardy’

Bloomington (IN) Herald-Times copy editor Penny Reid says her biggest concern about appearing on “Jeopardy” was what to wear. She chose a Goodwill sweater and got lots of compliments, “so I guess it was OK.”

Alex Trebek and Penny Reid

Alex Trebek and Penny Reid

Reid did OK on the show, too, winning $24,400 in two appearances that aired this week. (They were taped in Los Angeles in early January.)

“People [at the newspaper] are pretty excited and full of praise and whatnot,” Reid said in a phone interview after winning $22,400 on the show that aired Tuesday and being allowed to return for a second appearance. “It’s very embarrassing.” (The copy editor says she doesn’t like being in the spotlight.)

Reid took second place on Wednesday’s show, and added $2,000 to her winnings.

“I was terrified the whole time just because of the pressure, mostly that I put on myself,” she told her newspaper in a story that’s behind a paywall. “I was shaking the whole time. I was a little worried that I might swear on camera. But once you’re there, you kind of get into a professional mode. So you don’t.”

Her plans for the money: “I’m going to take a slightly less backpacking type of trip, and more of hotel trip.” She’s going to London this summer, then Germany to visit a brother.

Friends have encouraged her to buy a new car with her winnings, but Reid says she wants to see how long her 1999 Subaru can stay on the road.

The 1987 Indiana University j-school grad, who has been a copy editor at the Bloomington paper for 25 years, says she still loves her job.

“It’s kind of a dream to get paid to read the paper,” she tells me, adding: “I’d like to say I knew the [“Jeopardy”] answers from reading the paper, but most of them I probably learned in high school.”/CONTINUES


Reid did a “Jeopardy” FAQ for her newspaper’s employee newsletter. Here are excerpts:

Do they pay for the trip?
No. Sony, the production company, has a discount at a hotel, but you pay for your flight and the rest of the hotel bill. But the least you can win at Jeopardy is the third-place prize of $1,000, so that should pay for the trip. You won’t get the money for several months, though.

They only tape on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you win and have to come back the next week, they will pay for that. This is known as the Ken Jennings rule. Although he kept winning for months, he hadn’t received any prize money yet. So he was flying back and forth from Utah on his own dime, and it got ridiculous. That’s why they added that rule.

What were you most surprised by?
How much work is done in postproduction and behind the scenes. The show looks really seamless onTV, but every time they take a break, either for a commercial or a Daily Double, they are having Alex re-record a clue if he misspoke, or they are double-checking an answer. On the show, when Alex says We have a scoring change to announce, the contestant is always pretty calm about it. That’s because a producer has already talked to them about it off-camera.

What is Alex Trebek really like?
Alex is very charming, and not really as strait-laced as he comes across. During the breaks in the show, he took questions from the audience and showed photos of his family. Everyone involved in the show is super nice and makes contestants feel very comfortable. They prepare you for every possibility: if an answer is disputed, if Alex calls on the wrong person, even if your Final Jeopardy electro-pen doesn’t work. That never happens, but they have a backup plan just in case.

During the end credits, when the contestants are talking with Alex on the stage, are they having a real conversation?
Yes. In my case, he was ribbing us about questions we missed.

How do you know what to say to Alex during the interview portion of the show?
When you apply, you fill out all kinds of paperwork and provide interesting tidbits about yourself. The production staff picks a few things, writes them on a card for Alex, and makes sure you are ready to talk about them. Alex may not choose the item you expect, so you have to be ready to improvise.

* Penny Reid has more “Jeopardy” photos on her Facebook page