And the next contestant is....The repercussions of missing background information

December 05, 2019 by Megan Burnside

In 1988, a game show contestant named "Patrick Quinn" won $58,000 on "Super Password." Later it was revealed that "Patrick Quinn" was actually Kerry Dee Ketchum, a real-life fugitive who was wanted in multiple states in the United States. A viewer tipped off police, and Ketchum was arrested when he arrived to pick up his prize money.

In 1989, a then-unknown serial killer named John Cooper appeared on an episode of the British game show, "Bullseye." Unbeknownst to the game show producers, Cooper murdered a couple from Oxfordshire on June 29, 1989. It wasn't until years later that detectives recognized the former game show contestant from his television appearance connecting him to an additional murder of a millionaire farmer—four years before he appeared on "Bullseye."


And in 2000, a bride was selected as the "winner" of the reality television show, "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" It later came out that an ex-girlfriend of the bachelor, millionaire Rick Rockwell, had previously accused him of assault.

Had producers known about these contestants' backgrounds, chances are they would not have selected them to be on the shows. Taking risks on contestants that have not been fully vetted is a risky endeavor for television production as it puts the reputation of the shows and their affiliates on the line.

"The casting of reality shows, once an intuitive, on-the-fly endeavor, has become much more of a science, with its own growing set of protocols and rituals," wrote New York Times contributor David Carr. "Several producers have hired psychologists to help them with the vetting process. And to avoid the unscripted scandals that could run afoul of the decency standards of an increasingly agitated public and the Federal Communications Commission, both producers and networks are investing more time and money into systematically investigating their contestants' backgrounds."


Media professionals find themselves responsible for doing extensive research and background checks on contestants for game shows or guests on talk shows. If they overlook a key piece of scandalous information about a potential contestant, there is a risk of the show getting bad press and losing credibility. It is imperative to find trustworthy, fully vetted news and information to protect the production from costly missteps.

What kind of information can help? Producers can start with a quick check of previous headlines and media mentions with a comprehensive collection of news that goes back decades. Then, they can dive into company data, court cases, regulatory and industry information. Finding sources that provide these capabilities is essential to obtaining all the facts, not just some of them, and that can make all the difference when it comes to your show's reputation.

If you are looking for reliable sources, download our white paper to learn more about how to perform research with comprehensive news resources, rich analytical tools and customised alerts for a reliable, trustworthy vetting process.

3 ways to apply this information now:

1. Check out these research tips for media producers!  
2. Read our latest blog post on 'The surprising cost of free'
3. Learn more about how Nexis and research can provide better information, better results.