World's Largest Media Trivia Contest

WWSP 90FM in Stevens Point, Wisconsin

The History

In February 1969 UW-SP's student-run station WWSP (then known as WSUS) had a scaled-down 16-hour version of the Lawrence University contest, in an attempt to gain listeners. Tim Donovan arrived in the fall of 1969 and took over WWSP's fledgling event and presented the first all-weekend, 51-hour, (now 54 hours) contest the next February. An aspect known as the running question was introduced in 1973. Teams would be given about 20 minutes to race to some local landmark and obtain several pieces of information.

Tim Donovan's definition of acceptable trivia: "I think trivia's got to come from popular culture to be meaningful to people who are playing. If you ask what state consumes the most Jello, some would call that trivia. I call that minutia. And it should be entertainment. Not like 'Jeopardy.' Not history and geography. That's fun too. But it's not trivia."

In 1974 the WWSP contest had grown enough to surpass the Lawrence event and billed itself as "The World's Largest." The contest style had evolved into a standard format of 10 (now 8) questions per hour, with news, a short team interview segment called "Trivia Focus", and top team scores given at the end or each hour.

By the mid-1970's, Tim Donovan had graduated and left the contest to Tim Bedore and Steve Hamilton. Steve left after 1978, leaving the job of writing questions to Jim Oliva. Oliva also inherited the title of "Trivia Oz". The new Oz (Jim Oliva) introduced the Trivia Kickoff and the "Trivia Stone" scavenger search. Jim Oliva also initiated team pre-registration, eventually assigning I.D. numbers to each team to improve score keeping. A small fee was also charged (now at $30 per team) to cover the contest's rising costs. In 1982 the phone rules were changed to allow just one call per team, per question, instead of unlimited guessing. 1985 saw the first Trivia Parade. A major score keeping change was instituted in 1989. Instead of assigning questions' point values in advance, values were calculated by dividing 1000 points by the number of teams answering correctly and rounding up to the nearest multiple of five. A variation of this system is still in use today.

For the last few years the Oz has been assisted in the question writing duties by John Eckendorf. 1995 saw the introduction of the "Audio/Music Question" to replace the "Trivia Stone". Several times during the contest small portions of eight songs are played back-to-back, the teams must indentify the songs and artists to get points. The song medley identification has been expanded for the 1996 contest to three questions.

(*Some background information is from an article by Barry Heck, in issue #14 (April 1993) of Trivia Quotient newsletter produced and edited by Raymond Hamel)

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