“Jeopardy!” super contestant Ken Jennings penned an emotional tribune to longtime host Alex Trebek on Saturday, calling him his generation’s Walter Cronkite in a heartfelt editorial to the New York Times.
“Carson and Cronkite are long gone, but Alex Trebek remains, the last of the old-school broadcasters who once visited us every night as a matter of ritual,” Jennings wrote. “He takes it seriously, being the face of ‘Jeopardy!’ the voice of facts in a post-fact world … He knows how much he means to people.”
“In person, he’s decidedly not the stern, judicial presence you might expect,” Jennings continued. “When the cameras stop rolling, Alex is a looser, even goofy presence. He takes studio audience questions at every break, sometimes slipping into funny accents or even bits of soft-shoe.”
Last week, 78-year-0ld Trebek stunned the world by announcing he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Trebek, who has hosted the show for 35 years, said he planned to keep working through his illness and even joked about how he had to beat the odds because of contract requirements.
“Normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging but I’m going to fight this,” the host said. “I’m going to keep working and with the love and support of my family and friends — and with the help of your prayers, also — I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.”
Jennings became a minor celebrity after winning 74 “Jeopardy!” games in a row in 2004. It remains by far the longest winning streak for any champion in the show’s history and the run netted him more than 3 million in winnings.