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TV Economist quiz
There was no lifeline, no chance to phone a friend and every answer was their final answer. And needless to say, the contestants in the Economist Business Challenge (EBC) never got a "Who wants to be a millionaire" softball query like "Which of the following is a Latin dance: mustard, mayonnaise, relish or salsa?"
PHOTO: Owen Egan
The EBC is an annual event that pits 16 schools -- half from the States, half from Canada -- against each other in a mix of Jeopardy-style quiz questions and a more traditional case competition. This year the competition is being broadcast on I-Channel and PBS.
The questions are on politics, business and culture and were drawn from the venerable pages of The Economist magazine. Contestants were judged by a panel that included columnist Andrew Coyne; Beth O'Rorke, CEO of The Economist; and U.S. presidential candidate and former Vermont governor Howard Dean.
"Any proper noun, fact, figure in the magazine for a period of about five months was in -- and it's a weekly!" explained team member Wendy Saschenbrecker.
The team members were selected early last summer and were tested both on their general knowledge and composure -- a key element when trying to perform under the glare of television cameras. Other team members were Josko Bobanovic, Sean Emmond and alternate Paul Lapp, all MBA students.
Saschenbrecker said she relished the chance to do something a little different.
"There's several case competitions in this faculty throughout the year and I thought this one would be more interesting because it combined case with the short questions. I wanted to do a bit of the pop fun stuff too," said Saschenbrecker.
The team practiced throughout the summer, studying the magazine and quizzing each other with the help of faculty adviser Karl Moore and Radio Canada international journalist Martin Gauthier. The teamwork and practice paid off.
"Sometimes we'd get a question and Sean would buzz and say 'Wendy knows this!'" said Saschenbrecker.
In terms of being put on the spot, that was nothing. During one question, a stuck buzzer inadvertently stopped a question at "What percentage did..." Saschenbrecker was called on to answer.
"I had no idea, so I made up an answer... 'uh, sixteen point three!' and it was correct!" she said, laughing. She still doesn't know what the rest of the question was.
That might have been a fluke, but the team's performance was not. In the first round the McGill team was paired up with Harvard -- they trounced them by roughly 290 points. They went on to defeat Concordia before falling to HEC, who in turn were defeated by the eventual champions from the Rotman School of Management from the University of Toronto.
Although they didn't win, the team all received free subscriptions to The Economist -- which Saschenbrecker now gets to read in a more leisurely way.
"It was a few months before I could read it without highlighting things I would have to remember!"
The Economist Business Challenge premiered January 13. Two new challenges will be shown each week for eight weeks. Check your local listings: Rogers Cable -- 136, Bell ExpressVu -- 514, StarChoice -- 593, Shaw Cable -- 95 (in most locations), Cogeco Cable -- 136.