Tonia Moore is not a millionaire. The National Journal copy editor incorrectly answered a question about the origin of Universal Studios’ name on an episode of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” broadcast Friday, ending a run that began with a show broadcast the day before.
In a phone interview, Moore said the taping — originally scheduled for Oct. 31 in New York — was rescheduled for early November after Hurricane Sandy hit. Moore took a week off work to be in New York for the taping. “I know the timing’s awful” given the election, she said she told her boss, who “stressed (repeatedly) that I had to be at work on Nov. 6 no matter what,” she wrote in an email.
She’d tried out for the show once before, in 2010, she said, but was “not effusive enough in my interview.” When she took the test again last year, she said, she was “very loud and did a lot of woo-hooing.”
Moore’s a movie fan, but she would have preferred to have been on the regular show rather than Movie Week — “I have always thought that a copy editor getting on that show could take them for everything they were worth,” she said — but she dutifully boned up, memorizing Oscar winners going back to the 1940s.
I asked her if she winces now when she sees the Universal Studios logo. She hasn’t been to a Universal picture in the past few months, she said, but allowed that when she saw a trailer for one of the studio’s productions “there was some grumbling.”
She tried to keep her appearance low-key at work — “I’m a copy editor; we don’t like a lot of fuss normally” — and sneaked off to a breakroom away from the editorial floor Thursday to watch her appearance. When she returned to work, she discovered her coworkers had put it on a big TV in the newsroom.
Moore interned at Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times (then the St. Petersburg Times) and worked for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The (Baltimore) Sun and the Center for Public Integrity before landing at National Journal in 2010.
Attention colleagues past and present hitting her up for a beer: Moore “left the show with $1,000 in winnings,” a show publicist told Poynter in an email. And she won’t get that money for another month, Moore said.
Answering questions on the spot wasn’t as hard as you might think, Moore said, but knowing you might get doinked by a wrong answer was: “It’s not so much that you don’t know it but you go, ‘Oh, wait a minute, there are consequences if I get this wrong.’ ”
As she watched her winnings bank go up, Moore, who also plays poker, said she didn’t want to bail when she wasn’t sure about an answer. “If I got this far, I cannot play scared,” she said she thought. “If I had been right and I had walked away, I would be on suicide watch.”