Scripps National Spelling Bee cancelled due to coronavirus outbreak, event linked directly with journalism

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The Scripps National Spelling Bee has been cancelled.

Ole Olafson , Reporter

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has been cancelled due the coronavirus outbreak.  The cancellation marks the first time the annual event has been disturbed since World War II.

Luckily for eighth-grade super-spellers, a brother and sister who were past contestants have taken it upon themselves to organize an online version of the event.

According to a New York Times article by Neil Vigdor, Shourav and Shobha Dasari run a spelling bee prep service called SpellPundit.  Shourav, 17, is a junior in high school.  His sister Shobha is a Stanford freshman.

The siblings plan to utilize the videoconferencing platform Zoom, which has become extremely popular during the pandemic-driven switch to virtual gatherings.  Participants who pay the $25 entry fee will be watched closely via their web-cam to detect any sources of outside help, but the contest will rely primarily on the honor system.

“They tend to be kind of earnest kids, so I can see it working really well,” said author and Northwestern University Anthropology professor Shalina Shankar in an interview with the N.Y. Times.

This year’s online spelling bee will take place the last week of May, the same time as the regular event.  The first-place prize in this year’s, substitute competition, will reportedly be $2,500.  Second and third place will receive $1,000 and $500 respectively.

The E.W. Scripps Company, “advances understanding of the world through journalism”, according to their investor information page.

The company took over sponsoring the national competition in 1941, after it was started by a collaboration of nine newspapers in 1925.  The event gained considerable attention in 2011, when the sports network ESPN began airing prime-time coverage of the event.

The winner of the Scripps event generally receives $40,000 and a $2,500 savings bond.  Second through sixth place winners get $30,000, $20,000, $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500.  Although, like most journalists who the contest is linked to, it’s doubtful that competitive spellers are doing it strictly for the money.