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Betsy's Trivia: Anniversary Edition

Answer: Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill

Martha Rountree

Meet the Press, the world’s longest-running network television program, this weekend celebrated the 65th anniversary of its first televised show, on November  2, 1947. But the origin of Meet the Press goes back even further, to its start as a radio program in 1945. Meet the Press was the co-creation of journalists Lawrence Spivak and Martha Rountree, who met in 1945 when both were producing radio shows. The two came up with the idea of a radio press conference with respected journalists confronting a newsworthy guest each week, but Spivak had trouble selling the concept to big networks. Rountree, whom Mrs. William Randolph Hearst once memorably described as “a diesel engine under a lace handkerchief,”  turned their luck around in a meeting with the President of the Mutual Broadcasting System Ed Kobak. Mutual had previously been against the idea of a panel show, but Rountree challenged Kobak: “How would you like to have a program on Mutual in which people like Stalin and Roosevelt and Churchill and Henry Wallace were asked challenging and unrehearsed questions by a panel of top newsmen?” Kobak was sold on the idea and asked if they  could really get such guests, to which Rountree confidently replied, “Maybe not all, but some.” After the meeting Spivak was horrified at her promises but Rountree was unfazed: “I didn’t say we could get Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. I said people like them.” Kobak agreed to put Meet the Press on the air in June of 1945 and it became a successful radio program before transitioning to airing on the NBC television network two years later. Though Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin never did appear on Meet the Press, Rountree and Spivak did of course fulfill their vision, and many presidents and world leaders have been guests on the program throughout its run. Rountree would continue to show the spirit she did in the Mutual meeting as the Meet the Press moderator until 1953, throughout its radio run and television debut. 

Meet the Press Co-Creator Lawrence Spivak


Every Monday, Betsy Fischer Martin - the Executive Producer of Meet the Press - poses a trivia question on Twitter about the 64 years of history-making moments and guests on Meet The Press. Check back every week for answers and video clips!