Making TV History: ‘Meet the Press’ Timeline

Apr 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

If it’s Sunday, it’s “Meet the Press.” Those words, the tagline for NBC’s stalwart Sunday political talk show, underscore the importance, relevance and continuing status of the program. And as the show celebrates 60 years on television, it continues to stand out as the highest-rated Sunday morning show, with the most popular host, Tim Russert.

Mr. Russert, the current moderator and managing editor of “Meet the Press,” defines the mission of “Meet the Press” as “a thoughtful exchange of ideas, sometimes tense, even feisty, occasionally humorous, but always fair and always civilized.” Here’s a look at some of the highlights in the long history of the show, as it has worked to fulfill its mission for the past six decades.

Lawrence E. Spivak, American Mercury Magazine editor and CBS radio reporter, and journalist Martha Rountree co-create a political talk show using a panel of interviewers to confront the top newsmakers of the day. The show, called “Meet the Press,” premieres as a radio show on the Mutual Broadcasting System.

Nov. 6, 1947
“Meet the Press” jumps to television, beginning a historic 60-year run on NBC. Mr. Spivak and Ms. Rountree continue as producers and moderators.

Sept. 12, 1948
Elizabeth Bentley, a former Russian spy, is the first female guest to appear on “Meet the Press.”

“Meet the Press” experiments by airing twice a week, Sunday and Tuesday, with different guests on each broadcast.

NBC newsman Ned Brooks joins the show as a moderator. Mr. Spivak continues with the show as a panelist and occasional moderator.

Sept. 10, 1953
Mr. Spivak buys out Ms. Rountree’s half of “Meet the Press,” becoming the sole stockholder.

May 2, 1955
Mr. Spivak resists an offer from William Paley to move “Meet the Press” to CBS. Instead, Mr. Spivak sells rights title and interest in “Meet the Press” to NBC for a seven-figure sum.

April 17, 1960
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes his first appearance on “Meet the Press.”

Sept. 25, 1960
“Meet the Press” begins broadcasting in color.

President John F. Kennedy calls “Meet the Press” “the 51st state.”

“Meet the Press” ceases nighttime broadcasts, moving into the NBC Sunday afternoon schedule, where it continues to this day. Also, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson becomes the first guest to appear for a live interview via satellite.

Aug. 21, 1966
Dr. King, Stokely Carmichael, James Meredith, Whitney Young, Floyd McKissick and Roy Wilkins are guests on a “Meet the Press” civil rights special. The leaders of the civil rights movement discuss the black soldier’s role in the Vietnam War.

Mr. Spivak celebrates his final broadcast on “Meet the Press” by getting an interview with President Gerald R. Ford. It’s the first appearance by an incumbent president on the show. Bill Monroe takes over as moderator.

Marvin Kalb joins “Meet the Press” as a moderator, with Roger Mudd as co-moderator. Mr. Monroe becomes a permanent panelist on the show.

Chris Wallace takes over as moderator.

Garrick Utley takes the reins as “Meet the Press” moderator.

Tim Russert becomes moderator of “Meet the Press,” the ninth on the show.

The show expands from 30 minutes to a full hour.

“Meet the Press” becomes the first network television program to broadcast in digital high-definition.

March 16, 2003
Vice President Dick Cheney appears on “Meet the Press.” He offers what becomes an infamous quote when he says, “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators,” describing how the Iraqi people will feel when U.S. troops topple Saddam Hussein.

Feb. 8, 2004
President George W. Bush sits for an exclusive one-on-one in the Oval Office with Tim Russert. It’s the president’s first Sunday morning interview since his inauguration.

“Meet the Press” takes a leap into the future by podcasting the audio from each week’s show. Before the year ends, the show adds a netcast, making the latest episode available on the Internet only one hour after the live broadcast.

“Meet the Press” celebrates 60 years on television, the longest-running show in the medium’s history.

‘Meet the Press’ 60th Anniversary