Lawrence Spivak; Originator of ‘Meet the Press’
Lawrence Spivak, originator of NBC’s “Meet the Press” and pioneer of television’s Sunday news show format, died Wednesday in Washington. He was 93.
Spivak died of congestive heart failure at Sibley Memorial Hospital, said Tim Russert, Washington bureau chief for NBC and the current host of the show.
Spivak was moderator of “Meet the Press” from its beginning in November, 1947, until November, 1975.
“It’s the roar of the presses, working day and night in the North, South, East and West of our nation,” Spivak said in introducing his first show, which he billed as “America’s press conference of the air.”
The first show was broadcast only in New York, although it was produced in Washington, the network said.
By its third broadcast, the program clearly was going to be a hit. NBC executives gave it network status, broadcasting it in New York and Washington.
During the early days, television journalists were reluctant to ask their guests hard questions, so Spivak made a special effort to be tough.
“Since I wasn’t beholden to anybody, I just felt that the question had to be asked. It just had to be fair and informative and accurate. And sometimes the refusal to answer becomes more significant than the answer. We just furnish an opportunity for a guest to make or break himself.”
NBC said Spivak and colleague Martha Rountree began “Meet the Press” as a promotion for American Mercury magazine. Spivak was publisher of the periodical at the time.
Spivak bought Rountree’s interest in 1953, when she retired. Two years later, Spivak sold his rights to the show to NBC.
Spivak was born in New York City on June 11, 1900. He married the former Charlotte Beir Ring, a psychologist, in 1924. She died in 1988.
He graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1921.
Spivak’s daughter, Judith, also is deceased. His son, Jonathan, works for the Wall Street Journal.