(Meet The Press interviews Governor Ronald Reagan - January21, 1974)
There was a time, not so long ago, when Sunday morning "Public Affairs" programs consisted of useful discussion, pertinent discourse and the occasional almost-brawl. Meet The Press was only one of several shows on every major network Sunday mornings which covered some aspect of local, national and world politics. They all adapted the Panel method of mini-press conferences. Sometimes it was a good cop/bad cop situation. Sometimes it just got contentious from the get-go. But you always walked away better informed than you were before you turned on the TV (or radio . . .let's not forget). Somewhere, back in the dark ages, it was deemed important for an audience to be informed about the world around them. There was, above all, an FCC edict that said all broadcasting over public airwaves had to have some portion of "Public Interest" programming included in its schedule. And all (or most) News Departments were respected entities within the network structure. Somewhere along the line though, the Peoples Right To Know took a giant step backward and wound up reduced to streams of pander, infantilism and spin. In short, Mainstream Media can take big credit for the Dumbing Down of America it so often talks about. And you can almost put a date on it. From the best I can suss out, the formats of all the Sunday Morning talk shows started changing in 1982. Going from panels to one-on-ones or Hardball to Softball.
Getting off the soap box - here is Meet The Press from its earlier incarnation, as a panel of questioners moderated by Lawrence Spivak, the co-creator of the panel format (along with Martha Rountree). It started as a Radio program in 1946 and quickly made the transition to television. As you may notice, listening to this broadcast, the panel features a young and rather cantankerous Robert Novak.
My, how times have changed.