1 9 5 1 – 1 9 5 8 (USA)
30 minute episodes
This was the longest-running of several 1950s public affairs series involving adolescents (others included Junior Press Conference, The New York Times Youth Forum, and Youth Takes a Stand).
Theodore Granik created the show in 1930 while lining up speakers for his radio show American Forum of the Air and noting how his 13-year-old son Bill took an interest in the process and asked intelligent questions of the speakers set for that show. That inspired him to create a format where one politician met each week, in a press conference setting, with young people ranging in age from 16-19 asking questions.
Members of the American Legion selected 50 high school and junior college students from the Washington DC area for the show. Granik picked out interrogators from the audience and moderated discussions until he left as host, though he continued as producer.
Guests ranged from Senator Howard Taft in 1951 to ex-President Harry Truman in 1958.
By 1957 nonpolitical guests had also begun appearing regularly, including comedian Jerry Lewis, actor Burt Lancaster, and movie producer Mike Todd.
Most found they needed to be quick-witted with the younger set, who had no inhibitions in asking tough questions or telling a wordy politico to stop the filibustering.
A measure of the show’s reputation is that German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer appeared on it during a US visit while rejecting offers from Face the Nation and Meet the Press.
The show also achieved a unique distinction when host Stephen McCormick and 12 panellists played themselves in the 1958 movie comedy Miss Casey Jones, where Doris Day’s character appeared before them explaining her opposition to an evil railroad owner played by Ernie Kovacs.
But the extracurricular activity did not win over NBC, which ended a seven-year network run that began on Saturday evenings on 8 September 1951 under the title The American Youth Forum. When it moved to Saturday afternoons, it aired on Sundays at noon on kinescopes in New York City.
In January 1952, it was renamed Youth Wants to Know and returned to NBC at nighttime in the summers of 1952 and 1954 in addition to its regular Sunday afternoon shows.
The final five shows in September and October 1958 were filmed in Moscow with American students questioning Soviet politicians, including Deputy Premier Mikoyan, and the Russian ministers of culture, higher education, health and science.
A syndicated version of Youth Wants to Know began in March 1959, with Granik hosting a monthly offering in Washington DC.
Theodore Granik (1951 – 1954)
Stephen McCormick (1954 – 1958)