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“No secrecy possible” One aspect of the relationship between the U.S. Senate and the press in the nineteenth century

Authors
Journal
Government Publications Review
0277-9390
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
18
Issue
3
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/0277-9390(91)90002-f
Disciplines
  • Law
  • Political Science

Abstract

Abstract During the nineteenth century, the United States Senate conducted almost all debates on nominations and treaties in closed, executive sessions, yet newspapers routinely published full accounts of these secret sessions. Periodically, the Senate would investigate the sources of its leaks. In 1892, senators fired executive clerk James Rankin Young, under suspicion of divulging secrets, but the leaks continued. The persistence of secret sessions and their easy penetration had less to do with national security than with the self-interest of politicians and the press. The leaking of secrets was a mutual act from which both sides benefited. Senators released information as it suited their political purposes and in return received favorable press treatment. Reporters received more attention from their editors and column space in the papers for stories containing “secret” information. The sharing of secrets, therefore, helped to weld a close working relationship between newspaper reporters and their well-placed sources.

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