The U.S. Senate once debated all treaties and nominations behind closed doors in executive sessions. Committees also did much of their work away from public view, excluding both the public and the press. Nineteenth-century newspapers campaigned vigorously against senatorial secrecy.
"They Hate the Light, but They Canít Escape It" appeared in Puck on March 26, 1890. Cartoonist Joseph Keppler portrayed the press shining the light of publicity on senatorial owls, conducting public business in the dark. "No Admittance" signs appear on the doors, and senators huddle and whisper in a conspiratorial manner. Although Keppler credited the press with lighting the way, in reality reporters got access to secret information from cooperative senators who leaked it to them. After repeated embarrassment over such unauthorized releases, the Senate abandoned secret sessions almost entirely in 1929. Subsequent "sunshine legislation" allowed public access to most committee meetings as well.