May 2nd, 2013
The Canberra Press Gallery is in a reforming state of mind, and to my surprise I’m making a contribution, thanks to Twitter. And thanks to the Press Gallery Committee President @David_Speers, Tweeps can have an input too.
The PGC decides who joins the club. In the old days we knew who belonged, journos chosen by their media employers. So there are no criteria for entry, no standard form, no process apart from emailing the president and obtaining a signature for Parliament officials to issue a press gallery pass. We all knew who belonged and who didn’t.
Times are changing. New media is moving in, old media is contracting, and the very definition of ‘journalism’ is contested. The increasing direct involvement of citizens in public political discourse is intensifying demands for transparency in the media, which has somehow kept its internal workings secret at the same time as it successfully demanded ever increasing transparency in the political institutions it interrogated.
The casual, oral tradition of volunteer working members of the Press Gallery exercising what amounts to secretly exercised, discretionary power is under serious pressure, exemplified its recent refusal of membership to @callumdav. His account in @independentaus, story triggered Tweep questions on how the PGC worked and where they could access a list of PG members. Although I was a member for many years I didn’t have all the answers, and @walter_bagehot kindly briefed us.
I was surprised that the press gallery membership list, readily in Parliament House, was not a public document, and tweeted David for a a copy for publication. Having received no reply, I lodged an FOI with the Department of Parliamentary Liaison, which has the list because of its duty to maintain the security pass database.
As a result, PGC secretary @Jamesmassola had a go at me by tweet: ‘FOI seems like a sledgehammer to crack a nut.’ David then asked for my email address. Here is our correspondence.