This could be a first in the world, to have an Internet journalist chairing a parliamentary press gallery.
I was working as the media services advisor for Ministerial Services when Peter Fowler met with me in 1996 or 1997, to talk about his idea to have an Internet clearing house where people could read press releases as they came out etc. Something we take for granted today, but back then was novel. Peter said that his plan was to provide a free service for a while, and then look at charging. The key was getting Ministerial press releases sent out by e-mail, as they are the ones most people are interested in.
I was unsure as to whether it would ever make money for Peter and co, but thought it a great idea and over a period of time managed to get most of the press secretaries to agree to start sending out copies of their PRs by e-mail. This was a significant departure from procedure to date.
Newsroom grew and prospered. There was a brief, and fairly nasty, civil war as some of the staff set up their own service at Scoop, but both Newsroom and Scoop survived and prospered. And both seem to have their own niche now.
I then recall Newsroom asking for press gallery membership. Some journalists were not keen. There was a shortage of space, and what if any group with a website wants to become members, they said. However the quality of the product won the day and despite some scepticism Newsroom was granted associate, and then in time full, membership.
This was only a few short years ago, so to now have a Newsroom journalist as chair of the press gallery, indicates to me how quickly the barriers between traditional and Internet journalism have fallen. Maree’s election is of course in a personal capacity, reflecting her skills and personality, but the fact that she works for an Internet only publisher was obviously not an issue.
Incidentally at some stage I would like to see some sort of blog collective (sounds like Star Trek) apply for associate press gallery membership, so important debates can be live-blogged from the House. Not enough time before the election, but would be a nice project for afterwards.