If anyone is interested, I may post a fuller explanation of the history of Lobby Journalism, but I suggest you Google "The Press Gallery", which should take you to www.thepressgallery.co.uk for a full technical explanation.
Lobby Journalists are considered historically to be Gentlemen (and now Lady) Reporters, who by permission of the Serjeant at Arms of the House of Commons, are permitted to loiter in the Member's Lobby. This is the Lobby directly outside the door to the Commons Chamber.
Gallery Reporters, by historic tradition are something different again, but in practical terms, there is little difference these days. Although all Gallery Journalists are not Lobby Journalists, All Lobby Journalists also hold a Gallery Pass for the Commons. Historically, Gallery Reporters would be based in the Press Gallery whenever the House was sitting, and reporting on proceedings throughout the Parliamentary Day. Again, historically, Lobby Journalists historically would report on more general politics, outside of the Chamber, such as tittle tattle (hopefully news) that might be whispered to them by MP's and Ministers of the Crown.
So why did, and why do MP's trust Lobby Journalists with information and words that if muttered publically, could get them in to serious trouble?
... Because Lobby Journalists are bound by "Lobby Rules", which means that we are not allowed to quote and attribute any comments that are uttered within the Members Lobby, or otherwise on Lobby terms, such as Lobby Terms parties, or conversations where Members indicate that they are speaking on Lobby Terms. The rules are quite complicated, but this is the basic principle.
If Lobby rules are broken, Journalists are accountable both to the Parliamentary Press Lobby, and specifically to the House Authorities.
The difference between the Telegraph's undercover reporters and the Telegraph's Lobby Journalists therefore is that the Lobby guys and girls are bound by strict rules, and could, in finality have their Commons Security Pass withdrawn, be suspended by the Lobby, be dragged in front of the Speaker, or the Serjeant at Arms, or theoretically, held in Contempt of Parliament more easily than a non-Parliamentary Journalist.
Basically, we work to different briefs. On deep reflection, reluctantly, I cannot support the way in which evidence was gathered in the cases of the Lib Dem Ministers, since it seems secret recordings were made speculatively. I do however defend the practice of undercover recording where it is in the Public Interest, and where there is no other practical way of gathering such evidence. Indeed where wrongdoing is exposed, and where the above criteria is met, every right thinking MP, every right thinking man and woman in the world should support such techniques also.
On the subject of the Telegraph, as I said above, I have been deeply split. I think that the audio that was gathered in the case of Vince Cable absolutely should have been released for public consumption since it goes to the heart of the stability of this Government, and indeed an apparent intention to ride over Due Process and Justice - but sadly, and I do mean sadly, the audio transcripts released in the cases of others does not appear to meet with this high test.
In conclusion, I assure readers that although individual MP's may spend some months being cagey with Lobby Correspondents and Political Editors, all MP's know they can trust Lobby Journalists not to compromise their identity when it comes to sensitive information. Just as a small postscript, I should say that because Lobby Journalists sometimes restrict sources to "A source close to the Prime Minister" IF for EXAMPLE they mean the Chancellor, Gallery Reporters, understandably, used to actively contempt Lobby Journalists for dealing in tittle tattle rather than fact. In 2010, Lobby Journalists and Gallery Journalists do virtually the same job, work side by side with each other, and operate on ENTIRELY equal terms.
I have posted this using my iPhone, so have not been able to proof read in the normal way. Please accept apologies for any typos. If any exist, I shall correct them in due course.
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