A Brief History of the Press Gallery
The Press Gallery is as old as Parliament itself. The Honourable Thomas White is credited with founding the Gallery in 1867. Before Hansard was contracted in 1875, the sole records of Commons business were the newspaper clippings of Gallery members. The Gallery has always been a self-governing body, operating under the authority of the Speaker. In 1987, the Gallery was incorporated under the Canada Corporations Act and its constitution was amended and adopted as the Gallery’s first By-laws.
The new Centre Block, which opened in 1920, contained a work space and lounge for reporters that was accessible to both the House and Senate Press Galleries. The press was also provided with a Chief Page and several assistants.
Press Gallery membership grew from 33, in 1929, to 100 in the early 1960s. By that time, the press had expanded out of their third floor room into the adjacent corridor and set up a rabbit warren of desks and equipment. Despite 6,000 sq.ft. of space being set aside for it in the renovation of West Block, the press refused to move, preferring cramped quarters close to the House.
In 1967, Press Gallery offices on Parliament Hill were overcrowded, but reporters were reluctant to move away from the centre of Canadian political life. The government solved the problem by offering to lease 150 Wellington Street – today’s “National Press Building,” once known as the Norlite Building. Here, the news media still have their offices there and thousands of press conferences have taken place in the National Press Theatre located in this building. History is made by Parliament, but it is often announced from this building in the heart of the Capital. As part of this arrangement, an interview room was also fitted-up on the lower level of Centre Block.
In 1982, the Press Gallery Executive allowed TV producers, photographers, researchers, camerapersons, soundpersons and other technical staff who cover the Hill on a regular basis to apply for active Press Gallery membership. Up until that time they were only eligible for temporary status. This increased membership to over 300 members. Today, 2010, Press Gallery membership stands at approximately 385 full-time members.