How did reporters cope in Parliament before note-taking was allowed? And when were female reporters first allowed in?
These were two of the questions answered in an illuminating talk by Parliamentary Outreach speaker Sophie Scragg when she met SHU journalism students.
She revealed that before note-taking was allowed, reporters sat in the public gallery and memorised what was said. This earned them the nickname of ‘memory men’.
The first female reporters (just two of them) were allowed into the Press gallery in 1919 to cover the momentous occasion of Nancy Astor becoming the first female MP to take her seat in Westminster.
But it was another 26 years, in 1945, that a woman took up a permanent parliamentary reporting post when Eirene Jones was appointed as political correspondent for the Manchester Evening News.
She was created a life peer in 1970 and took the title Baroness White.
Sophie is a universities programme officer for Parliamentary Outreach and talked to SHU undergrad and postgrad students studying Public Affairs, which covers the topic of central government.
Sophie, who was invited by Public Affairs lecturer Helen Johnston, encouraged the students to come up with headlines for issues currently being debated by select committees.
She also revealed in a quiz that Charles Dickens had once worked as a parliamentary reporter and that it was in 1803 that a space in the public gallery was first reserved for reporters.
Today the Parliamentary Press Gallery represents more than 300 newspaper, wire service, radio, television and internet journalists.