The ABC is overhauling its prestigious cadet journalism program for 2014 so that only existing employees or those who applied for reporting gigs earlier this year are eligible. The news will come as a blow to hundreds of aspiring gumshoes around the country who see scoring a cadetship as their best shot at becoming the next Leigh Sales or Tony Jones.

ABC cadetships are usually advertised externally and are open to applications from anyone with an undergraduate degree and media experience. Over 1000 people applied last year for only seven positions. Successful candidates have traditionally had to complete the journalistic equivalent of a heptathlon by passing a written application, current affairs quiz, news-writing test, voice and camera test and finally an interview.

That’s all different this year.

“Due to special circumstances this year, the ABC is not doing a broad external selection process for its cadet intake for 2014,” Steven Alward, the ABC’s editor of policy, training and staff development, confirmed to Crikey. “That’s because we have just been through one of the biggest and broadest selection processes ever — 1500 applicants for a range of junior and senior positions right around the country as part of the newsgathering review.”

After a $10 million budget boost for ABC News, a raft of positions were advertised earlier this year including national reporters, fact-checkers and staffers to work in new bureaus in Parramatta, Ipswich and Geelong. There was a focus on attracting indigenous candidates and those from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Alward says the ABC identified a “significant number” of strong entry-level candidates from diverse backgrounds, but who missed out on the new positions. They have been invited to apply for cadetships. The cadet positions were also advertised internally at the ABC and were open to casuals and interns.

Crikey understands there has long been concern in Aunty’s upper echelons about the prevalence of white, middle-class ABC recruits.

“We don’t want to be white bread,” a news veteran said this morning. “We’re a polyglot democracy.”

The ABC is expected to recruit roughly the same number of cadets — seven — as last year and resume the traditional recruitment process next year. The ABC has traditionally recruited indigenous journalism cadets and technology cadets. ABC cadets are traditionally sent to a capital city for their first year and then to a regional bureau in their second. Age investigative star Nick McKenzie, Q&A host Tony Jones, PM presenter Mark Colvin and 7.30 Victoria host Josie Taylor all began their careers as ABC cadets.

SBS is continuing its external process for hiring cadets this year, with jobs on offer for two junior reporters.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off