Page last updated at 06:08 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 07:08 UK

BBC widens search for journalists

Neil Prior
Blind journalist Neil Prior has worked for the BBC for eight years

BBC Wales is stepping up the hunt for journalists from ethnic minority and disabled backgrounds to help deliver the news to its diverse audiences.

The corporation said the move was part of a pilot project to create a pool of working journalists.

BBC newsrooms in Yorkshire and the East Midlands and two in London are also taking part.

Manager Paul Deal said he was "fired up" about the need to connect with the BBC's web users, viewers and listeners.

Mr Deal, a former newspaper editor, has moved from being a senior journalist in the BBC's radio newsroom to the BBC College of Journalism to manage the talent pool.

He said: "We hope that, through their social or ethnic background, or perhaps through their insights into disability, the people who pass our assessment process will help us to reach out to our many and varied audiences".

There would be support and encouragement for journalists in the pool
Manager Paul Deal

He explained how the pilot project developed by the BBC's College of Journalism alongside senior journalists from all the pilot areas would work.

"The idea is that when vacancies for broadcast journalists crop up in the pilot areas, the people in our pool would compete with candidates who might have applied directly.

"It would be down to individual editors to choose the strongest candidates although, in line with existing agreements, BBC employees at risk of redundancy would be given priority consideration".

Mr Deal added: "There would be support and encouragement for journalists in the pool with expert advice on how to give a good account of yourself at a BBC interview.

He said journalists from outside the BBC would also have access to its journalism college courses and seminars.

Neil Prior, 30, who is blind, is a sports journalist at BBC Wales, where he has worked for eight years.

'Stalked'

He explained how, as a youngster, he gained work experience as a football writer with the Worcester Evening News.

After studying history at Swansea University, he said he "stalked" BBC Wales for a job, eventually winning a placement in the sports department, under the Extend scheme to attract staff with a disability into the BBC.

"It proved to be just enough to get a foot in the door, and after Extend I went on to have spells with Radio Wales News and Wales Today, the main evening TV news programme for Wales," he said.

"Currently, I work as sports news organiser for the Wales newsgathering team in Cardiff, researching and writing the sport stories across all of our output on TV, radio and online."

BBC deputy director general Mark Byford said: "I hope this new project is going to attract fresh and exciting talent to strengthen our news teams in Wales, Yorkshire, East Midlands and London".


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