PARIS – This is a first for Agence France-Presse (AFP): an English journalist, Phil Chetwynd, was appointed Wednesday chief information officer, a choice that is designed in particular to reflect the increasing internationalisation of the activities of the third global agency.
Phil Chetwynd, 49, of british nationality, was previously editor-in-chief of the central Agency France-Presse. His appointment has been formalized by the president and CEO of AFP, Fabrice Fries, during the presentation of his wishes to the employees.
While the AFP carries out nearly 60% of its turnover outside of France, this is the first time that an English journalist is appointed to a position as high in the organization chart. The information manager oversees all editorial activities of the agency.
A choice that Fabrice Fries, who took over as head of the AFP in the spring of 2018, motivated by its desire to”open” more the direction of the agency towards the international.
“I was struck by arriving to see how the geographic diversity of AFP was not sufficiently reflected” in its top hierarchy, he explained to the employees. “I think that it should be opened. This is not the only reason, far from it, but it is a very important reason and it is a signal that I also wanted to give employees of the agency”, he stressed.
The AFP, only media non-anglo-saxon among the three largest news agencies in the world (the American Associated Press and the British Reuters are its main competitors), develops its activities on all continents : present in 151 countries, employs around 2.300 employees of 80 different nationalities, which produce information (texts, pictures, videos…) to 5,000 customers in the world.
Phil Chetwynd, born in the United Kingdom, has spent most of his childhood in South Africa. He studied languages and literature at the University of Bristol before training in journalism in Cardiff. After starting out in the profession within the regional press, uk, he joined AFP in 1996 and has held several positions within the international network of the Agency, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Paris.
He has climbed the ranks, becoming deputy editor and then editor-in-chief of the Asia-Pacific region, before moving into the editor-in-chief central.
He succeeds, by the end of the month, Michele Léridon, which had announced Tuesday that he would “pass the baton” after four and a half years, the directorate of information of the news agency. The Correspondence of the press said Wednesday that it could be named shortly to the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA), a hypothesis called “the track” by the applicant.
“It is a great honor that one gives me the opportunity to lead the wonderful network of journalists of the AFP,” said Phil Chetwynd, who says he is “looking forward to continue the process of modernisation and transformation worn so effectively by my prédecesseure Michèle Léridon in recent years.”
This change in the direction of information occurs in a period full of challenges for the AFP, the CEO launched last fall a “transformation plan”.
It provides for the elimination of 125 positions net on five-year (or 5 per cent of the workforce by the end of 2017), in parallel to the development of the commercial revenue, in order to bring the agency’s accounts to the balance in 2021.
The State, said Mr. Fries in his greeting to the employees, has brought in a “support frank and massive” by the AFP in accepting the end of 2018 to fund this plan in the amount of 17 million euros. A sign, according to him, “commitment to the fundamental mission of the Agency”, which, in particular, plays a growing role in the fight against the misinformation.
Moreover, the CEO indicated that the question of a possible move of the AFP, located in the heart of Paris since its creation to Liberation, to release funds, would not be decided for several months, preferring to take his time to decide on this issue “complex” and “heavy”.