Philippe Viannay, founder of CFJ


A resistance fighter with the Défense de la France movement, visionary journalist Philippe Viannay was driven by this same spirit to found CFJ, the Centre for Journalism Studies, in 1946 with Jacques Richet, convinced that news is a profession that has its own rules and requirements.


"Train a journalist? In fifteen easy lessons no doubt?" These ironic questions by Jérôme Gauthier in Le Canard Enchaîné of 6 August, 1958 testify to the scepticism that still prevailed in the French press twelve years after the creation of the CFJ (Centre for Journalism Studies). Such cut and dry formulas as: "You can't learn journalism", or in the best of cases with the following nuance: "You learn journalism on the job", were still common currency in newsrooms. This scepticism was brushed aside by Philippe Viannay in the aftermath of the Liberation in 1944. Founder and leader of the resistance movement "Defence de la France" as early as 1941, he was well placed to know the essential role of the press in a democracy. With his network, he had clandestinely published an eponymous newspaper which printed and distributed up to 450,000 copies. He was not long in learning the lessons of this black period in French history: "We could measure during the war years (...) the importance of independence of mind and culture for those whose job is to inform. We witnessed the moral collapse of many journalists who went to work for the collaboration".

Therefore the values of Resistance were the foundations stones of the CFJ. And on the foundations of the International Training Centre (CFI), a new style of university, more Europe and even globally oriented, was initiated and driven by Viannay. "I was convinced that human progress would depend more than ever on the existence of interconnected elites and therefore finding and training them (...) was a fundamental function. […] These few thousands of young "freedom volunteers" were an irreplaceable asset, the flower of an entire generation".

Within the CFI a group of journalists came together led by Jacques Richet, one of Vianney's companion in Défense de la France. "Very young (he was 23 years old), he had great influence on his comrades, often older than him, and he knew how to get amazing help". He realized very quickly that setting up a school of journalism was only possible with the assistance of employer and trade union organizations in the press sector. A first information meeting in the spring of 1946 brought together a roomful of managers who had been in the Resistance. Two of them in particular were seduced by the project and helped effectively to implement it: Léon Rollin, director of Libération, and Raymond Manevy, former editor in Chief of Paris-Soir.

With the endorsement of the professional organisations, the Centre for Journalism Studies was founded on 11 July 1946, with the status of a not-for-profit association. On 20 July, a first meeting of the Board of Directors met under the chairmanship of Léon Rollin. Philippe Viannay, representing the CFI, and Pierre Descaves, representing the FO journalists Union, were appointed Vice-Chairmen and Jacques Richet Secretary-General. The first articles of association for the school were submitted on 31 July. The CFJ was initially based at 13 rue d'Aguesseau (8th arr.), the head office of the CFI. The first evening classes began in the autumn with a first group of students (class of 1946-1949), some returning from concentration camps (Raymonde Boix, Zette Gomès, Bella Wulf, Jean-Luc Bellanger, Armand Gatti), some from the Résistance (Claire Richet, Charles Blanchard, François Gomès, Patrick Hersant, Max Rolland).

As inspirer, initiator and founder of the CFJ, Philippe Viannay was to remain the soul and the pillar of the school for nearly forty years, relying first on Jacques Richet, Secretary general until his accidental death in 1953, then Claire Richet who took over from her husband until 1985. Seventy years after its creation, the CFJ had trained more than 2,500 professionals who are the school's finest ambassadors.

Jean-Max Mayer - Secretary general of the Association of CFJ Former Students

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Mémoires de Philippe Viannay, Du bon usage de la France, Éditions Ramsay 1988

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