“The Mission is to Inform”: Charles Forelle ’98 on Journalism at Andover and Beyond

In February 2018, Charles Forelle ’98 was appointed as the Financial Editor of The Wall Street Journal. Forelle has been working professionally as a journalist for almost 20 years, but his interest in the profession began with his tenure at The Phillipian. His interest was further fostered during his college years at Yale University, where he worked as Managing Editor on the Yale Daily News.

Forelle’s work as a journalist and editor has been lauded several times, and he won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service alongside a team of four other journalists for their investigative work into the backdating of stock options among corporations.

After graduating from Yale in 2002, Forelle landed a job as a reporter at The Wall Street Journal following an internship he had held at the newspaper. Forelle has had the opportunity to work in Boston, Brussels, London, and New York over his career, and recalled an instance earlier in his work when he was able to report on the effects that the 2008 global financial crisis had on the European economy.

“[2007] turned out to be a really interesting time to be in Europe, because it was at the just ahead of the financial crisis…which of course, took off in the United States, but quickly spread around the globe. And the… consequences started to crop up in Europe in 2009 or so. And then you’re put into a big debt crisis, really starting in 2010, and that provided me with lots of stuff to write about.” said Forelle.

Forelle explained that this moment in his life allowed him to examine what “beat” of journalism he wanted to pursue.

He continued, “So I spent a lot of time doing economic policy reporting, traveling to other countries, and spending time in Brussels and doing policy and politics coverage of the European governments and institutions trying to fix the crisis. But it was a really interesting time in the macro economy and in the intersection of the financial system and policy making. And so I got hooked on economics and finance reporting, and continued that when I moved to London, and have continued that [in New York].”

At The Wall Street Journal today, Forelle works as the Financial Editor, a job that includes the management of an international staff and their stories.

“I oversee coverage of financial topics for the journal. So primarily, my job involves managing, managing our staff and managing the stories that we produce in that coverage area. We have reporters in a bunch of different offices, mostly in New York, but also in London, in Hong Kong. They write about finance in some other places. My job is to manage both the people and the stories that we produce.” said Forelle.

Forelle explained his fascination with the volatile nature of his profession, emphasizing the importance of adaptability and the prevalence of learning on the job.

“My favorite part of about journalism generally…that you are never bored, there’s always something interesting that’s happening. And it is highly varied. And for a person who’s curious and interested in the world, you have an opportunity to start from not a ton of knowledge and have to build that up really fast to cover stories. And so one of the skills that I think is important for a lot of journalists, and it’s something you develop as you do it, is the ability to go cold into something and figure it out as best you can.” said Forelle.

Forelle cited Thomas Lyons, former Instructor in History at Andover, as one of his inspirations. Lyons was the faculty advisor for The Phillipian, and Forelle credits him for his interest in journalism.

“I spent a lot of time on The Phillipian and it was one of the real defining things of my time at  Andover. The faculty advisor at the time, Tom Lyons, was a real giant of the campus and instilled in us a real love for the craft of doing journalism. And he was really infectious with his love of it, and we all pick up on that. And that really set me off on my career in a lot of ways.”

According to Forelle, The Phillipian surprised him with its industriousness and the enjoyment it gave Forelle.

“I’m still amazed…you know, 20 years later, that we put out a weekly newspaper as robust and as thoughtful as you can imagine, for high school students. And it instilled in me both the interest in the topic, but also just how much fun it was. And there were a lot of ways to spend your time. And it turned out that this was a really fun and interesting one. I learned a lot and had a good time. I was fortunate enough to have had that experience. That showed me that one day maybe I can continue to have fun as an adult.”