Letter From The Editor To The War Zone's Readers As A New Year Dawns

We are nothing without our readers in far more ways than most may realize.  

BAE Systems

I have a hard time believing it's almost 2019. This year went by so fast. But before the clock strikes midnight and 2018 becomes history, I want to talk a little bit about what I have been thankful in 2018 as it relates to the ongoing journalistic experiment now known as The War Zone

First off, I want to thank all of you. I started writing about these issues that I care so much about many years ago for nothing. I didn't just graduate from journalism school and go looking for a job and this is where I ended up. This is the passion of my life and this site is my baby

The fact that so many people from all walks of life and from so many places around the globe enjoy our work means so much to me. Thank you all for clicking and sharing our work. But really, my appreciation for my audience goes well beyond those basic forms of online patronage. 

So much of what I do here occurs with my readership's help. Leads, topic ideas, suggestions, criticisms, and more are the building blocks of my daily workflow. Thank you for taking the time to reach out, and in some cases, to participate deeply in the creation of the content published on this site. 

In all honesty, this place is about a colorful cast of characters above all else. Often times, our readers become the subjects of our biggest and best pieces. Their stories, their insights, and their unique points of view are a huge part of what makes us different. I always envisioned this concept as a space that relies heavily on the perspectives of those who worked on the lower decks, or spent their careers in cockpits, foxholes, hangars, machine shops, and laboratories, and not as another showcase for the polished buzzword-filled speak from the Pentagon's brass or those with corner offices in corporate towers. This site is often about the unsung heroes of the defense apparatus that deserve to have their voice heard. Realizing this objective is one of my greatest accomplishments and none of it would have happened without our readers. 

Then again, when it comes to readership, no group of people deserves more of a hearty thank you from me than our esteemed discussion section crew. We have a totally unique community, one based on humor, a broad knowledge base, and mutual respect. One thing binds us all together—we are ultra-curious people who realize that we have much to learn from others. Nothing like it exists anywhere else. It truly is like no other place on the net.

USAF

This level of engagement and the lack of the usual BS that goes with it in a discourse community is something I decided to foster against pretty much everyone's advice nearly a decade ago with the hopes that I could prove all the ugly online trends wrong. Over time, that has come to pass, albeit the hard way. But in recent years, our members have really self-regulated the community above anyone else, which is downright astonishing. I thank every one of you for actually caring about our little corner of the internet and working together to make our brilliantly chaotic forum a positive anomaly in an internet full of negativity and incessant drive-by garbage tossing. You all deserve so much credit. Thank you!

Also, my big web of contacts, including our open-source investigators, photographers, subject matter experts, plane trackers, and avgeeks do deserve a lot of credit too. As do our fellow defense reporters who do marvelous work that we often source when building our unique takes of stories. Some veteran reporters that I have long looked up to, like Aviation Week's newly minted Defense Editor Stephen Trimble, have been so great to us in the past that I would consider them honorary members of our little team. 

The fact of the matter is that readers don't see just how many people I reach out to on a daily basis for stories, whether it be for background information, quotes, to see if they would be subjects of a piece themselves, or just to bounce ideas off of and talk about what's going on in an effort to build a clearer picture and present that picture to our audience. The site could not run like it does without you, thank you all. 

The same can be said for our industry partners, many of which have finally realized just how potent and unique of a platform we have and are engaging with us on a whole new level. This is really exciting. In the end, it means better and more accurate information for the stories we write, and more unique content and opportunities for us to ask the really hard or downright obscure questions that others don't. 

While I am at it, I want to give a very special thanks to my partner in crime here at The War Zone, the one and only Joseph Trevithick. Quite frankly, when industry folks hear that we are a tiny team of just two people that produces all this deep-dive content, they are absolutely stunned. So much so that it has become a recurring inside joke between me in Joe. 

I think if any of our readers saw what a work week looks like for us it would be downright frightening. Joe is already writing when I sign on and is usually right there when I sign off for the day. That alone is near superhuman. But it's not just about putting in the hours. When I was finally cleared to search out a teammate, the last thing I wanted was another one of me. Instead, I looked someone with a very different skill set that had a bit of overlap, but not all that much. The idea was that over time we could bridge the divide and be far more potent together than otherwise. That search lasted nine months. Joe was the one that had those exact qualities I was seeking and every day I am thankful he said yes when I offered him the job.

Bylines are a funny thing at The War Zone. The truth is that most of our articles are at least some sort of a team effort, and Joe's research often backs up some of our most exciting and challenging pieces to produce. In fact, we have become such a seamless team that some of the most intricate and popular articles posted on this site were written by both of us in one voice with zero integration editing required. I can turn over rolling coverage of a huge news breaking event to him after hours of updates with complete trust he will get it right and the continuity will be perfect. In fact, he often helps feed me those updates that come as supersonic speed as events unfold. It really is quite amazing.

Every weekday, and sometimes on the weekend too, we debate the day's headlines and red-team information at a blistering pace. As heated as our debates can get, in nearly two years of spending most of our waking moments in contact, there has never been anything I would even consider a fight. And that really is something because he puts up with a lot from me. I am not always the easiest person to work for, and I have one speed of operations which is far from leisurely, but he knows it's because I care about what we do and want us to succeed in doing it as a team. 

I very much look forward to growing the site with Joe in the New Year.

USN

I also really want to say thanks to our new ownership. These are hands-on and talented people who have plunked down their own checkbook to see The Drive and The War Zone succeed in ways that were never even remotely possible under the previous ownership. They want your user experience to be great and are ready to fix chronic issues with the site that many of us are all too aware of the second they physically can as we continue through this transition. 

The truth is that the entire corporate reality has changed 180 degrees in such a short period of time and it really is awesome to be a part of it. In this crazy and often downright depressing industry, having private ownership that is really interested in what you do and is directly involved in helping you grow and succeed is maybe the best bonus a guy like me can get. 

So please support The Drive and The War Zone. Our new owners aren't some faceless investment firm or big fat-laden media conglomerate. They are people who believe in us, love the topics our brands service, and I am in contact with them on a near-daily basis to see that we rise to new levels of success. 

Finally, I want to thank Mike Guy, the Editor In Chief at The Drive. Mike has kept the ship together against incredible odds and has given me the freedom I need to make The War Zone the plucky little defense site that punches far above its weight that it is. When things looked down, he never fed us to the wolves or made us a sacrificial lamb to the corporate gods. When I really need him, he has been there. And on a personal level, that is really important when you invest so much of your life into a project like this. 

With all that said, we are looking to harness the momentum described above and expand our operation in new and exciting ways in 2019. I have some big ideas for the site and where it could go. Not all of them will work, but some certainly will. The potential for The War Zone is glaringly obvious, and with your continued support and interaction, I truly believe we finally have a real shot of realizing that potential in full.

Thank you so much for being a part of this crazy voyage. We have so much incredible content already in process for the New Year. I can't wait to share it with all of you.

A happy and prosperous New Year to you and your loved ones!

-TR 

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com