Rifle building

Black Rifle Coffee has a reputation. Its military news site aims for something different.

Where do you get information on the ground in Ukraine?

Probably not from a website run by a coffee company. But Coffee or die magazinea military news site and print magazine owned by the Black Rifle Coffee Companyhas an editor based in Ukraine, Nolan Petersonand a contributing writer, Jariko Denman, filing regular dispatches from kyiv and Mykolaiv. Peterson, a former US Air Force special ops pilot (we’ve written about him before here, when he was the first American journalist to join the Ukrainian military) works with a team of 20 other personnel full time to provide daily news to locals from the military, veterans and first responders.

“Black Rifle Coffee has a reputation, depending on what circles you’re in,” said Marty Skovlund, Jr.editor of Coffee or Die, which served in the U.S. Army for eight years before becoming a writer and journalist. Last Monday, he returned from a two-week reporting trip to Ukraine. “For me to come in and say, yes, I’m going to launch this media that tries to be objective? There was some skepticism. »

Black Rifle Coffee is a veteran-owned company that, according to its slogan, “serves coffee and culture to people who love America.” It was profile in the New York Times Magazine last year as “Starbucks of the Right”; his mark was “a recurring feature in footage from last summer’s anti-lockdown and anti-Black Lives Matter protests in various states” and during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. It is endorsed by Sean Hannity, who has his own medium roast collection and hailed by Donald Trump Jr. “How to build a cool, irreverent, pro-Second Amendment, pro-America brand in the MAGA era without doubling down on the MAGA movement and not being called a [expletive] RINO by the MAGA guys? Black Rifle Founder and CEO Evan Hafer, who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces for over a decade, thought of Times Magazine’s Jason Zengerle, going on to say, “I hate racist people and proud of Boy-ish. For example, I will pay them to leave my clientele. »

But Coffee or Die focuses on journalism. Skovlund wrote for the military news site Task and objective and had known Hafer for years. When Hafer told him he wanted to start some sort of media entity, perhaps a corporate blog, Skovlund instead started a full-fledged news site. It was launched in 2018; Coffee or Die’s quarterly print magazine published its first issue last July.

Skovlund feels his mission is clear. “We will always be the ones putting people on the ground in the business that matters to [readers],” he said. Half of Coffee or Die’s 21 full-time employees are veterans or first responders. “A guy [Mac Caltrider] is a former Marine who went to the Baltimore PD and then left there to write to us and is now one of our editors.

While Black Rifle Coffee is based in San Antonio and Salt Lake City, Coffee or Die’s employees are scattered across the United States (or, in Peterson’s case, kyiv). “I want to swing above our weight class,” Skovlund said. “I want us to be able to cover and do more than we should be able to do. One of the ways to do this is to scatter people. In 2020, during the protests and the civil rights crisis, we had people on the ground in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis. We weren’t the only ones there, but we were the only ones [our readers] maybe more confident. Our readers know: “This person was in the army like me” or “This person was in the Marines like me”.

Coffee or Die aims to run at least five stories on its website on weekdays, Katie McCarthy, the site’s Indiana-based editor, who was previously editor of trade publications for Guns and Ammo and a reporter for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, said. (Between February 24 and February 25, 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, Coffee or Die published 23 stories, including three from kyiv.) Stories are published in four verticals – military, information, first respondersand Culture – and longer reports (to like “What did we leave behind when we left Afghanistan?” and “Exclusive Frontline Report: Modern Trench Warfare in Ukraine“) are highlighted in a separate section. “We try to have a good mix between relevant and timely information as well as evergreen elements, like profiles on important people or companies within [the] military/veteran/first responder community,” McCarthy said. Perhaps in part due to Ukrainian coverage, the site averages 2.1 million page views per month in 2022, and its daily newsletter goes to 12,670 email inboxes.

On March 17, for example, Coffee or Die published five articles:‘Servant of the People,’ Starring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Returns to Netflix,” “Searching for public reports, Ukraine launches war crimes database,” “Tragic train station crash, heart attack kills 2 firefighters,” “Dispatch: Life goes on in wartime kyiv,” and “Special operators destroy switchblade drones bound for Ukraine.” the Coffee or Die YouTube Channel also has frequent video uploads from Ukraine, where a YouTube commentator wrote“If someone had told me 5 years ago that I would be watching a report on a war in Europe from a coffee company, I would have told them to go see their doctor about their drug levels. You guys are the best. Honest, unbiased news and outstanding coffee. Stay chill. Another: “Coffee company newsletter became what Vice News was ten years ago, this which mainstream media dropped before that. *sips coffee* Well done, guys.”)

Ethan Rock is editor-in-chief of the site’s cultural vertical, overseeing three editors. He spent 10 years on active duty, working for command journals and other official military publications, then completed his undergraduate degree and earned a master’s degree in multimedia journalism at the University of Oregon. He is the co-author of The Last Punisher: A SEAL Team THREE A sniper’s true account of the Battle of Ramadi.

“There’s this somewhat simplistic binary in the veteran community that you’re either a bro-vet or a woke vet,” Rocke said. “I’m sure a lot of people would put me in the woke vet category. One of those guys who is overeducated and full of book learning, politically leaning to the left, that kind of thing.

Black Rifle, on the other hand, he said, is definitely a “bro-vet coffee company.” (According to military streaming service Vet TV, the definition of a bro-vet“A veteran who lets everyone know he’s a veterinarian. His attire usually consists of Gruntstyle t-shirts, cargo pants, combat boots, and a high fade. Usually some asshole who complains about his whole enlistment, walks out, then tells people to thank him for his military service. »

Coffee or Die, he believes, has the potential to bring brother vets and woke vets together. “I’m very interested in being that place where when we write direct news, we don’t try to skew the reader one way or another, even if we make value judgments by virtue of what we choose to report. ,” he said. “We’re trying to find those things that more left-wing or right-wing media might avoid, or have trouble serving their audiences.”

For example, the site covered The murder of George Floyd by the police and the protests that followed. The stories I read were generally straightforward, though unsurprisingly they were more police-focused (“National police shortage accelerating amid civil unrest,” “Two LAPD veterans on police reform and what needs to change,” “Some police take a knee with protesters – here’s why“).

rock spent a weekend reporting inside the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone) in Seattle. Here is how his article begins:

I had seen the Fox News report on June 10: “Seattle helpless as armed guards patrol anarchist ‘autonomous zone’, shake up businesses. Above the headline, superimposed on a banner image of a protester walking past burning cars and buildings, was the all caps label: CRAZY TOWN.

Fox News later admitted the image was an Associated Press photo taken May 30 in St. Paul, Minnesota. And they also photoshopped several wire service photos together, mixing images of an armored leftist carrying an AR-15 with more chaotic scenes. Apparently, you sometimes accidentally manipulate wireframe photos to support a particular narrative. […]

Four days after protesters took over the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct and established an “autonomous zone” in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, I drove in to see for myself what was happening there.

“There are definitely things that a lot of our audience won’t want to see,” Rocke said. “Personally, I always try to push the envelope a bit there.”

Black rifle coffee went public last month and plans to reorganize as a public benefit corporation. The Washington Post noted recently that “cups of Black Rifle Coffee Co. litter the living quarters” of a Ukrainian sniper unit.

Coffee or Die will continue to focus on journalism, Skovlund said. The quarterly print magazine, which has 2,000 subscribers paying $11.99 per issue, includes a few articles about coffee, but the latest 132-page winter edition included only a few pages of advertisements. The Coffee or Die website does not contain any advertisements other than a few banners for Black Rifle products.

“No one calls me from the company to tell me we need to sell more coffee,” Skovlund said. “We’re doing something that I don’t think there’s necessarily a playbook for.”