Letter From the Editor: Coffee or Die Magazine is Two Years Old — and Growing!

June 7, 2020Marty Skovlund Jr.
marty skovlund jr coffee or die afghanistan

Two years ago this month, we launched Coffee or Die Magazine. In June 2018, I wouldn’t have imagined that today we would be in the midst of both a pandemic and a civil rights crisis. But I don’t think I’m the only one 2020 took by surprise. 

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. 

In 2020, Coffee or Die Magazine is experiencing month over month exponential growth, reaching millions of people per month through both documentary filmmaking and the written word. The dream of creating a multimedia platform that emphasizes long-form journalism, great storytelling, and unbiased reporting is well on its way to being realized. 

But like all things in life, nothing worth doing is ever easy. 

Coffee or Die has reported from the front lines of Afghanistan and Iraq, the beaches of Normandy, France, the southern border of the United States, and even the cities of Southeast Asia. We’ve endured firefights and indirect fire, sub-zero temperatures, and less-lethal munitions

We’ve laughed while hoisting liters at Oktoberfest. We’ve cried while mourning the fallen alongside World War II veterans. We’ve wiped both blood and sweat from our brow, and even been stranded in foreign countries with no way out. We’re two years old, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Reporting great stories for our audience to read over a good cup of coffee has been worth it. 

And we’re not slowing down.

Two years ago, I started off with a few freelance writers and editors that gave me a chance and believed in the vision. Today, as many publications are laying off journalists, we’re hiring them. In fact, we’ve assembled a rockstar cast of storytellers:

katie mccarthy coffee or die
Katie crushing steel on the range. Photo courtesy of Katie McCarthy/Coffee or Die.

Katie McCarthy, our managing editor, came over from Guns & Ammo shortly after we launched in 2018 and has been the calm voice of reason and professionalism no matter how rough the seas have been at times. And she’s a helluva storyteller; I highly recommend reading her piece on the Iraq invasion from the perspective of those who marched toward Baghdad. 

Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in public administration; her career in journalism began at the Columbus, Georgia, Ledger-Enquirer in 2008.

Ethan Rocke Coffee or Die
Ethan’s one of the rare unicorns that served in both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of Ethan Rocke/Coffee or Die.

Ethan Rocke, our new senior editor, is a New York Times best-selling author and an award-winning photographer and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon. After serving as an infantryman with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division from 1998 to 2001, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as a combat correspondent, where he served as a writer, photojournalist, and editor for newspapers, magazines and web publications. His notable assignments include serving with the III Marine Expeditionary Force, producing, assigning and editing news coverage in Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, and Pakistan, and his final three-year assignment as Public Affairs Chief at the Marine Corps Motion Picture and Television Liaison Office in Los Angeles, where he served as a consultant on dozens of television shows, documentaries, and several feature films. 

After being honorably discharged from the Marines in October 2011, Ethan completed a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism from Syracuse University and a master’s degree in multimedia journalism from the University of Oregon. His work has been published in the New York Times online, USA Today, American Legion Magazine, Upworthy, and many others. He is a contributing writer for Maxim Magazine and co-author of “The Last Punisher: A SEAL Team THREE Sniper’s True Account of the Battle of Ramadi.”

Luke Ryan coffee or die
If you haven’t read Luke Ryan’s poetry anthology, you’re missing out. Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan/Coffee or Die.

Luke Ryan serves as an associate editor for Coffee or Die as well as the social media manager for Black Rifle Coffee Company. Luke grew up overseas in Pakistan and Thailand, the son of aid workers. Later, he served as an Army Ranger at 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and went on four deployments to Afghanistan. After leaving the service, he went to school for literature, and also published a moving poetry anthology, “The Gun and the Scythe: Poetry by an Army Ranger.” He has published over 600 written works on a variety of platforms, from his own personal blog to the New York Times.

Nolan Peterson coffee or die
Nolan has covered conflict around the world. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.

Nolan Peterson, our new senior staff writer, is a former U.S. Air Force special operations pilot, a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and is now a conflict journalist and author whose adventures have taken him to all seven continents. He has bylines at numerous publications, to include The Daily Signal, Newsweek, CNN, MSN, Yahoo, United Press International, Kyiv Post, and Real Clear Defense. He is also the author of “Why Soldiers Miss War.”

A Florida native, Nolan graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in French. He attended graduate school at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, from 2004 from 2006, where he studied politics and French literature. After leaving the Air Force in 2011, Peterson completed a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he was a McCormick Foundation fellow. As a war correspondent, Peterson has reported extensively from the front lines in eastern Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He also spent several months on assignment in the Himalayas reporting on Tibetan freedom fighters.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Nolan also ran a marathon across a glacier in Antarctica, swam across the Hellespont from Europe to Asia, climbed mountains in the Himalayas, and completed Ironman triathlons. 

Matt Fratus coffee or die
Matt has been with Coffee or Die almost from the start. Photo courtesy of Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die.

If you’ve enjoyed Coffee or Die’s extensive military history coverage, then you’ve likely read Matt Fratus’ prose. Matt has been writing for us for a while now, but we recently brought him on as a full-time staff writer. He is a journalist who leverages his impressive research and storytelling abilities to tell tales of battlefield heroics and uncover inspiration in the most unlikely places. Some of my favorite stories we’ve published came from Matt, and I highly recommend checking out his piece on the Hellfire Boys

In addition to Coffee or Die Magazine, he writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram. When not writing about history, Matt volunteers for One More Wave and roots for Boston sports teams.

josh skovlund coffee or die
Josh is relatively new to journalism but has made a splash by writing Coffee or Die’s most-read story of all time. Photo by Marty Skovlund, Jr./Coffee or Die.

Josh Skovlund is a multimedia journalist who has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots that followed the death of George Floyd. He’s one of our newest staff writers, and he’s my younger brother.

Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, Josh grew up playing football and soccer before going on to serve a short stint as a forward observer in the U.S. Army’s 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. After leaving the service, he earned his CrossFit Level 1 certificate and worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. Before transitioning to his career in journalism, Josh was a paramedic for more than five years, much of that time spent working in the North Minneapolis area.

We also recently brought on Kenna Milaski to help out with our social media efforts. You may have noticed that our social media game has been stepping up lately, and Kenna is largely responsible for that. She’s also a helluva illustrator, and her talents have graced multiple articles on Coffee or Die Magazine at this point. 

Although we work with too many freelance journalists to mention each one here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t shine a spotlight on Maggie BenZvi. Maggie has written some of Coffee or Die’s most inspirational features — I highly recommend her story about a Marine turned tattoo artist

Maggie holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago, a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia University, and has worked for the ACLU as well as the International Rescue Committee. She also completed a summer journalism program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. 

josh gohlke coffee or die
Josh Gohlke (front, center) on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, while on assignment for Coffee or Die Magazine. Photo by Marty Skovlund, Jr./Coffee or Die.

Finally, if you’ve enjoyed watching our Coffee or Die series, then you’ve enjoyed the editing talents of Josh Gohlke. This man never ceases to amaze me; no matter how bad the footage I turn into him, he still finds a way to shape it into a beautiful, compelling visual story. My only complaint is that he’s a Packers fan, but I guess that makes sense since he grew up in Wisconsin. 

This is the team that’s going to be carrying Coffee or Die Magazine into the ’20s. This is the team that will be responsible for changing the landscape of storytelling for the military, veteran, and first responder communities. I couldn’t be more excited.

Of course, none of this would be possible without our readers who have been with us from the start. You beared with us as we changed our name three times, and changed our website twice. You’ve validated our hunch that there’s a market for nuanced, long-form storytelling. Every time you’ve clicked on one of our stories or videos, you’ve taken a chance on us — and we can’t thank you enough for that. 

We’re in the midst of turbulent times, but if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s Coffee or Die Magazine. We’re going to continue going into austere environments both far and near to bring you the best stories out there. Stories that we hope you’re enjoying over a good cup of coffee. We’ve got two years under our belt now, and we’re looking forward to many more!

Marty Skovlund Jr.
Marty Skovlund Jr.

Marty Skovlund Jr. was the executive editor of Coffee or Die. As a journalist, Marty has covered the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota, embedded with American special operation forces in Afghanistan, and broken stories about the first females to make it through infantry training and Ranger selection. He has also published two books, appeared as a co-host on History Channel’s JFK Declassified, and produced multiple award-winning independent films.

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