At the New York Times: “Turning the Lights Down at the At War Channel”

From a New York Times Magazine story by Lauren Katzenberg headlined “Turning the Lights Down at the At War Channel”:

There are few media platforms that operate solely to examine the experiences of war and the toll they’ve taken on both Americans and the citizens of other nations for whom the cost of recent conflicts is almost insurmountable, yet too often forgotten. At War existed as a home to elevate this type of journalism, first from 2009 until 2016 as a blog, and then again from 2018 until today under the helm of The Times Magazine. . . .

So it is with much sadness that I write to tell you that At War will be winding down after this week. When the channel was brought back a few years ago, it was with the intent of providing an additional line of war reporting from a team of people with firsthand experience in conflict. All the while, John Ismay, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, C.J. Chivers and I were offering our support to other desks on stories ranging from mass shootings to the rise of right-wing militias in America. As complex events unfold around us here in the United States, there’s a greater need for that kind of support, so John and I, the two full-time At War staff members, will be moving into permanent roles on other desks within the newsroom. . . .

In 2018, we reintroduced At War with a clear mission of what we wanted it to be — a forum for exploring the experiences and costs of war — but without a sense of its full potential. Since then, we’ve published more than 300 articles, from investigations, like Michael Shaw’s feature about the mistaken identity of a fallen Marine depicted in a famous Vietnam War photo, to intimate, first-person accounts from veterans, service members and survivors of indiscriminate violence inflicted by militaries and insurgent groups all over the world.

At War became a lens through which we were able to convey deeply personal stories that extended beyond conflict, like Christopher Paul Wolfe’s essay on the racial inequity he experienced as a Black man in the U.S. Army, and Cristine Pedersen’s account of the sexual harassment she endured as a woman in the U.S. Marine Corps. . . .

At War also served as a watchdog, both in its original form and its reincarnation, over the Pentagon, which has spent the last 19 years fighting wars that seem to simply flame out or lose funding, rather than definitively end in any kind of victory. The global war on terror long ago drifted into incoherence, even as occupation encouraged radicalization. The Islamic State, it is worth remembering, did not exist when American forces invaded Iraq. It formed in the aftermath — a group of the sort the Pentagon’s global campaign was supposed to defeat. All the while, the Department of Defense’s talking heads and senior leaders have continued to deny or play down the casualties America’s endless wars have inflicted on Americans and foreign civilians alike. . . .

The channel looked at the effects of conflict on the people whose homes and cities or villages have been ravaged by airstrikes, and those who fled in search of better lives only to be treated like criminals when they sought asylum — as Alia Malek’s series of dispatches conveyed about one Syrian family spread across Europe. It also reported on those who could not or would not leave, and for whom uncertainty and a constant sense of death lurking has become status quo. . . .

Also part of the At War canon was our Afghan war casualty report, which we began in September 2018 as a weekly collection of violent incidents in Afghanistan, broken down by district and province. It was diligently reported and organized by Fahim Abed, Fatima Faizi and the rest of the Kabul bureau every week. . . .

At War’s tenure concludes with a feature by Nick Turse about Burkina Faso and how the West African nation went from a bastion of stability to an unfolding humanitarian crisis, despite millions of dollars of aid and military support from the United States — another casualty in the war on terror.

There are dozens more examples of the writing the At War team and our contributors delivered, but none of it would have been possible without our readers, who have championed our work, offered your own ideas and shared your own intimate stories. Your weekly emails, both the laudatory and the critical, were always read and shared and appreciated. Your words kept us humble and committed to our mission. . . .

Lauren Katzenberg is the editor of At War.

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