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Local Journalist Looking to Start Military Focused News Agency

Thomas Brennan is a veteran and an award winning journalist based in Richlands and he's looking to combine his experiences in both fields with an online news publication and interactive database called "The War Horse."

Chris Thomas spoke to Brennan about the project which, seeks, in part, to fill voids left by many news agencies.

CMT: What do you believe traditional media outlets, even those that are on the internet…what do you believe they’re lacking, as far as their coverage of military affairs and veterans affairs are concerned?

Thomas Brennan: I think they’re lacking community. I think that the other organizations that are out there are lacking a strong community that is willing to help them tell stories because they trust the way those stories are going to be told. I understand that with “The War Horse” that we are not going to win everyone over. We’re going to have people who say we’re partisan or advocacy journalism trying to accomplish a mission. For those people that thing we’re advocacy journalism, sure, yes we are. We are advocating for the truth. We are advocating for all parties to have a voice and to tell their story and to document their own, personal, human experience when it comes to war. I think that with the internet…the connectivity we have through digital means, it is possible to create a place where stories of this magnitude can be gathered, organized, and put together, in a clear and coherent way that help us and future generations understand what war is.  

CMT: Once it’s up online and it’s live, what kind of content can people expect to see on The War Horse?

Thomas Brennan: So when people come to “The War Horse” and they see our published content, what they’re going to see is immersive, long form, multimedia journalism. And I know that that sounds like a bunch of words thrown together, but it’s going to function as pictures, video, animations, print, (and) audio, all being put together into a beautiful, beautiful and seamless layout. And they’re going to find topics that aren’t necessarily being explored anywhere else, and they’re going to be stories that aren’t the norm. We’re going to take retroactive looks at events, and points of friction throughout post-9/11 conflict and really magnify in on them and get all the specifics about it. For example, I’m working on one story right now that explores a Medal of Honor’s recipient’s recovery and it’s not told in a traditional way. I’m very excited about that I don’t want to give away too much about it…but I think it’s something that’s needed. You’re going to see a lot of things that you wouldn’t otherwise see other journalism outlets put that much effort into. And I think that’s something that’s needed because in order to really understand the full impact of war, you need to look at it in every direction, and really give it the attention it deserves and that’s what “The War Horse” plans to do.

CMT: We were colleagues for a time at The Daily News a few years ago, and I remember you had a strong passion for reporting on military and veteran affairs. How did that experience impact this project you’re working on now?

Thomas Brennan: It stemmed from me writing about World War II veterans. It was profiling their own experiences during their war, and what it was like for them looking back on it, decades later, near the end of their life. And, that made me stop and think, a few years earlier, journalists were rushing to get these stories from World War I, now we’re rushing to get them from World War II and someday, we’re going to be rushing to get them from Korea, and Vietnam, and Grenada and all these other conflicts that have happened other time, so why can’t we start one now, to where we take a generation who is fluent with technology and social media, and you integrate these technologies together to document the human experience? So, when I went up to grad school in Columbia, I used the entire time that I was up there to go ahead refine this idea that originally began as an inspiration from World War II veterans, to make sure that journalists of the future, and average people of the future don’t have to scramble to get stories from my generation before we die.

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Brennan talks about hosting a reporter (Finbarr O'Reilly, Reuters) in a war zone.

Brennan talks about Ernie Pyle, a legendary World War II-era correspondent, and how he influenced the ethos of "The War Horse."