Not all that many years ago, Alex Hollings, regional HR manager for an aerospace defense contractor, left his cushy corner office and impressive paycheck for the uncertain world of writing. Fresh out of college and a few years removed from the Marine Corps, that guy hoped he’d find a way to make his passion into a livelihood, lest he be doomed to an eternity of conference calls and health insurance open enrollment periods.
After more than a year of writing piecemeal contract articles and doing technical writing without a by-line, he spotted an unusual posting on Facebook. SOFREP.com — a website he’d followed since his days in the Corps — was looking for veteran writers. With his face flush and certain he wouldn’t get a response, that guy submitted a resume and writing samples before pushing the idea of working for such a publication out of his mind as a flight of fancy.
As some long-time readers are already aware, that HR guy-turned-writer was me — and to my utter astonishment, SOFREP decided to give me a shot. Soon, I was on contract to write two columns a week. Then, as my work grew in popularity, my editors came back and asked if I could increase my workload, and as the company continued to grow and change, I soon found myself smack in the middle of a news organization I had admired for years. In what seemed like an instant, I went from motivated amateur with my face pressed against the glass to deeply entrenched insider with work reaching tens of thousands of readers each day.
To be perfectly honest with you, that concept still blows my mind.
In the years since, SOFREP became NEWSREP, and I went from part-time contributor to the site’s sole Senior Staff Writer. The role of a Senior Staff Writer is an unusual one I could liken to being a Chief Warrant Officer in the Marine Corps. Not quite an editor like those officer types you need to spell check your e-mails for, but more deeply involved than the beat writers producing content each day; my job is to be a subject matter expert on the content we produce, the tone we maintain, and the nuts and bolts of our industry. When something needs to get done, our corporate leaders come to the editorial staff to ask if we can do it, and as the Senior Staff Writer, it’s often my role to advise them on how. The decision remains in the hands of our managing editor, but I’ve come to truly value my role among his trusted advisers.
The thing is, as fortunate and grateful as I am to have found myself here among this collection of talented journalists, writers, and editors… guys like me want the ball. I treasure the opportunity to have my voice heard in meetings, and I’ve been fortunate to work under exceptional editors that weather the punishment of our mistakes while generously sharing the praise for our accomplishments… but it’s the Marine in me that wants to be the guy making those hard decisions, taking my licks and sharing the victories with the guys that helped secure them. I want the ball.
So when word reached me that the company was looking to find a new editor for another Hurricane Group website, FighterSweep.com, I once again took what I thought was a wild swing. “I’ll just dip my toe in the water and see if they’d entertain the idea of me taking it,” I thought. After all, I’ve been covering military aviation for years now, not only for SOFREP and NEWSREP, but for other publications like Popular Mechanics. Somehow… I still figured the answer would be no, but at least I could always say that I tried.
Instead, our managing editor, Nick Coffman, sent me an e-mail I didn’t quite expect. He wanted to hear what I had to say. We set up a meeting… and over the course of just a few weeks, I found myself once again landing a role I had previously thought a pipe dream: I became the editor of a website that already had a significant social media footprint and a four-year track record of expertise and credibility. I became the head of FighterSweep.com.
I’m proud (and excited) to announce that I just signed on as editor at @fightersweep – You’ll still be able to find me at @TheNEWSREP – but now you can find even more of me (along with some great aviation content) at my new digital home https://t.co/EsGkrBcWUq #Hurricane #NEWSREP pic.twitter.com/FPMdJPrBX1
— Alex Hollings (@AlexHollings52) November 14, 2018
While Fighter Sweep is now my digital home and the focus of a great deal of my attention, I’ve still got a lot to say about foreign policy, the power of national perception management efforts, the state of international politics and numerous ongoing conflicts that fall outside the realm of aviation. I’ve spent years developing enough expertise in propaganda and narrative strategies to not only cover it for this outlet, but to write a book on the subject. I’ve had my naval analysis pieces read nearly verbatim by Senators on the floor of EUCOM hearings. These issues are more than topics of national concern, they are the source of some of my passion for this line of work — and because of that, the bosses at NEWSREP and I decided that the right thing for me to do would be to keep my notional seat at the NEWSREP table as well.
You’ll still find my work each day right here alongside incredible pieces by the likes of heroes of mine like George E. Hand and contemporary legends in the business like Jack Murphy — but now you can find more of my work, along with the work of aviation experts, analysts, pilots, and aficionados over at Fighter Sweep. Do I have a lot on my hands? Absolutely — but I’ve always been my best self with a tough objective ahead of me.
Thank you to all the readers here at NEWSREP that have supported my work over the years. I hope you can find the time to come visit my new home and to participate in the conversations about our world today as we always have here… but even if you don’t, we’ll still see one another each morning on NEWSREP’s homepage — don’t be afraid to say hi.
With my eternal gratitude,