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April 25, 2023, 1:30 p.m.

“I’ve decided to go back into Ukraine to keep reporting,” war correspondent Tim Mak writes in his first Substack newsletter. “This time, alone.”

Mak says he was laid off from his job as an investigative correspondent when NPR cut its staff by 10% last month. On Tuesday, Mak launched The Counteroffensive, the first Substack dedicated to war correspondence. (Others have featured war correspondence from time to time, a Substack spokesperson noted.)

“The idea first occurred to me just a few weeks ago,” Mak told me. “I think one of the benefits of Substack is that it works right out of the box. I just signed up and started writing.”

Reporting from conflict zones is complicated, resource-intensive, and, yes, incredibly dangerous. News organizations often provide equipment, hostile environment training, special insurance, and other resources to full-time reporters headed to the front lines.

In his appeal to subscribers, Mak outlined some of the costs — body armor, medical kits, rental cars, emergency supplies, a Ukrainian interpreter, etc. — that he’ll now pay for out of his own pocket. He told me he expects his operating costs to be, at a minimum, around $7,000 per month. (Substack has offered Mak “guidance and advice, but no financial resources,” he said.)

“I need 1,000 paid subscribers in order to stop losing money,” Mak wrote to me. “Then more to be a little bit more ambitious than ramen and buses. Then after that I can pay myself.”

Mak, a former U.S. Army combat medic, arrived in Kyiv on the night the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, according to his NPR bio. He has been covering the war since. I asked him what he sees as his biggest challenge, now that he’ll be reporting from the country independently.

“The hardest thing will be discipline, I think. As an independent journalist I’ll be on my own, without an institution to pull me out when I need it,” Mak said. “I’ll need to have the discipline to make wise decisions to keep me and my team safe.”

On Twitter, Mak often shares behind-the-scenes photos and stories from Ukraine. He said he was looking forward to taking a more informal, conversation manner with The Counteroffensive — less AP Style, more “like a letter to a friend.”

In other dispatches, Mak has been posting variousdogs of war.” (He also reposts “dogs of peace” that folks back home in the U.S. send him.) He’ll continue the tradition in his newsletter with a mascot named Rex.

You can read the first post from The Counteroffensive here.

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