Award-winning journalist and war correspondent Michael Hastings. Photo: AP
Stephen Cook: In a week where truth is spouting forth everywhere, I’m hoping the death of this young man was, in fact, accidental. Michael Hastings certainly ruffled a number of high-level feathers via his whistleblowing and investigative articles.
US Media Mourns Gun Young Reporter
June 19, 2013
He reported from war zones and brought down a top American general with a hard-hitting profile. But now American publishers and readers are mourning the death of young award-winning journalist Michael Hastings, who died on Tuesday in a car accident in Los Angeles.
Hastings, who was 33, was described by many of his colleagues as an unfailingly bright and hard-charging reporter who wrote stories that mattered.
Matt Farwell, a veteran of the Afghanistan war who worked as a co-reporter with Hastings on some of his recent pieces, said in a eulogy sent to Rolling Stone, “Part of his passion stemmed from a desire to make everyone else wake the f— up and realise the value of the life we’re living.”
“As a journalist, he specialised in speaking truth to power and laying it all out there. He was irascible in his reporting and sometimes/often/always infuriating in his writing: he lit a bright lamp for those who wanted to follow his example.
Hastings won awards for magazine reporting for his Rolling Stone cover story “The Runaway General.”
The story was credited with ending General Stanley McChrystal’s career after it revealed the military’s candid criticisms of the Obama administration.
Hastings quoted McChrystal and his aides mocking Obama administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, over their war policies.
At a Pentagon ceremony for his subsequent retirement in 2010, McChrystal made light of the episode in his farewell address. The four-star general warned his comrades in arms, “I have stories on all of you, photos of many, and I know a Rolling Stone reporter.”
Most recently, Hastings wrote about politics for the news website BuzzFeed, where the top editor said colleagues were devastated by the loss.
“Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered from wars to politicians,” said Ben Smith, BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief.
Smith said he learned of the death from a family member.
When he died, Hastings was a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. Managing Editor Will Dana released a statement on Tuesday saying Hastings was one of those great reporters who “exude a certain kind of electricity”.
“The sense that there are stories burning inside them, and that there’s no higher calling or greater way to live life than to be always relentlessly trying to find and tell those stories. I’m sad that I’ll never get to publish all the great stories that he was going to write, and sad that he won’t be stopping by my office for any more short visits which would stretch for two or three completely engrossing hours.”
Hastings was also an author of books about the wars. The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan was published late last year and details shocking exploits of the military overseas.
In 2010, with the publication of I Lost My Love in Baghdad, Hastings told the story of being a young war correspondent whose girlfriend died in Iraq.
In the summer 2013 issue of Vermont Life magazine, Hastings was quoted telling an audience at the Burlington Book Festival that he doesn’t believe in objectivity in journalism.
“What I try to do is be intellectually honest in my writing,” he said.
Hastings’ family moved to Vermont when he was 16, a state he told the magazine was his “spiritual home.” According to the magazine, he lived in New York with his wife.
- ‘The Runaway General’, Michael Hastings’ Rolling Stone profile of Stanley McChrystal
- ‘Why Democrats Love To Spy On Americans’, Michael Hastings’ last published article
- Rolling Stone’s obituary on Michael Hastings
- Archive of Michael Hastings’ work for Rolling Stone
- Archive of Michael Hastings’ work for BuzzFeed