Journalist Michael Hastings died last night in a car accident at the age of 33. While many remember him for his Rolling Stone story that took down General Chrystal, he had a number of other interesting clashes with powerful people.
“Why don’t you give answers that aren’t bullshit for a change?” he shot back in an email to Hillary Clinton’s spokesman Philippe Reines, when he grew weary of the defensive response from the State Department to his questions about the terrorist attacks on the Benghazi consulate.
On the campaign trail for Buzzfeed, Hastings was with the White House press corps for off-the-record drinks with President Obama at a patio-bar in Orlando. He was also the only reporter that revealed the existence of the event – a month after it occurred, earning the scorn of his colleagues and an angry response from campaign spokesperson Jen Psaki.
Rahm Emanuel also tangled with Hastings, grabbing his arm so that his security team could confront the reporter. “I’m not going to let you do to me what you did to Stanley McChrystal,” Emanuel said angrily.
For me, the best journalists are the ones that remind me why I became a journalist. Michael Hastings did that for me. He realized that something was wrong with the modern world of journalism – but admitted that he didn’t know how to fix it.
Hastings, however, did his part. He was brutally honest about his own feelings and biases, but retained a deep suspicion of powerful people which strenghtened his reporting. He also “cut through the bullshit” as reporters like to say – skipping over the assigned talking points and journalistic groupthink for something original and interesting.
If the event or person he was covering wasn’t interesting, he would find a way to make it interesting – even if he had to be a flawed character in his own story.
In person, Hastings was quiet and unassuming, happy to spend time speaking with someone new and reveling in the company of old friends.
For Hastings and his friends, I offer my prayers and sympathies.