War correspondent and Buzzfeed reporter Michael Hastings died this morning in a car accident in LA.
Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement:
We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone. 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. He wrote stories that would otherwise have gone unwritten, and without him there are great stories that will go untold. Michael was also a wonderful, generous colleague and a joy to work with. Our thoughts are with Elise and the rest of his family and we are going to miss him.
Hastings has had a storied career, famous for his Iraq War coverage. He wrote the book “I lost my love in Baghdad” about the death of his girlfriend during the war.
Lately, he was more known for writing scathing pieces on America’s military leaders.
He wrote the Rolling Stone cover story titled “The Runaway General” which triggered the eventual resignation of the commander of the entire Afghanistan War, General Stanley McChrystal. He also wrote a pretty scathing report about the Petraeus scandal and its potential connections to corrupt media.
As Tim Dickinson writes in a touching obituary at Rolling Stone, “Hastings’ hallmark was his refusal to cozy up to power.” He continues:
While other embedded reporters were charmed by McChrystal’s bad-boy bravado and might have excused his insubordination as a joke, Hastings was determined to expose the recklessness of a man leading what Hastings believed to be a reckless war. “Runaway General” was was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, won the 2010 Polk award for magazine reporting, and was the basis for Hastings’ book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.
A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Hastings leaves behind a remarkable legacy of reporting, including an exposé of America’s drone war, an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his hideout in the English countryside, an investigation into the Army’s illicit use of “psychological operations” to influence sitting Senators and a profile of Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl,“America’s Last Prisoner of War.”
Hastings did an Ask Me Anything (AmA) on Reddit more than a year ago, and he offered some inspiring advice to would-be journalists:
1.) You basically have to be willing to devote your life to journalism if you want to break in. Treat it like it’s medical school or law school.
2.) When interviewing for a job, tell the editor how you love to report. How your passion is gathering information. Do not mention how you want to be a writer, use the word “prose,” or that deep down you have a sinking suspicion you are the next Norman Mailer.
3.) Be prepared to do a lot of things for free. This sucks, and it’s unfair, and it gives rich kids an edge. But it’s also the reality.
4.) When writing for a mass audience, put a fact in every sentence.
5.)Also, keep the stories simple and to the point, at least at first.
6.) You should have a blog and be following journalists you like on Twitter.
7.) If there’s a publication you want to work for or write for, cold call the editors and/or email them. This can work.
8) By the second sentence of a pitch, the entirety of the story should be explained. (In other words, if you can’t come up with a rough headline for your story idea, it’s going to be a challenge to get it published.)
9) Mainly you really have to love writing and reporting. Like it’s more important to you than anything else in your life–family, friends, social life, whatever.
10) Learn to embrace rejection as part of the gig. Keep writing/pitching/reading.
He was just 33 years old at the time of his death.
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