Michael Hastings, the reporter perhaps best known for ending the career of US Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal following a candid 2010 profile in Rolling Stone, died early Tuesday morning in a car crash in Los Angeles, according to the magazine. He was 33 years old.
Besides a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, Hastings was a reporter for BuzzFeed, a frequent contributor to GQ, and former journalist at Newsweek. He was also a gifted author who penned two books: 2008’s I Lost My Love In Baghdad: A Modern War Story, chronicling his time as a war correspondent in Iraq and the tragic death of his then-fiancee, an aid worker there; and The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, based on his reporting for “The Runaway General,” the Rolling Stone article that led to President Barack Obama relieving McChrystal of his position as Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan.
Hastings is survived by his wife, writer Elise Jordan.
“Hastings’ hallmark as reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power,” wrote Rolling Stone reporter/contributing editor Tim Dickinson on the magazine’s website Tuesday. “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.”
“Great reporters exude a certain kind of electricity,” Dickinson quoted the magazine’s managing editor Will Dana as saying, “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. He will be missed.”
“Hard-charging, unabashedly opinionated, Hastings was original and at times abrasive,” continued Dickinson. “He had little patience for flacks and spinmeisters and will be remembered for his enthusiastic breaches of the conventions of access journalism. In a memorable exchange with Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks, Hastings’ aggressive line of questioning angered Reines. ‘Why do you bother to ask questions you’ve already decided you know the answers to?’ Reines asked. ‘Why don’t you give answers that aren’t bullshit for a change?’ Hastings replied.”
“We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone,” Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement. “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, a joy to work with and a lover of corgis — especially his Bobby Sneakers. Our thoughts are with Elise and and the rest of his family and we are going to miss him.”
Hastings won the 2010 George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting, among other honors, for his revelatory expose of McChrystal. As Dickinson points out in his post, Hastings leaves behind a “remarkable legacy of reporting,” with topics ranging from a behind-the-scenes look at America’s drone program and the US Army’s PSYOPS to his exclusive, three-day interview last year with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while he was holed up in a loaned hide-out somewhere in the English countryside. (Those are just a few of his articles.)
That Hastings will be remembered for his fearless, award-winning journalism and relentless pursuit of the truth is undeniable. What’s equally undeniable, as evident from the outpouring of condolences and tributes flooding the Internet in the few hours since news of his death, is just how truly loved he is.
And just how many countless others – be they journalists, readers, family members or friends – he’s inspired during his brief, illuminating life.