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RIP Michael Hastings — Brave Reporter Dead at Just 33

Hastings died in a fiery car crash yesterday in Los Angeles.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Blue Rider Press/Penguin

 

The talented, 33-year-old reporter Michael Hastings died yesterday in a car crash in Los Angeles, and with him, journalism lost a leader. All of the obits, all of the tearful good-byes echoed the same laments: He was so young, so brave, so inspiring. His work was so important; he will be so missed. 

If you don't know by now, Hastings is the badass reporter who took down General Stanley McChrystal with his hard-hitting profile on the warmongerer in Rolling Stone. A book author and BuzzFeed reporter at the time of his death, Hastings was known for, as Rolling Stone said his, "refusal to cozy up to power." 

Indeed, he was a fierce young man who accomplished so much in such a short time. Over at BuzzFeed, Ben Smith has an obituary on the great journalist, and why his work resonated among so many.  The first reason is his talent, but then, Smith describes what else made his work so special:

Michael’s journalistic roots were in the 1970s, in gonzo writers like Hunter S. Thompson who flung their bodies at the story, and often got hurt. He had been badly hurt once: His fiancée was killed in Baghdad in January 2007, when he was a Newsweek reporter there, and her death was still utterly raw to him when he published his first book,  I Lost My Love in Baghdad.

And then the other part: He knew how to tell it. He knew that there are certain truths that nobody has an interest in speaking, ones that will make both your subjects and their enemies uncomfortable. They’re stories that don’t get told because nobody in power has much of an interest in telling them — the story, for instance, of how a president is getting rolled by his generals.

Whether he was getting into it with Rahm Emanel ('I'm politely asking you a question. That is my job.') or trashing the state of power politics and journalism in the 2012 election (his ebook Panic 2012), Hastings held tight to the notion that a journalist's role is to challenge authority and speak truth in the face of power. He was a maverick in a herd of sheep, and his loss will leave a hole in us all. 

Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet.  Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne

 
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