We Need More Michael Hastings in Modern Journalism


At 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in Los Angeles, award winning reporter for BuzzFeed and contributing editor for Rolling Stone, Michael Hastings, passed away in a tragic car accident.

Hastings, who was made famous for his unflattering 2010 depiction of General Stanley McCrystal, was one of those rare journalists who did not fear authority, he publicly challenged it. He was not deterred by it, nor was he (most importantly) dazed by it.

He was the kind of journalist that in today’s world of faux-reporting and entertainment news was in short supply — and now, shorter still.

Compared to insider journalists, the ones who spend their careers rubbing elbows with their high-level sources for digestible, bite-sized stories, Hastings spent his career charging power-players for the real answers to the most important stories in recent years.  Nothing proves this more than his exchange with former spokesperson to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Philippe Reines after the fallout of Benghazi — the so called "fuck off" emails

His book, The Operators, too, opened the eyes of America and the world to the behind-the-scenes misadventures in Afghanistan.

Hastings is one in a small ilk of important reporters: a shit disturber. 

And when I say “shit disturber” I am not talking about paparazzi-style “gotcha” journalism that happens everyday online and on television. Hastings made conscious and powerful decisions that pruned his career; that cost him money and security and cost him what would have been a long and comfortable living with his wife. Hastings cost himself access to the same elite that hobnobbing insider journalists spend their lives merely socializing with.

Where Hastings lived by a code of forthright reporting (and sacrificed for it), others in his field forget their original mission altogether — and that is that they are not to be friends of the powerful.  Those who spend too much time in the company of the power elite, the ones journalists are supposed to be monitoring, end up morphing into them—or at the very least, mimicking them.

While he could have, Hastings never devolved into a power-flirt.

Not only is his passing a devastating blow for his family, friends and colleagues — above and beyond all else it is that — it is also an immutable loss for our democracy which demands more people like Hastings. There will always exist those established socialites who write for our favorite magazines and newspapers and there will always be more of them ascending golden ladders to powerful company.

We will be hard-pressed however, to see as many noteworthy examples of journalists as that of Michael Hastings.