Michael Hastings: Remembering a Courageous Reporter

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by Jon Friedman
June 19, 2013 9:41 AM
1 Comment
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The acclaimed journalist Michael Hastings has died in a car crash in Los Angeles. He was 33. 

Hastings is best known for the bombshell 2010 story in Rolling Stone which prompted President Obama to fire then-commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal.

But one story doesn't quite do justice for something more deeply felt: What Hastings stood for. For more on Hastings' impact on journ

alists: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/216357/friends-colleagues-remember-michael-hastings/

He will be fondly remembered as a journalist who, in the great Harrison Salisbury's immortal phrase, "had rats in the stomach."

I noted in the headline that Hastings was courageous -- any time a reporter in these watered-down, celebrity-driven times tries to write a serious piece and bring about a change, that's pretty courageous. 

Hastings fearlessly challenged societal conventions and stuck his finger in the eye of the establishment. Did he get into trouble? Of course!

This is what journalists are supposed to do.

Hastings was a role model to many at Rolling Stone and beyond. I never met him though I suspect that he would have been a tough interview, which may be ironic in a way. He probably had a low tolerance for unnecessary compliments and questions because he always seemed to be in a big hurry to get his next story. I hope I'm right, anyway.

Michael Hastings, and what he represented, will be sorely missed.



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1 Comment

  • No | June 19, 2013 10:48 AMReply

    Michael Hastings's 10 tips to young journalist:
    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.

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