Hastings in Vermont (Penguin/Rolling Stone)
Michael Hastings, the award-winning journalist whose explosive 2010 Rolling Stone profile of U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal (“The Runaway General“) led to McChrystal’s resignation, died Tuesday in an early morning car accident in Los Angeles, the magazine said. He was 33.
“Hard-charging, unabashedly opinionated, Hastings was original and at times abrasive,” Rolling Stone, where he was a contributing editor, said in an obituary. “He had little patience for flacks and spinmeisters and will be remembered for his enthusiastic breaches of the conventions of access journalism.”
Hastings, who covered the 2008 presidential election for Newsweek, was hired by Buzzfeed last spring to cover President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
“We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone,” Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith 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 and a joy to work with and a lover of corgis—especially his Bobby Sneakers.”
The Los Angeles Police Department would not release the name of a male driver killed in one-car crash at approximately 4:25 a.m. in Hollywood. According to the Los Angeles Times, the vehicle crossed the median, slammed into a tree and burst into flames; the driver was pronounced dead at the scene. According to KTLA, coroner’s officials said the body was too badly burned to make an immediate identification. Video purportedly taken from the scene—posted on LAWeekly.com—shows a vehicle engulfed in flames.
Hastings, a native of Burlington, Vermont, is survived by his wife, Elise Jordan, a journalist and former speechwriter for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“Great reporters exude a certain kind of electricity,” Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana said in a statement. “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.”
“Part of his passion stemmed from a desire to make everyone else wake the fuck up and realize the value of the life we’re living,” Matt Farwell, Hastings friend and fellow war reporter, wrote.
Hastings’ “hallmark as a reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power,” the magazine said, pointing to an email exchange he had last fall 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.
Hastings was the author of two books: 2012’s “The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan” based, in part, on his coverage of McChrystal; and 2008’s “I Lost My Love In Baghdad,” detailing two tumultuous years covering the war in Iraq for Newsweek. (Hastings’ then-girlfriend, Andi Parhamovich, was killed in a botched kidnapping attempt after joining him in Baghdad.)
He also authored a recent e-book, “Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama’s Final Campaign.”
During an online chat with Reddit users during the 2012 campaign, Hastings was asked, “How do you not go insane covering politics?”
“Actually, you do go insane every so often,” he replied. “On the other hand, it’s fulfilling (god, this is going to sound cheesy) when one’s work has impact.”
Fellow journalists reacted to the news of Hastings’ death on Twitter with a mixture of sadness and shock.
“His death is beyond horrible,” Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein wrote on Twitter.
“Unspeakably sad,” The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald tweeted.
“Like David Halberstam, Michael Hastings reported fearlessly from dangerous war zones only to die in a car crash,” New York Times national correspondent Michael Cooper wrote. “Awful.”
Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize winner who covered the Vietnam War for the Times, was killed in a 2007 car wreck in California.