The reporter Michael Hastings died Tuesday, BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone reported.
“He knew how to tell it,” BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith writes.
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.
Smith was referring to “The Runaway General,” Hastings’ famous 2010 piece about Gen. Stanley McChrystal, which led to the general’s resignation as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
“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,” Tim Dickinson writes in Rolling Stone.
Hastings had little interest in ingratiating himself with his sources, his eulogists say: “He knew his role was to tell his readers what he knew — not to hold things back,” Smith writes. He was a “dick to those in power,” Marc Ambinder writes. “Fearless. Someone who didn’t care what others thought of him.”
“Everyone knows I’m an asshole,” Smith says Hastings once told him. “The point is that they’re assholes.”
In fact, an excerpt from Hastings’ book on the 2012 presidential campaign is a window on how doing the job of reporting can make one feel like an asshole:
I hadn’t been able to bring myself to corner Axelrod in Marhsalltown, Carney had evaporated back into the presidential bubble, Plouffe, too, and I was left having spent three days getting nowhere closer to the information I was on the line to find out—what was actually happening inside the Obama campaign? Before leaving the trail in Dubuque, my friend in the Obama campaign pulled me aside.
“You’re not going to get access like this,” she told me
Hastings taught me a really important lesson. Don’t be afraid of anyone in power. The obligation is to the public.
— Rosie Gray (@RosieGray) June 19, 2013
“He was someone who seemed completely unimpressed with the glitz, gossip and narcissistic glamour that so dominates the media world,” David Sirota writes in Salon.
Hastings gave aspiring reporters tips in a Reddit AMA last May. “Mainly you really have to love writing and reporting,” he wrote. “Like it’s more important to you than anything else in your life–family, friends, social life, whatever.”