Michael Hastings, the investigative journalist who recently began writing for BuzzFeed in Los Angeles, died in a one-car crash on North Highland Avenue about 4 a.m. this morning. The car he was driving struck a palm tree in the median on the 600 block and burst into flames, police said. Hastings was most known for his 2010 piece in Rolling Stone that brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal.
A statement from Ben Smith, BuzzFeed's editor-in-chief:
We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone. 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, a joy to work with and a lover of corgis — especially his Bobby Sneakers. Our thoughts are with Elise and and the rest of his family and we are going to miss him.
From a story by Rolling Stone, where Hastings was a contributor.
Hastings' unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, "The Runaway General**," captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House. The maelstrom sparked by its publication concluded with President Obama recalling McChrystal to Washington and the general resigning his post. "The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be met by – set by a commanding general," Obama said, announcing McChrystal's departure. "It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system."
Hastings' hallmark as reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power. 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. "Runaway General" was was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, won the 2010 Polk award for magazine reporting, and was the basis for Hastings' book, "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan."
For Hastings, there was no romance to America's misbegotten wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had felt the horror of war first-hand: While covering the Iraq war for Newsweek in early 2007, his then-fiancee, an aide worker, was killed in a Baghdad car bombing. Hastings memorialized that relationship in his first book, "I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story."
A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Hastings leaves behind a remarkable legacy of reporting, including an expose of America's drone war, an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his hideout in the English countryside, an investigation into the Army's illicit use of "psychological operations" to influence sitting Senators and a profile of Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl, "America's Last Prisoner of War."
"Great reporters exude a certain kind of electricity," says Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana, "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. He will be missed."