josh rosner


In Journalism, United States of America on June 19, 2013 at 7:30 am

Speaking truth to power, never backing down, and hunting down a story until there is nothing more to tell are journalistic attributes in hasty decline in this era of citizen journalism, gossip tv and a demanding online news culture. Andy Warhol’s maxim that everyone gets fifteen minutes of fame sounds quaint today. The Internet has the ability to make superstars out of all of us, whether we are singers like Justin Bieber or someone with a smart phone and mid-level editing skills. Some people, like the late Michael Hastings, simply seek to tell stories that need to be told, caring little for the trappings of fame that might accompany the task.

hastings Michael Hastings became famous after his 2010 Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal, which ended with the general being recalled to Washington then given the boot by Obama. You can read it here. It is, without any doubt, a brilliant piece of immersion journalism and an extraordinary piece of writing. For obvious reasons, it was compulsory reading for my journalism students in 2011. But he was also a prolific wordsmith; from big stories to small, from wars to politicians. The topic was irrelevant. The search for truth was everything.

In February 2012 Hastings wrote an obituary, published in Rolling Stone of the New York Times journalist, Anthony Shadid, who was killed while covering the conflict in Syria. Now, in a cruel irony, journalists are writing Hastings’ obituary – a life senselessly ended at the painfully young age of 33. Life sometimes has a way of laughing right in your face.

There is little need – or desire – to labour over a lengthy obituary of Michael Hastings. I didn’t know him. It didn’t matter. I knew his work well. I’ve read his books. I read his journalism. I followed his career. He was the kind of journalist other journalist aspire to be, but never quite make it.

His editor at Buzzfeed best summed up the loss: “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.”

I hope somewhere out there a journalism student is sitting in class, learning and practicing their craft, aspiring to be like Michael Hastings. The world can only hope.

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