Michael and me at Camp Striker near the Baghdad airport in September 2005.
Michael Hastings died Tuesday in a car crash in Los Angeles.
The news hit me hard. He was 33. He was a great journalist. He was a friend.
Most people know his name for the Rolling Stone story “Runaway General,” the profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal that exposed him as a loose cannon, chiding his civilian commanders in the Obama administration.
“Great reporters exude a certain kind of electricity,” said 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.”
Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed praised Michael’s incredible instinct for a story. He also said this:
“Michael was also a wonderful, generous colleague, a joy to work with and a lover of corgis — especially his Bobby Sneakers.”
Michael was known for his aggressive reporting. He believed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were misguided and didn’t for a second let any U.S. official — whether it was McChrystal or Hillary Clinton — get away with an easy answer.
His fiancee, an aide worker, was killed in Iraq when Michael was a Newsweek correspondent. He wrote about that relationship in his first book, “I Lost My Love n Baghdad: A Modern War Story.”
I never met his wife, Elise Jordan. I cannot imagine her grief today.
As much as I respect his journalistic prowess — I leave it up to every media outlet to give him the proper reporter’s eulogy — the Michael I will cherish the most is the one I met in May 2005 at a hostile environment training put on by AKE in Virginia. I was there with AJC colleagues. He was there, I guess, on his own, determined to make a career for himself by going to the wars America was fighting.
He entertained us with his NYC white-boy rap — he was really good — and acerbic wit. Not bad, I thought, for a 28-year-old kid.
Three months later, Michael messaged me. “I am in Baghdad,” he said. “Going to Camp Striker tomorrow. I hear you are there. Lunch?”
So we ate standard military fare at the chow hall and shared stories about being embedded with the U.S. Army. He made me laugh when I hadn’t laughed in weeks. For that I will always be grateful.
An incredible young man robbed of life. An amazing journalist who will never again be able to write all the words that were within. Or expose the world for its sins.
Goodbye, Michael. May you rest in peace.
Read Michael’s advice for young journalists.