Michael Hastings, reporter who brought down Gen. McChrystal dies at 33

I didn’t know Michael Hastings, but I definitely knew his work.  He’s the young journalist, now with Buzzfeed, who did the profile of our then-top general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, for Rolling Stone.  Hastings caught McChrystal and his staff taking swipes at the civilian leadership of the military in the White House, including the President himself.

As a result, Obama called McChrystal back to Washington, the general resigned, and Obama took a swipe back at him:

“The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be  met by – set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”

Well, the 30 year old reporter who was strong enough to take down a general just died in a car crash at the age of 33.

It’s a lesson about the fleeting nature of life, but also about the importance of journalists and the professional overall.

Michael-Hastings-large

Michael Hastings

We on the left (like those on the right) like to criticize the media, but we’ll be in far more trouble in this country if the only media we have left is Fox News and the Koch papers.  I can never remember if it was Atrios, but I think it was, who once said that the difference between the left and the right was that the left simply wanted the media to do its job, while the right wanted the media to do their job, meaning the right’s job for them.  (Or maybe put it this way – the left wants the media to get better, the right wants the media to get lost.)

And for all of its foibles, the media on average still does far more good than harm.  And I’m not sure people appreciate that point nearly enough.  They also don’t appreciate how hard the job is.  For all the mocking we gave CNN for its Boston Marathon coverage, you trying filling airtime live, unscripted, for hours on end, in the middle of a crisis.  It’s not easy to do it well and make no errors.

It’s also not a particularly thankful job, as you’re bound to tick someone off no matter what you write – and trust me, 99 out of 100 times the folks who write you won’t be the fans, it’ll be the haters :)  Heck, half the people out there hate me for daring to question Edward Snowden’s motives, while the other half hate me for having a sincere admiration for the tireless work of Glenn Greenwald, who broke Snowden story.

I think a lot of readers see the “glory” of having your name print, without fully considering what it’s like to constantly put your name and face out there every single day for a cause you believe in (if you’re a partisan journalist), staking your credibility on getting the story right, and facing the slings and arrows that naturally come with it.

And finally there’s the money.  It’s becoming increasingly difficult to earn a respectable income as a journalist, and a profit as a media entity.  These are trying times for the media, and it worries me what will happen to our country if the only people buying failing papers in a yard sale are the Koch brothers.

So while I’ll remain critical of journalists when necessary, I have a healthy respect and understanding for the job after 9 years of running my own media venture in goods time and in bad.  Yeah, they mess up from time to time, but the world would be a worse place without them.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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