Michael Hastings died in a car accident Tuesday morning.
I don’t expect most of you to know who he was. He was a journalist. Most of his work was in Rolling Stone and on Buzzfeed. I never knew him at all. But I loved reading his stuff. He was one of the good ones. You could tell in the words, between the sentences, he was the kind of journalist all the reporters should want to be.
A hard ass and an ass kicker.
It should be noted that the Los Angeles coroner has not identified the body.
This sucks. I’m going to keep his Reddit AMA in mind today.
Okay, here’s my advice to you (and young journalists in general):
1.) You basically have to be willing to devote your life to journalism if you want to break in. Treat it like it’s medical school or law school.
2.) When interviewing for a job, tell the editor how you love to report. How your passion is gathering information. Do not mention how you want to be a writer, use the word “prose,” or that deep down you have a sinking suspicion you are the next Norman Mailer.
3.) Be prepared to do a lot of things for free. This sucks, and it’s unfair, and it gives rich kids an edge. But it’s also the reality.
4.) When writing for a mass audience, put a fact in every sentence.
5.)Also, keep the stories simple and to the point, at least at first.
6.) You should have a blog and be following journalists you like on Twitter.
7.) If there’s a publication you want to work for or write for, cold call the editors and/or email them. This can work.
8) By the second sentence of a pitch, the entirety of the story should be explained. (In other words, if you can’t come up with a rough headline for your story idea, it’s going to be a challenge to get it published.)
9) Mainly you really have to love writing and reporting. Like it’s more important to you than anything else in your life–family, friends, social life, whatever.
10) Learn to embrace rejection as part of the gig. Keep writing/pitching/reading.
Personally I can only hope to be the kind of journalist Hastings was, I am too much of a people pleaser and way too comfortable with authority. But people like him prove journalism matters. He will be missed.