Wow. Umm…wow.

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.

He probably had more enemies than friends.

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.

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Oh, the places you’ll go

Perhaps I’m a bit late to the Dr. Seuss party, but lately I’ve been thinking about opportunities.

It’s tough this writing thing. Sometimes people pay me, other times people don’t want to pay me and most the time they don’t want to pay me very much for my work. Even long-time journalists like Nate Thayer have this problem. Seriously, world, can we please agree that some words have more value than others? Especially the ones that require research and rewrites before they get published?

The research, interviews, rewrites and edits are just one piece of the writing process. There’s another side I think of it as hustle and wait. It starts with the first cup of coffee, the troll through all the job leads for the day, next it’s time to make the pitch carefully crafting emails and ledes for possible stories, then its the wait. Waiting for approval. Waiting for payment. Waiting for someone somewhere to say, “yes.”

It’s a helluva a lot more nerve-wracking than the writing part of my day.

There are days full of rejections. More noes than yeses by such a wide margin, it makes me want to give up. But every so often a yes comes along. And those yeses the opportunities they represent the growth, paychecks and work they represent make all the noes worth it.

The hustle, the wait, the writing, it’s tough work. I have to fight myself somedays just to type out another pitch that may be rejected. But man, I love those yeses.

It seems to me there is a constant confluences where one day is awful. Truly terrible. Enough to make me almost call the nearest restaurant for a bartending gig and leave the words to a better smith. But lately the difficult days have been followed by a surprising number of chances for hope that maybe there’s is room for one more freelance journalist in this world. Thankfully those opportunities are lining up and giving hope that maybe I will get to live my dream of writing everyday and paying all the bills.

Here’s to the next opportunity!

A Bit Of Reading For The Week

It’s been that kind of news week that just makes me want to find every adorable puppy video on the internet ever and watch them while I devour a pint of ice cream. So if anyone starts to wonder why I’m a bit mopey, here’s what I’ve been reading.

An excerpt from “Days of Destruction; Days of Revolt” by Chris Hedges with illustrations by Joe Sacco on TomDispatch. After reading this selection, the book is on my to-read list. It is an eye-opening description of life in rural West Virginia.

Eve Ensler’s letter to Missouri’s Rep. Todd Akin after he said, “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. [Pregnancy after rape] If it’s a legitimate rape a female’s body has ways to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.” Video here.

Pat Bagley’s cartoon “GOP Spawn” that incited someone enough for them to call him a “liberal.” Makes me think they’ve never read his book, “Pat and Kirby Go To Hell.” Am I the only person still impressed Bagley is making a living as a cartoonist at a newspaper? (It is indeed remarkable.)

Found via Slate’s Longform’s Guide to Takedowns, is this Vanity Fair article on the mess that is Microsoft, how a company that was once king of cool (Remember Windows 95?) is now destroying itself from the inside.

The New Yorker’s report on Obama’s seeming inability to raise money in this campaign. Fascinating. Also this is the first time I understood the Citizen United ruling, ever. An interesting report on just how complicated it is to raise money and be president–two different jobs that don’t seem to often share interests for the man trying to accomplish both.

Hey, we could use something happy now.

Lennon and Maisy Stella, who are 12 and 8, singing with tremendous talent and skill. They are so great, love them!

Now for this last story, it isn’t sad, it isn’t heartbreaking, it’s a story about hobos  on BuzzFeed. I hesitate to include it on this list because I generally like to include stories that are not only meaningful, but also well-crafted. However this story is just weird enough to make the list. It’s a fascinating idea and provides some explanation for all those kids I’ve seen playing guitar and asking for money on the street lately.