There was a certain buzz in the air before Michael Hastings’s The Last Magazine was published back in June of this year. His personal story, in fact, is the stuff that good fiction is made of. A prominent journalist, he died just over a year ago in a single-vehicle crash in the hours before dawn, triggering speculation that he had been murdered. He began his career at Newsweek, which was how I came to know him.
I worked far away from the glitz of the New York office, running the Middle East bureau of Newsweek in Jerusalem, researching, and eventually writing. I spent hours working on stories focusing on the Middle East conflict that seemed urgent, fresh, and original until they reached the svelte boardroom of the editors come Monday morning, where they were invariably shot down or changed beyond belief.
I met many Newsweek writers as they passed through the bureau on their way to assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other global hotspots. Photographers, journalists, editors — they all dropped by the bureau with their flak jackets, cameras, and sat phones. Mike Hastings was one of them, back then a reporter en route to Iraq for the first time. We had drinks one night in the bar of the American Colony, a favourite hangout of many foreign journalists. I liked Mike, sensing that underneath the bluster of war correspondent was a genuinely nice guy, jittery about his professional abilities but incredibly ambitious, wondering when he should propose to his girlfriend and whether he should encourage her to follow him to Iraq. He did propose, she did follow him, and a short time later she was killed when her convoy was attacked by Iraqi militants, as documented in Hastings’s autobiographical work, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.
Around the time of his death, he had just published “Why the Democrats Love to Spy on Americans,” an aggressive indictment of the Obama administration. According to reports, he emailed colleagues that he was now “onto a big story” and needed to go “off radar” for a while. Some say he was being tailed by the FBI.
Hastings was just 33 when he died, but had already made his mark in the world of mass communication. After cutting his journalist teeth on Newsweek, beginning as an unpaid intern, he went on to write for Rolling Stone