In the Kingdom

The triumphs and travils of the little kingdom of Camelot

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Guys. I got offered a job to be a part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 if she runs (if not, it will be a job with whoever ends up running). It sounds amazing, but I’m afraid it will take me away from my journalism goals. On the other hand, I really LOVE politics, and playing a different role in the political process is probably so rewarding and lots of fun.

So I guess the basic question is this: If you were doing what you loved, but you got offered a job doing another thing that you loved that only partly aligns with the first thing, what would you do? Would you take the job and explore other opportunities? Or would you stick to something more closely related to your desired field?

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There is a chasm of difference between skepticism and speculation. Michael Hastings, the 33-year-old journalist who died in a car crash in Los Angeles this week, knew the difference well. Hastings didn’t speculate; he devoted years of his too-short life to a different project entirely — investigation propelled by fierce skepticism.

There is some sad irony, then, that the journalist’s tragic death has been followed by a storm of wild speculation — conspiracy theories about car bombs and government assassinations abound through cyberspace. It is the sort of knee-jerk speculation — concerns expounded based on threadbare evidence and assumptions — that sits quite at odds with Hastings’ legacy of thorough reporting and serious probing.

Natasha Lennard, Stop Speculating About Hastings’ Death, Salon.

The News, via Mother Jones:

Michael Hastings, a respected young journalist forRolling Stone andBuzzFeed, was killed in a car accident in Los Angeles Tuesday, according to his bossBuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith.

Hastings, who was 33, was perhaps most famous for “The Runaway General,” his June 2010Rolling Stone article on General Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of US forces in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama fired McChrystal after the publication of the article. Hastings expanded “The Runaway General” into a book, The Operators, that was published in January 2012 and became a New York Times bestseller.

Hastings first rose to prominence for his coverage of the Iraq war inNewsweek. His then-fiancée Andrea Parhamovich was killed in Iraq in 2007; he later wrote a book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad, about his years in Iraq.

You can find Hastings’Rolling Stonearchives hereand his BuzzFeedstuff here, but hisNewsweek writing is mostly not available online.Rolling Stone’s obituary for him is here; Smith’s, which is a particularly gutting read, is here.

Also—and this is wonderful—Hastings’ advice to young journalists by way of Reddit:

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.

FJP: RIP Michael Hastings.

(via futurejournalismproject)

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