News of the death of 33-year-old Michael Hastings in a fiery car crash June 18 has left everyone who knew him stunned. And it’s also left a giant hole in the heart of Real Journalism. Hastings was a Real Journalist.
I never knew Michael Hastings. But a few years ago, when we were both contributing to the late lamented True/Slant.com, he sent me a comment on something I’d written. That led me to check out what he was writing, which left me in the dust within a very few minutes. For a storyteller like me to get an affirmative nod from a journalist like Hastings felt like sort of a large gold star.
This is not to knock storytelling, which I consider one top way to convey truth (especially about difficult topics like death-and-dying or abortion.) Storytelling is broadband, real journalism is specific and it is a rare and precious thing.
Real journalism is fearless, aggressive, relentless and uncorruptible. When practiced by people like Michael Hastings it lets the rest of us know what is really happening in our democracy — which is the only way a democracy survives.
Former True/Slant now New York Times editor Michael Roston summed up the best advice to aspiring journalists who survive Hastings: “Try to be like him.”
I was recently urged by Facebook to do something obtuse because my friend Josephine (pseudonymed for very good reason here) is doing it and knows I will love it. Hmm. There’s just one small problem here: Josephine has been dead for well over a year. You’d think Facebook might have noticed.
Yet, there she is, smiling her gentle smile, alive and welcoming to the Facebook friends who surely wish it were so. What to do? Ask her daughters to wipe their mom off the pages of the Facebook planet? Bookmark the page for the cheer it brings? Or try to ignore it lest it become spooky like those answering machine voices out of the past? I’m still pondering.
On the other hand, I more or less died to the cyberworld myself about six weeks ago. This was not an intentional — or even dignified — death. As a matter of fact, I had contracted not that long ago with my very alive, cyber-efficient friend Ryan to help me close my Blogspot page, fancy up this one, figure out all these widgety details and generally add interest and gravitas to my presence in cyberspace. For a while, progress was made toward all that. But life, and a manuscript, intervened.
Having promised the manuscript of my one-day book Perilous Times: An inside look at abortion before — and after Roe v Wade to the nice folks at YBK Publshing by September 1, I suddenly, seriously needed to finish the thing. And the only way I could figure out how to accomplish such a feat — we’re talking 1,500 words a day with a few last-minute interviews tossed in — was just to drop out of cyberspace and into computerland until it was done. So my long-dormant Blogspot blog, some day destined to die, and the fits & starts of this WordPress incarnation of Boomers & Beyondhave been hanging out, forlorn and ignored, lo these many weeks.
This sorry state of affairs is at least not quite as bad as the state of my late lamented paid gig with True/Slant.com. My True/Slant page has been hanging, frozen, in space ever since Forbes bought the site & I declined to write for Forbes (full disclosure: they weren’t begging me anyway) more than two years ago. It’s confounding at best to try to do anything (“Follow me” indeed) or go anywhere else on True/Slant; that page is dying an undignified death indeed. Not to mention the fact that anyone stumbling across it could reasonably think, “Poor dear, she hasn’t had a new thought in 782 days”…. since the only thing moving on the page is the tabulator that says how many days it’s been since this post.
The manuscript is done. The book will happen. Life has resumed. And this page will now get back to the business of offering thoughts about life, health and the pursuit of justice of interest to boomers, post-boomers and perhaps miscellaneous others. Thanks for dropping by.
Disappearing from cyberspace is a little like being a tree that falls in the forest. A very small tree. Having disappeared from cyberspace myself for a couple of weeks, I am comforted by the fact that the forest is very large.
It’s not that this space disappeared, just that Boomers and Beyond disappeared. Boomers and Beyond is a blog primarily about issues critical to over-50 generations, and it came to pass on True/Slant.com a couple of years ago. It dealt with health care and fitness and housing choices and brain exercises and driving safety, and often diverted into rants about gay rights and abortion rights and gun control and other miscellany — because the True/Slant folks were a free-wheeling bunch and why should anybody quit worrying about rights and justice when they turn 50? All those profound words are archived in this nifty blog (this WordPress one right here) created by incredible friend-of-B&B-&-this space Mary Trigiani, so that if anyone stumbles into the forest and wants to study a small bush those twigs — OK, enough with the metaphor — are there to be read.
True/Slant didn’t actually disappear; it got bought by Forbes, and is gradually reappearing (as a New And Improved Forbes blogsite) there. Boomers & Beyond is reportedly going to reappear thereon, as soon as a contract appears. In the interim, it is just sitting there inert, and after several watchful readers noticed its inertia (posting anything new isn’t an option at True/Slant any more) I decided to venture once more into cyberspace.
It’s pleasant to meet you here. I hope we’ll meet again soon.