In the wake of the L.A. County Coroner's report concluding that BuzzFeed journalist Michael Hastings' death was an accident, his family is speaking out about inaccurate media reports surrounding the 33-year-old's demise and doing its best to keep his legacy alive.
BuzzFeed's Michael Hastings National Security Reporting Fellowship will award $100,000 plus expenses to one journalist to pursue the kinds of stories that wouldn't get written otherwise. The deadline, Sept. 1, is coming up soon.
It's a small, but real, comfort to those Hastings left behind. The crusading journalist's fatal car crash in June gave rise to conspiracy theories surrounding the circumstances of his death and a lengthy L.A. Weekly story detailing his past drug use and struggles with addiction.
"There are plenty of inaccuracies and falsehoods that have been claimed, but it doesn't change anything," Hastings' brother Jeff told TheWrap. "Losing Mike is very painful; gossip and conspiracy theories are not."
His brother declined to discuss the inaccuracies further or address last week's L.A. Weekly story about Hastings' final days. According to the report, Hastings' family was on his way to L.A. to conduct an intervention when he crashed.
The L.A. County Coroner said Hastings tested positive for marijuana and amphetamines at the time of his death. Though the coroner wrote that the amphetamine use was "consistent with possible intake of methamphetamine," the prescription drugs Ritalin or Adderall would also cause a positive result; the report noted that Hastings had a history of "misusing Ritalin." The coroner nonetheless ruled the death accidental.
"Our family will remember him with love as our brother, son, grandson, cousin," his brother Jeff told TheWrap. "I hope others continue to read his books and articles and remember him as a journalist who didn't pick on the easy targets and worked, as best he could, in the interests of freedom and peace."
Conspiracy theories cropped up almost immediately after Hastings' June 18 death. Within days, the FBI told TheWrap that Hastings was not under investigation.
That didn't stop some of Hastings' fellow journalists from reporting otherwise. A blogger who contributes to Examiner.com as a "National Homeland Security Correspondent" made frequent appearances on a San Diego CW affiliate's news broadcast to promote various conspiracy theories about Hastings' death.
Despite a lack of evidence to support her assertions — and the fact that some of her "facts" were just plain wrong — they've been picked up by other, more reputable publications, as Mother Jones recently reported.
Hastings' widow, Elise Jordan, recently told CNN she thought he died in "a really tragic accident." She lashed out at inaccurate media reports about her husband the day after his death, accusing the New York Times of "blatant mischaracterization" in Hastings' obituary.
"Michael's family and I are of course pleased that his legacy will carry on in a fellowship," Jordan told TheWrap.
"We've started to get some amazing applications for the fellowship," BuzzFeed's editor-in-chief Ben Smith told TheWrap. "And we are hopeful that we will be able to provide the resources for a reporter with the skills and vision to extend Michael's legacy."