The prolific journalist and author David Halberstam died yesterday in a car crash outside of San Francisco. Halberstam, a New Yorker, was traveling in a car that was broadsided while trying to make a left turn. Two other cars were involved in the crash, none of the drivers were seriously injured. The NY Times obituary notes that Halberstam "was killed doing what he had done his entire adult life: reporting," as he was on his way to interview a football player for an upcoming book.

Halberstam covered the Vietnam War for the NY Times (which earned him and his colleagues a Pulitzer) and wrote books on topics as varied as baseball, the automobile industry, the civil rights movement, and NYC firefighters. Seattlest writer Seth Koellen writes a passionate explanation about Halberstam:

...His greatest work was The Best and the Brightest, a harsh, almost Heller-esque portrait of the Kennedy executive branch blundering that led us into Vietnam (don't believe the Oliver Stone hype, Vietnam was as much Kennedy's war as Iraq is GWB's).

The structure of this work is just vicious--he spends about 250 pages describing how brilliant men like Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy were, how they'd had nothing but success in their lives, how their friends and even enemies were in awe of their stunning intellects, then about 600 pages demonstrating how royally they fucked up in Vietnam. In his role as a disembodied narrator, Halberstam doesn't stoop to snark, which would've been so easy (hence, why we employ it). Instead, he lets Bundy and McNamara and Dean Rusk hang themselves with their own words. Reading this book affirmed our suspicion that great government mistakes aren't the result of conspiracy, but of that human frailty with which you and I and everyone we know are all too familiar--simple stupidity.

When he died, Halberstam was on his way to interview former Giants QB Y.A. Tittle--Halberstam was writing a book about the 1958 NFL championship game, sometimes called "the greatest game ever played." Sounds like it would've been awesome. Sometimes we hate everything.

The NY Times's obituary also included a recent quote Halberstam gave to NY1: “A writer should be like a playwright — putting people on stage, putting ideas on stage, making the reader become the audience."

Here is a 2003 NPR segment where Halberstam discusses the Iraq war.