A conversation with Pulliam Fellows Mark and Mollie Hemingway (2024)

Mark and Mollie Hemingway are one of America’s premier journalistic power couples. Mark is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard, while Mollie is a senior editor at The Federalist, which she co-founded. The Hemingways live in Washington, D.C., and have two children.

How did each of you first get involved in journalism?

Mark: It started out my freshman year in college when, instead of putting me in a dorm room, the housing department put me in a motel off of campus because they said they had overbooked their dorms. And the motel was filthy; there were all kinds of problems because there were all sorts of poor, vagrant types that were also living in the motel with people. I spent the first few months in school doing things like running out in the parking lot and saving co-eds from being assaulted by drunk people. And I got really, really frustrated that this was my living situation, so I started looking into it, and I found that the housing department at my university did this every year. They claimed to have overbooked the dorms, but they did this intentionally so that when students joined fraternities and moved off campus, they would break their housing contracts and the housing department would make a bunch of money. So when I looked into this story nobody reported on it — nobody was interested in it, and I was just upset that this injustice hadn’t been rectified — that they were subjecting these kids to this horrible situation. As it turns out one of the campus publications, the Oregon Commentator, was finally interested. It was kind of a conservative campus, conservative/libertarian magazine. And the rest is history, I guess.

Mollie: I did not start out interested in journalism. I studied economics and thought I wanted to go into academia, and to make a very long story short, I tried a few other things and ended up as a second career going into journalism. And I’ve loved every minute of it.

Mark: That’s a much more elegant, concise story than mine.

How did the two of you meet?

Mark: It was my first job out of college. My wife is about 20 months older than I am, so she had been working at this place, a non-profit, think-tank-type place in northern Virginia. She’d been working there for about two years, and it was my first job. I remember I walked into a staff meeting one day, and she was basically the most attractive girl in the room. We went out for drinks shortly after that, and the rest is history. You can just conclude all answers with that.

Mollie: I was there. That was how it happened.

At the present moment in politics, what is most interesting to write about for the two of you?

Mark: The question now is what’s not interesting to write about. I’m not that old, and I remember when there was downtime in politics, and now it seems like everything is go, go, go in the 24-hour news cycle. This year in particular things are utterly insane. Every election cycle, people would joke about a brokered convention: “Wouldn’t that be cool?” Well, now it’s looking like a very good chance that will happen. And characters like Donald Trump — how do you even begin to foresee something like that?

Mollie: Not just that, but I think that the electorate and what they have to say is what I’m finding most interesting and how poorly they’re understood by most political analysts and pundits. And you’re seeing on both sides of the aisle this really significant populist uprising — people who are fed up by the collusion between government and business, and they’re expressing it in different ways, and everybody is responding very freaked out in the corridors of power — in part because the two candidates who are capturing that have significant problems. But it’s a really interesting thing to cover, and if you understand that electorate at all I think you can add a lot to the journalistic discussion. And most people in D.C. just do not understand what’s going on.

Mark: Someone once told me there’s an ancient Chinese curse that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” And I think that’s kind of where we are. Part of the reason why things are so interesting and everybody’s so absorbed in politics right now is because there’s a lot at stake and a lot of peril, too.

How do the two of you balance your family lives with your writing careers?

Mollie: Poorly.

Mark: Well, we both have very flexible work schedules, and our employers are very accommodating in that regard, and that’s great. But it does require a lot of coordination and work. If Mollie has a TV appearance that comes up in the middle of the day, very often I can dash home, pick up the kids from school, and make that happen. Similarly, if I have to fly to a town to do some reporting for a day or two, she can arrange it so she can hold the fort for a while. But it just requires a lot of constant scheduling.

Mollie: I think prioritization really helps. We both work very hard, and even more than that, we make sure that we get to spend time with our kids and with each other. And we also many things apart from career and family that keep us focused.

In what ways do you differ in your writing?

Mollie: He’s much better.

Mark: That’s not true. A married couple of writers in a lot of ways should create tension, and I think one reason why things work for us is because we tend to approach things a little differently, which is to say my wife is much more ordered and logical, and I tend to come at things from a little more on the creative side.

Mollie: We also do different types of writing: Mark does a lot of magazine-length features, and I do a lot of web-only pieces that are very responsive to the news of the day. So we can help each other with our different things. He writes very much in the morning and throughout the day; I’m a night owl.

What role do each of you play in each others’ writing process?

Mollie: Everything I’ve learned about writing I’ve learned from Mark. He’s taught me how to organize a story, how to look for what’s missing, how to look for creative ways to begin or wrap it up at the end, and he continues to help me with that. He thinks it’s funny: Sometimes I’ll say, “I can sense that this would be a good place for a joke; can you give me a joke?” And he’ll say, “I can’t just do that on command!” And I think I help him but in much less significant ways probably. We copy edit each other.

Mark: Well, more like she copy edits me. She’s much more disciplined and has a better understanding of things like grammar — not to say that I don’t know these things, but she sees these things much more clearly than I do often.

Mollie: And also I think we help each other decide what to write, or we’ll just be in conversation, and one of us will tell the other “that would be a good piece.”

Mark: Yeah, we’re very good at bouncing ideas off each other and sparking ideas. But I also just want to add that my wife keeps me happy, which is no small thing as a writer, which can be a very isolating profession. Very often, you’ll write something that you think is really great, and nothing happens with it, or you’re just not happy with the level of work you’ve done recently, so you really need someone to support you, and Mollie does a great job of that.

What advice would you give to young people trying to make a difference in the conservative movement?

Mollie: I would say that Hillsdale students are extremely well-positioned to effect change throughout the country. A frequent recursion to first principles is helpful throughout one’s career, and the students here are getting such a good education in those principles and how to apply them to a changing world. I don’t know if people here understand what a tremendous blessing this is and how this will serve them and make them so much more capable of improving the country and maybe the world, relative to what their peers are getting.

A conversation with Pulliam Fellows Mark and Mollie Hemingway (2024)


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