Two Journalists Who Cover Hate Find Love
Tess Alexandra MacVicar Owen and Andrew Blaise Campbell were in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 to cover the violent “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalists, or, as Ms. Owen called it, “a brazen display of hatred.”
What neither expected to find was love.
On the day after the rally, Ms. Owen, 33, a senior reporter based in New York who covers extremism at Vice News, went to meet a former classmate, Christopher Mathias, for a drink at a local bar to decompress. Mr. Mathias was with Mr. Campbell, 34. Both were on the extremism beat for HuffPost, where Mr. Campbell, who goes by Andy, is a reporter and senior editor also based in New York.
“I could see his warmth and goofiness the moment I met him,” Ms. Owen said.
Ms. Owen and Mr. Campbell played a game of pool, which seemed to go on forever, because “we were flirting, and we were really bad at it,” she said.
They shared their first kiss that night.
The next morning, they were at Charlottesville Criminal Court to cover the arraignment of James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio, who has since been convicted of first-degree murder and other charges for driving a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others.
Mr. Campbell held Ms. Owen’s camera, which was not allowed inside the courtroom, while she and Mr. Mathias went inside to report. The three of them spent the rest of the day filing their respective stories outside the Omni Hotel.
That night, they all met for barbecue. Both Mr. Campbell and Ms. Owen had recently ended long-term relationships, so they knew this outing was significant. Mr. Campbell didn’t have the heart to tell Ms. Owen he was relocating to the HuffPost office in Sydney, Australia, within the month.
He texted her with this news a few days later.
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Ms. Owen told her mother: “I fell in love in Charlottesville, but there’s no point because he’s moving to Australia.”
Ms. Owen, a British national, attended the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, and then graduated from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia. Mr. Campbell graduated from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. He is the author of “We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered in a New Era of American Extremism,” which is slated to be published Sept. 20 by Hachette Books.
Shortly after the events in Charlottesville, Mr. Campbell was being sought out as an expert on the far right. He and his editor decided that Australia was off.
Mr. Campbell and Ms. Owen texted occasionally during the next few months.
“I didn’t want to put too much pressure on him,” Ms. Owen said. “It’s hard to describe, but I felt confident it would work out between us.”
Her hunch proved correct. In December, they met in Brooklyn. Drinks turned into dinner, and Mr. Campbell asked Ms. Owen if she would like to join him at a cabin upstate on New Year’s Eve with his friends. She accepted.
They moved in together in Brooklyn in December 2018. Living together meant learning how to chase the same story while sometimes keeping it from each other, and respecting each other’s boundaries when they needed to unplug from work.
When it came to the subject of marriage, Ms. Owen made her position clear: She thought getting a dog was a greater commitment for a couple to make. In January 2020, they welcomed Dolly, a wheaten terrier, to their home. In December 2020, during a weekend getaway with Dolly in Woodstock, N.Y., Mr. Campbell proposed.
They were legally married Aug. 26 at the town hall in Gondrin, France, by the mayor, Didier Dupront, in front of 40 guests. Another ceremony took place the next day and was officiated by Mr. Campbell’s former boss at HuffPost, Buck Wolf, with a reception for 120 friends and family at a private home.
The newlyweds had instructions for those giving toasts at their wedding: “Keep it light on the fascism.”
“This is our one day to not think about far-right extremists,” Ms. Owen said. “They’re not allowed in our space.”
It’s Ms. Owen’s resilience that, in part, draws Mr. Campbell to her: “Tess will find optimism and determination in the worst places, and always brings that to other people.”