Journalism grad runs for Virginia state office

by Max Reyes / Beacon Staff • February 22, 2017

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Hurst would represent about 80,000 citizens.
Courtesy of Chris Hurst
Hurst would represent about 80,000 citizens.
Courtesy of Chris Hurst

Emerson alumnus and political candidate Chris Hurst hasn’t held public office before, but that hasn’t stopped him from acting as a public servant.

Hurst, a former news anchor who graduated from the Emerson in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in journalism, is campaigning for a seat on Virginia’s state legislature representing approximately 80,000 citizens, according to the Virginia General Assembly website. He said his reporting benefitted people in his region, a service he hopes to continue in his political career.

Hurst said his platform is focused on issues including restoring education funding and helping to grow small businesses, and that his campaign has already raised over $30,000.

Although he does not have prior political experience, Hurst said he intends to apply what he learned about local politics as a reporter and news anchor to public office.

Hurst decided to make the switch to politics after his girlfriend Alison Parker and colleague Adam Ward were shot and killed on live television in 2015. Both were fellow WDBJ employees. Hurst said reporting on events similar to what happened to him was difficult.

“I could get through the day, but at the expense of part of my humanity,” he said. “I didn’t really want to continue doing that … [Politics] seemed like a natural progression.”

Hurst isn’t the first Emerson alumnus to run for public office. Jerald A. Parisella, who also studied journalism at Emerson, is a representative in the Massachusetts state legislator.

Emerson created an award to honor Parker called the Alison Parker-Chris Hurst Mentorship Award. Associate journalism professor Marsha Della-Giustina, who taught Hurst while he was at Emerson, said the award was meant to recognize how Parker helped other journalists improve their reporting, and is given to an Emerson student who does the same.

Priscilla Liguori, an Emerson alumna who graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, received the award last spring.

Liguori said Hurst reached out to her after she won the award, and has offered her advice and checked in on her every few weeks since.

“He genuinely cares about how I’m doing,” she said.

During his time at Emerson, Hurst said he announced the EVVY awards and worked with college organizations like Emerson Independent Video and WERS.

Hurst said that after graduation, he worked briefly in Washington state as a TV news reporter before doing the same at WDBJ, a CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Virginia. He later became one of WDBJ’s anchors.

Della-Guistina said Hurst has always been dedicated to helping people.

“Chris is a very special person. He always wanted to make a difference in the world,” Della-Giustina said. “I’m praying he wins.”