Chris Rush will be new to Eastern Oregon, but he’s no stranger to community journalism.
The EO Media Group recently named Rush as the regional publisher and revenue director of the Hermiston Herald, East Oregonian, Blue Mountain Eagle and Wallowa County Chieftain.
He will replace Kathryn Brown, who has been publisher of the Hermiston Herald and East Oregonian since 2013 and will begin developing a new publication for the EO Media Group this summer.
Rush, now a 25-year veteran of the journalism industry and native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, had an inauspicious start to his career.
Equipped with a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma, Rush had trouble breaking into the field as a young man in 1993. He had sent dozens of résumés to various news organizations when he applied for a reporting position with the Sapulpa Daily Herald, a newspaper based in a Tulsa suburb of about 20,000 people.
Noticing his experience selling furniture and men’s clothing, the Daily Herald instead offered Rush an advertising job, which paid a commission in addition to a base salary.
“At that time, I had just gotten married and that sounded good to me,” he said.
His foot in the door, Rush crisscrossed Oklahoma and Arkansas as a reporter, editor, advertising director and publisher.
Rush moved to Aberdeen, Washington, in 2008 to become the publisher of The Daily World and after a brief stint back in Oklahoma became publisher of The World in Coos Bay in 2015.
Although Rush’s career had been made in print journalism, in 2017 he retired from the newspaper business and bought a coffee shop in Reedsport, which he ran with his wife, Sheryl, for the past eight months.
It was a longtime dream, but running the Rogue River Coffee Co. was also a rigorous enterprise.
“I got a lot of respect for anyone who owns a business,” he said.
All the while, Rush kept tabs on his old profession.
He had originally thought about taking an interim publisher position somewhere to supplement the coffee shop’s income, but when the publishing job in Pendleton opened up, he couldn’t pass on the opportunity.
For their part, EO Media Group officials think Rush is the right person for the job.
“Chris is uniquely qualified to take on this leadership role for our company,” said Heidi Wright, EO Media Group chief operating officer, in a statement. “He is excited to be working with a family-held media company that shares his passion for the communities we serve and the newspapers we produce.”
In her own written statement, Brown enumerated the qualities that made Rush a worthy successor.
“Chris is also a highly intelligent, friendly and positive person,” she said. “He shares our family’s values and a passion for community journalism, and I expect that he will be a great fit here in Eastern Oregon.”
Rush said he’s always been attracted to living and working in small communities and he intends to keep the media group’s four Eastern Oregon newspapers focused on community news.
He also anticipates finding a fit in Pendleton, a cowboy town not too dissimilar from some of the western Oklahoma towns he’s worked in.
He will arrive in Pendleton on Thursday, and he and Brown will spend the coming weeks working on the transition between publishers.
Brown will be stepping down from her role as publisher of the East Oregonian and Hermiston Herald in order to launch a magazine called “The Other Oregon,” focusing on rural Oregon’s issues, values, culture and lifestyle. She will remain on the East Oregonian’s editorial board and be involved in special projects at the newspaper. She also serves on the EO Media Group’s board of directors as an owner of the company.
Rush will move to Pendleton with his wife Sheryl. He has two adult children, a son who will graduate from Oklahoma State University this spring and a daughter attending the school as well.