A native of Wayne, Penn., MSNBC Political Correspondent Kasie Hunt feels at home this week during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The "Morning Joe" regular covered Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign for the Associated Press and the 2010 midterm elections for POLITICO.
While she spent her undergraduate years at George Washington University in D.C. and has lived in the nation's capitol for about 10 years, Hunt reflected on her Philly roots in an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian on Tuesday.
Daily Pennsylvanian: What is it like for you being back in Philadelphia right now during a time when it’s under all of this national attention, as someone who’s a local?
Kasie Hunt: I think I underestimated how much fun it would be in what feels like my hometown. I grew up in Wayne, so it’s a Philadelphia suburb, so not right downtown, but I [could go to] Wawa and eat cheesesteaks, which I probably shouldn’t admit are my favorite food… I remember all the traffic reports, I still take the Schuykill 76 is still terrible; the traffic is still really bad.
But it’s really a lot of fun. And my producer is from California and I’ve been surprised by how much I am wanting to tell her about all of the things that we should see and do while we’re in the area. And it’s great like my parents are here, so I’ll get a chance to see them briefly and they’ll get to come over to the convention, which is nice.
DP: What do you think makes Philly such a unique town? Why is it so special to you?
KH: I think Philly is very real. You come here, the people are real. Sure we have our flaws, but it’s a place where you never feel like people are putting on airs or trying to be something that they’re not. And it still has a little bit of grit and a little bit of edge. And yet it’s still a place that’s kind of thriving and changing in a really dynamic way.
The city itself has changed a lot in the time that I’ve been away; I’ve been in Washington for about a decade now… And the city [Philadelphia] is very different and vibrant and growing. A lot of the people that I went to high school with are coming back to Philadelphia and they’re choosing to live in the city when they maybe wouldn’t have before. And I think that it’s really fun to see all of that.
The food scene in particular, I’ve been really impressed by it. The restaurants are amazing and I’ve been having fun checking out all of these new spots that didn’t used to be here.
DP: You mentioned that sort of gritty, straightforward character of Philadelphia, and that seems to relate to journalism and be kind of a good quality to have in journalism. Is that something that you think has played into your journalistic career?
KH: Especially in the years I was growing up, Philly’s always been a great newspaper town. I got my start in print. We used to get the Philly Inquirer dropped on our doorstep. I mean newspapers are obviously kind of in a different era now but we had the Inquirer, the Daily News, all the local TV stations. Andrea Mitchell, who is somebody who I look up to in a major way, used to work for KYW newsradio, which I used to listen to every day. I think this is a place where journalism has always really thrived and where I certainly, growing up, I would read the paper. That was a newspaper that I read because in those days, I mean it seems quaint now, I guess, but back before the internet, you read the paper that was dropped on your doorstep. You didn’t read the New York Times or the Washington Post online. That’s what I grew up with and that was my introduction to journalism and I think, I was really lucky that we had such a great paper in town to learn from.
DP: What got you started in journalism? What drew you to it?
KH: Honestly, I got into it a little bit by accident because I went to college in Washington, I majored in International Relations, but I’ve always been a news junkie and so that’s what I was really drawn to. And I was actually an intern at NBC News back in 2005, I worked for Mark Murray who now helps run our political unit, and I work with him now every day. So that was kind of my first taste of it. And once I started covering presidential politics, I just caught the bug.
DP: What about presidential politics in particular interests you?
KH: It’s a story like no other story. And there’s really so much at stake. We lose sight of that sometimes in the day-to-day of the news cycle and the back and forth, but the reality is it’s a very big decision on the line. I’ve always been drawn to it partly because it’s a front row seat to history.
The events that I remember the most are the big ones. I covered Mitt Romney’s convention in 2012, when he was nominated. I covered Donald Trump’s announcement, not even realizing at the time that that was going to be the kind of event that was going to go down in the history books.
The goal here is still to give voters the information that they need to decide who should be leading the county and what are the values that they have, and are they people that can be trusted. I take that responsibility pretty seriously, and I think that’s ultimately what we should be doing for the country. And being in Philadelphia kind of underscores that. We’re surrounded by all of these places and buildings where the country was initially founded… so it’s nice to have those reminders around.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.