story & photos by Tricia Dewey
Local News Anchor’s Smile is Her Superpower
Yes, she’s as effervescent off camera as she is on camera and, of course, she is also much more. Kym Clark is a consummate professional and at the top of her game at WMC Action News 5 as the daytime news co-anchor. During a recent noon newscast, her resonant voice, her delivery, and her relationship with her co-workers, the viewers, and the camera, are all in perfect form until she refers to her friend, weatherman Nick Gunter, as “Tim” on the air as they move into the weather segment. Then her brilliant smile flashes and she swats her left arm playfully toward him. “I mean Nick! I don’t know where that comes from! I’m sorry!” After 30 years on the air, most of them as news anchor, Kym has learned to adjust quickly and apologize when she makes a mistake, and as she says, “I can smile my way through anything. I do smile a lot.”
After graduating from the University of Georgia in 1984, she found herself working at a TV station in Augusta, Georgia, where Mason Granger, then news director at Channel 5, found her and flew her to Memphis for an interview, and the rest, as they say, is an almost 31-year career at the station. “When I came here I thought I’d be here a year, two years tops, because I had this grand idea that I was going to move on to Washington, DC and go to the big markets and I got here and this place, especially back then, it was so much like a family…. I got here and I just fell in love with the people I worked with, I guess some of them fell in love with me, and I fell in love with the people in Memphis and I guess some of them fell in love with me.”
After a few months on the job here Kym said Mason Granger took her aside and told her, “I think you need to decide who you are when you’re on air. Are you going to be a teacher? Are you going to be an authority? Or are you going to be somebody’s friend? I felt more comfortable being a friend because I was pretending to be a reporter, like I had to ‘act’ like a reporter on air. And when I decided that, that the camera is my friend, it made all the difference for me.”
Kym began as a general assignment reporter and made her way to early morning news co-anchor and worked 17 years at the morning co-anchor desk. After a recent short stint covering early morning. S––he is now back to the noon and 4 p.m. news co- anchor desk, which allows her to have more of a “normal” family life with her husband, artist Patrick Akers, and 13-year-old daughter, Ginger.
She didn’t take any journalism classes in college so Kym had to learn on the job. “There are still a lot of things I’m learning about journalism and how to be a good journalist.” Coming up, “They’re allowing me to get a little more involved again in putting stories together, which requires me to get my chops back together and start making phone calls and find my sources, but it’s kind of fun and exciting.”
She’s proud of her career and where she’s gotten. She made a way for herself in a place where no one knew her. She has had some fun and exciting interviews along the way, including spending time with Oprah Winfrey behind the scenes at her show in Chicago and then in an interview. “Oprah was one of those people, too, that I learned (is) pretty much the same on camera as off camera. When I got to meet her, that was comforting to see…. She was the same person. Funny, witty, very smart, brilliant.”
Maybe it’s because she has always been drawn to the underdog, but she has really been drawn to Memphis. “I tell people all the time that one of the things I love about Memphis and the Mid-South in general is that when people are in need, folks here are willing to help. When I used to do stories about fires or people in need, I would barely get the story out before people were calling to say what can I do, how can I help.” Kym also gives much of herself back to the community. She has worked with the Memphis Humane Society, the DeNeuville Learning Center, and Friends for Life among others. She has emceed Friends of George’s and Mystic Krewe of Pegasus Ball many times. “Mystic Krewe has gone through all kinds of name changes and group changes and the types of things that they do, it’s probably been 20 years [that I’ve been involved]. They asked me to do it, and the scripts are always fun, and I have fun with it and I think they get a kick out of me. It’s fun for me because I get to be a little bit ‘more special.’ They raise money for different things, Friends for Life. It’s Mardi Gras Memphis style. It’s a lot. You can look at it as a costume party because, oh yeah, it is.”
For young people going into journalism today, “The journalism aspect of it has to be what you love. This business isn’t glamorous now, it’s I think going to be less glamorous in a matter of a couple years or so. You have to love asking questions, finding out how things work, you have to want to know why things work the way they do and how to really do the job and do It successfully…. Reporters aren’t necessarily brave rather than dogged. Like a dog with a bone and all of a sudden they realize what have I done? I don’t think people who end up doing brave things start out thinking they’re brave or go out there to be brave. I just think its character that comes through in crisis.” She’s not always positive. She knows the times we are living in can be depressing, but being depressed doesn’t help anything.
Kim admits she can be ‘Polyannish,’ but she’s hopeful. “I have to be!” It gives her hope that “I think there are a lot of brave people out there and it’s because they’re living their truth, they’re trying to live their lives truthfully and honestly and that’s a brave thing to do.” Especially she credits her mother and other strong women around her as her role models. “My life philosophy has always been what my mother taught me. When I was a little girl I asked my mom why are people different colors and she told me we were like god’s flowers and we all had to be different and beautiful, and wouldn’t it be such a boring bouquet if we were all the same color, the same height. So we’re god’s bouquet,” she said with a blazing smile. Smiling—it’s her superpower!