It’s 2:30 in the morning and while most of us are sound asleep, Kym Clark is up and running. As the morning/noon news anchor for WMC-TV’s Action News 5, Kym prepares for her day by scanning the Internet and watching news feeds as she banters with her colleagues. By 5 a.m., she’s announcing the first of several newscasts; by 7, her day is half over, just in time for the morning commute.
With a couple of hours free, she drives home to do her daughter’s hair and share breakfast husband, Patrick Akers. “We’re both easy-going, laid-back people, kind of ying and yang,” she observes. Patrick works as an art director at RSVP and is as hands-on with their 5-year-old daughter Ginger as he is with the magazine. (Patrick also has a teenage son from his first marriage.)
“He’s forced to do a lot more with the baby because of my schedule, probably more than many men.” says Kym. It’s often Patrick who puts Ginger to bed at night and gets her up in the morning. But they both work to make sure they stay on the same page when it comes to parenting.
“I can’t imagine being a single mom and trying to do this,” she admits. “If Patrick wasn’t as involved, I don’t know what I’d do. He’s an excellent dad.”
Learning the ropes
Kym got her start in the news business after graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in advertising and public relations in 1984. Her original plan was to become a college professor. But her parents insisted she get a job first. So with the pluck of a Miss University of Georgia pageant winner (Kym was the first African American to win the title, news that made the March 14, 1983 issue of Jet magazine) she landed her first position as a radio disc jockey at a station in Athens, Georgia.
At her second job in Macon, Georgia, the station manager invited her do an air check and liked what he saw. Kym was promoted from her radio spot to the station’s TV news department. Her first big story involved rewriting wire copy on the Challenger space shuttle disaster.
“I didn’t know what I was doing at first. I had to figure it out as I went along. The general manager would call periodically and say, ‘Really?’“ she says with a laugh.
“I don’t think I really learned about news gathering until I came to Channel 5.” She was hired as a general assignment reporter in 1988 by news director Mason Granger, who she credits with helping to sharpen her reporting skills, “I had to learn how to write better, how to get to the point of a story quicker.”
Her primary responsibilities are now at the anchor desk, though she still reports the Extra Credit education segment each week. And she’s interviewed many noteworthy people over the years. Some of her favorites include former president Bill Clinton and media mogul Oprah Winfrey.
While she admits she’s not a hard-hitting journalist, her effervescent personality keeps her in demand as an emcee and station representative.
So what do people want to know about life in front of the camera?
“Well, they often ask questions like, ‘Who does your hair,’ and ‘Where do you buy your clothes.’ But mostly I get, ‘You’re a lot smaller that I thought you’d be,” she says. “I guess that’s a good thing!”
Relaxing at home
She leaves her larger-than-life persona at the office, relaxing on weekends with her family, tending the vegetable garden the couple planted in the backyard, or watching movies. The couple share a mutual love of sci-fi, fantasy, and all things Steven King. Once Ginger came along, their world expanded to include Disney, Chuckie Cheese, and girlie-girl destinations like Sweet ‘n Sassy, where Ginger had her fifth birthday party.
But Kym loves her role as a mom, something she wasn’t convinced she’d even have a chance at, since she was 40 when Ginger was born.
“I immediately went off birth control once I got married. I thought I’d get pregnant right away. I figured all you needed was one good egg. But one day I was chit-chatting with Donna Davis, we were doing our make-up, and I mentioned that I hadn’t had a cycle in several months. Donna looked at me and said, ‘Girl, you better get to the doctor. I think you’re pregnant.’ And ta-da, that was it!”
Her story isn’t unique. Because of the demanding nature of TV news, many female journalists wind up postponing family life to keep their careers moving forward.
“This line of work can be all-consuming. The people you date tend to be co-workers or folks at other stations. Plus, it takes a special kind of man to be called Mr. Clark,” she says with a wink.
But Patrick wasn’t a groupie. In fact, he had only seen Kym on television once or twice when they met through mutual friends. At the time, he was also in the midst of a painful divorce, a reality that was reflected in his paintings. “He was definitely a tortured artist at that time,” Kym says. But his introspection and her outgoingness proved to be a good combination. Their marriage works, they say, because they understand the importance of compromise and communication.
“I must remember to give my husband [down] time to paint,” says Kym, referring to Patrick’s true passion. His artwork runs the gamut, from realistic sketches to more abstract, textured paintings.
“It’s rare to find someone you can trust and connect with. I can be petulant and stamp my feet but then he’ll make me laugh,” she says. And on being a mother? She grows quiet for a moment. “It softens you in ways you didn’t know you needed softening. It makes me want to be wiser, for my daughter.”