Redheaded Blackbelt site founder talks about journalistic alternatives

By Cody Centeno
Flapjack staff

Kym Kemp is a 57-year old reporter here in Humboldt County who has seen and reported on it all, from happy moments, to diesel spills from marijuana grows, to murders. Kemp was born in Eureka, moved away for several years, but later came back, and moved to Southern Humboldt. She graduated from South Fork High in Miranda, and later went on to attend Santa Rosa JC, College of the Redwoods, UC Berkeley, and finally Humboldt State.

The start of Kemp’s writing career came in the form of an online blog, which she started in 2007.

“I just wanted to practice for a fiction book I had hoped to write,” she said.

However, in 2008, an indoor marijuana grow spilled diesel in the creek near her home, and thus her journalism career was born.

“I began covering that story for my website, then Hank Sims at the North Coast Journal asked me to do a couple of stories for that paper,” said Kemp, “I began to do more reporting and less magazine type pieces.”

From there, Kemp went on to report for the Lost Coast Outpost, and then in 2015, she moved back to her current website, Redheaded Blackbelt, where she currently reports from.

Kemp has always been a “curious cat”, according to her, so she is interested in what is currently going on locally at any given time. She says that her favorite part of being a reporter is getting information, and relaying it in a timely fashion to people who need it.

“Like when the roads are closing because of storms, or fires are threatening people’s homes,” Kemp said. “I hate that people are suffering, but I love getting them the information that they need.”

The most memorable story to Kemp is when a man accused of murder saved her from being charged in court. To make the story short, the man called her while on the run to say that it was self-defense, and that his wife was innocent. She wrote a story about it, and was later subpoenaed to testify. When asked to testify about information that was not already public — the defendant’s e-mail address, Kemp refused to comply. After refusing several times, the defendant directed his attorney to state that it was indeed his e-mail address, saving her from getting in to trouble.

“So that is how the gentleman killer saved me from jail,” she said.

As with every job, there is a least favorite part, and for Kemp, that is the threats that she receives.

“Sometimes it’s scary, but mostly it just makes me sick that there is so much anger and ugliness in the world,” Kemp stated.

Running an online site where the public can post their input is very difficult, and Kemp has to constantly stay close to her computer. She says that this makes the normal things in life, like a trip to the grocery store, difficult to do.

“I make all of those things happen still, but not near as often as I would like,” said Kemp of the normal things in life.

She has seen people post racial and sexual slurs, accuse others of crimes without any real proof, and many other things of that nature on her comment section, and tries to delete those as fast as she can. This is the primary reason for her having to be so close to the computer all the time.

Many people within the Southern Humboldt, and even the Northern Mendocino communities hold Kemp in high regard. Bunny Wilder, who used to own Blue Moon in Garberville, and knows Kemp, says that she is very happy that she has her website.

“She delivers news when we need it, and we always need it,” said Wilder, “We would hear nothing of the cannabis industry if not from her pages.”

Like it or not, the locals in this area do like to keep informed on the subject. Wilder also appreciates Kemp’s availability and attentiveness to her readers.

“If I have an issue about something she wrote, I can e-mail her and iron it out. She is a receptive person, and one who I can trust,” she said.

Another Garberville resident, Electra Richard, also had good things to say of Kemp.

“Kym is an asset to our community,” she said, “Her online paper is truthful, and she works very hard to keep all of us informed.”

Delving in to Northern Mendocino County, which Kemp also covers some news for, Leggett resident Pam Braham says that she is a rock of the local communities.

“She is out there on it when anything happens. She is down to earth with her reporting, and if there is ever a mistake made, she is quick to correct it,” said Braham.

Braham also had some positive things to say about Kemp as a person,

“Kym is very compassionate, and as far as I know, she is highly respected by all. I don’t know when she sleeps, I give her both thumbs up,” she said.

Most of these opinions seem to be fairly consistent with one another, which speaks to Kemp’s character.

Kemp says that she never wants to stop reporting, and shared what she hopes to be remembered for.

“I don’t want to retire, I hope I am still typing on my death bed,” she said, “But, when I die, I hope that people remember me as someone who tried to help her community.”

 

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