Kym Kemp has one of the best or possibly worst jobs around here. A self-made woman, she’s created her “Redheaded Black Belt” (RHBB) news website and become the most powerful person, or one of the most, in SoHum, maybe in Humboldt County, and possibly the North Coast and beyond. (She said she had been planning on being a lawyer, but then she got pregnant.)
It’s a bad job if Kym actually has to sit around all day reading every comment that appears on her site, like a human data-storage unit, a pulsing synapse absorbing and processing all the community bullshit spewed from mostly anonymous and often negative commenters on RHBB.
Taking in all the community’s angst cannot be good for her mental health either, I would be interested in how she deals with that, what coping mechanisms she has developed, though she seems fine judging from her positive online personality and her healthy sense of humor. (Well hey, it pays the bills and augments the bottom line as she navigates the challenges of her family marijuana business as well. I’d like to interview her as I’m curious and fascinated about how her website works, how money is generated, and how she created it.)
Is Kym dying for our sins everyday? We can glance at a story or comment stream, read a few if we’re interested or bored, but our local hero has to monitor the community exchange constantly, unless she has outsourced some of that to her staff.
She has become our cultural gatekeeper, providing access to her site for anything she wants, any breaking news story, announcement, listing of an event, opinion, column, or even a newsflash for a spontaneous local protest demonstration scheduled for later that day.
(A function “All Sides Now” on KMUD used to supply until the station was taken over by timid millennials, along with a couple of their pet boomers.)
The trolls she has to oversee and discipline, who would have no life without RHBB, might think she’s kind of a schoolmarm, but in his obituary she did publish the naked protest photo of her father-in-law Hardy and his fellow radicals, so she ain’t no prude.
When Kym doesn’t want to run something she’ll say, “This doesn’t fit my audience” but if her audience doesn’t like something they are stuck, there’s nowhere else to go, they’re not going to stop surfing and reading RHBB because there’s some post they disagree with. Kym’s audience is everyone around here, a diverse group of mostly White people. When Kym talks about “her audience” what I think she means is the audience of one: herself. It’s her site, she can run it however she wants, and publish whatever she wants as she’s created herself, with hard work, into being the major conduit to the perception of reality in Southern Humboldt USA. (Most of her stories and audience are based in Northern Humboldt and last year she got twenty million views.)
Power loves power and wants more, and other minor institutions and local cultural brokers such as KMUD, LOCO, NCJ, and the Anderson Valley Advertiser regulate their public comment zones tightly, although the AVA publishes virtually anyone’s opinion. (Sometimes it reminds me of those lyrics from “The Clash”: “These are your rights: You have the right to free speech, just so long as you don’t actually try it!”)
Kym can be described as tough but fair, she detests meanness, and is especially triggered by terms like “grow-ho” or any other words which she thinks are disparaging to women, or anyone else. (I don’t think it’s necessarily a sexist term, I definitely knew a few dudes who were grow-ho’s.)
She strongly discourages, if not deletes, comments criticizing anyone’s grammar, probably because she doesn’t want to discourage the text generation, and other uneducated oafs who make up a good chunk of her audience?
Yes, her site is a free-for-all for freedom of speech, although she does come in with her little “(edits)” daily with no explanation, which means she’s censored a word or sentence, some insult or an anonymous accusation of breaking the law posted by one of the trolls. (I’m still not clear on that one: I told her about when a still-living local, Tuna Jackson, spiked a nursing mother’s coffee with LSD fifty years ago at Needle Rock and she said she wouldn’t publish that, although any statute of limitations have long-since run out, right?)
It’s Kym’s Kommunity, her very extended family where old hippies, rednecks, growers, millennials and everyone in between, living in little cities, towns, villages, or out lonely dirt roads, from Orick to Hopland and beyond, check out the very latest breaking news or interesting opinion piece. Most don’t comment and some of the ones who do can be disturbing and humorless right-wingers who seem to appear on every thread, probably satisfied to have a safe place to express themselves in deep blue California and Humboldt, although they never seem very happy doing their rote Biden-bashing or whatever.
Kym is welcoming to all, maybe that’s the click-bait business model which brings in a penny a comment or whatever, but man, some people take it really seriously, have intense conversations with each other, and treat it like the virtual neighborhood it is, a meeting place to share any thoughts, ideas, and links. When it gets too heated Kym has to enter the conversation and “rap some knuckles” when the “insult quotient” ramps up beyond her level of comfort. (She’s trying to run a clean show here people!)
These anonymous characters, after a few years developing their online personalities, “know” each other and their tendencies. Most are civil, good citizens, but the whiners are probably mostly angry men to whom things aren’t going that well, any fun has passed them by, but they can put their hands on their phones or laptops and feel the ersatz connection to this community Kym has somehow, someway, created for the huddled masses yearning to be heard.
Thanks for this piece on Kym whom I greatly respect.
Kym is entitled to edit her own website; that’s not censorship.
As I have posted on several occasions, the complainers should be grateful that I’m not editing the RHBB comments. My rule would be, Be civil or be gone. No appeals, no discussions, just deletion.
I love Kim Kemp’s , Reheaded Blackbelt!! she’s very very informative and I can see what’s going on right away from her site. She’s very very professional, and very informative while being non-judge mental keep up the great amazing work, Kym!!
Kym rocks! Love her comments & visit her Redheaded Blackbelt website daily!