Kim Mock, Journalist, Athens Banner-Herald: 16th July
Mock has enjoyed an unusual and interesting path into
the media business.
Man Australia recently read one of Kim's articles
on NWA Wildside, and was impressed by its upbeat feel,
wit and balance.
a feature writer at the Athens Banner-Herald, Kim
reflects on her career.
background, I suppose you mean where I'm from/how
I got to Athens, Georgia, why I'm a writer, et al.
a native of the great state of Florida and the oldest
of two kids. I came to Athens in the fall of 2002
to begin work on my Master's degree in writing. In
November, I applied for a news writing job at the
thinking I would at least be a less-poor grad student.
Alas, it was not to be the case. So here I am!
did you get your break in the media business?
- long story. I guess I got my first taste of professional
writing when I was in sophomore in high school in
1995. I've always been known among friends as a rather
witty person with a lot of opinions and a ridiculous
amount of senseless knowledge, which I get from my
father, who is a professor of history. Anyway, my
then-best friend was an editor at the school newspaper
and she needed someone to write a debate column on
the penalties of a then-new Florida law regarding
penalties for high school students found with tobacco
products on property surrounding a school. I agreed,
wrote the debate and went on to write a series of
debate-like columns, but never joined the staff. I
never imagined that I would write professionally,
so it seemed like a waste of time.
graduation, I went off to a private university to
study art. When I got bored with that and decided
I didn't want to be a professional artist, I transferred
to Florida State University,
where I changed my major to Creative Writing and had
the pleasure of learning from some great writers --
Mark Winegardner, Robert Olin Butler, Ed Flagg and
Ned Stuckey-French were some of my favourite professors
and writers who all worked at FSU when I was there.
weeks after starting at FSU, I started writing for
the Lifestyles section of the FSView
Florida Flambeau Independent
Student Newspaper for a measly $5 an article. I did
the best I could and within 6 months had changed sections
to become assistant Arts & Entertainment editor.
I had no clue what I was doing, but I guess I did
okay because I was named A&E section editor about
4 months later, which was a total shock. I was A&E
editor for more than a year until I graduated. Working
there was truly one of the greatest experiences of
my life. I was on-hand during the 2000 presidential
election debacle, I was able to go to numerous press
junkets across the U.S. and I learned a lot about
how the music and entertainment industries work, both
locally and on the national scene. I graduated from
FSU in 2001, and was intent on being a professional
A&E writer. That didn't happen -- A&E jobs
are hard to get, and September 11 all but squished
the American media market -- but I was fortunate enough
to get a gig as a politics and government reporter
at a daily newspaper in metro Atlanta.
quit after 8 months because I hated it and came to
Athens to attend the University of Georgia. After
a few months, I thought I could take on a job and
applied at the Athens Banner-Herald.
I supposedly beat out about 60 people for the job
and started writing news here in November of 2002.
March 2003, the Features editor asked me to apply
for a position as a full-time features writer at the
paper. I somehow tricked her into giving me the job
and have been writing features full time every since.
do you like to write about the most, and why?
years ago, I probably would have said music. But now
I think the quirkier things about American society
have a great appeal to me, because they allow you
to play with your writing. It's interesting, and often
shocking, to see what different people are passionate
old James Wolcott articles in Vanity
Fair. He's the master, as far as I'm concerned,
and I'd like to be one-fifth as good as he is someday.
do you get your ideas from?
just looking around. I think sometimes you have to
be protean to "get it" when it comes to
entertainment writing. If you aren't, you don't really
feel the emotion of the people you're talking to or
the place where you're doing the story.
do you describe your writing style?
depends what I'm writing about. If I think I can get
away with it, and it's appropriate, I can be borderline
sardonic. I don't try to be disrespectful of anyone,
but I think you have to have a sense of humor about
life, and I hope that sometimes comes through in my
writing. People need to embrace the fact that some
of the things they do are quirky. The weird and different
things about people make them interesting. I wish
people would better realize that, yes, you are strange
if you drive 5 1/2 hours to watch Elvis impersonators
sing on the front porch of a rural Georgia town and
eat $5 peanut butter and banana sandwiches in honor
of Elvis' birthday. Which is a festival I'm doing
a story on in coming weeks.
did you come to specialize in writing about the music
don't know if I'd consider myself a specialist. But
I think I do have a handle on how musicians are. I've
always been friends with a lot of people in bands
so I think I have a pretty good grasp as to how to
talk to those people. To me, I don't care if you're
Thom Yorke or your average weekend bluesman -- if
you're getting interviewed by me, you're going to
be treated the same as everybody else I talk to, which
is with respect, but sans pretense.
works of yours are your personal favorites?
definitely don't like everything I write, but there
are a few pieces that stand out to me. One of my favorites
is the first articles I wrote for the FSU student
newspaper, and the only reason I got away with writing
what I did is because we were a publication independent
of the university. It was in the fall of 1999, and
it was called "How to Date
a Virgin". My dad's a professor there,
so I'm sure he loved seeing his only daughter's byline
on those articles.
written several fun pieces about relationships - how
to get revenge on your ex was another goodie, although
all the exes I interviewed seemed to be rather disturbed
people, and that definitely came out in the article.
But in general, I love any story I can have fun with
and just go crazy on, which I definitely did on the
wrestling piece about the NWA performance here in
do you consider to be some of the highlights of your
career so far?
Definitely the opportunities I've had to interview
several of my favourite bands. And in the fall of
2001, I was able to attend a press conference with
the president in Atlanta. Although I'm not a Bush
supporter, it was an honor to hear him speak in person
and witness first-hand the pomp and circumstance associated
with high profile members of the national U.S. media.
are you most well known for?
depends on who you ask. I'm a different person to
different people, but these are the most common facts
about me: You don't want to play me in Jeopardy. You
definitely don't want to treat me like I'm stupid.
And yes, I've heard a million times or more that I'm
definitely Shannon Doherty's doppelganger.
did "The Mummy" and NWA assignments come
at FSU, I did a series of press junkets after making
one random phone call to a major movie studio. After
you do one press junket, the doors open up to you.
All you have to do is ask.
April 2001, I flew to LA to do a triple junket --
Shrek, The Mummy Returns
and another film that I can't remember right now -
something with Simon Rex
and vampires maybe? Anyway, as part of "The Mummy
Returns" junket, I was able to interview The
Rock, who was in the film. We talked mostly
football - he went to the University of Miami, and
I being a huge FSU football fan my whole life, had
to chide him about their loss to us that year.
NWA Wildside, I had seen a note about it somewhere
and I volunteered to write the article and somehow,
despite my ridiculousness, it made the cover of our
A&E section. I really hope Bill
Behrens doesn't hate me for it!
you have much say in what you write about?
do have a lot of say in what I write, although I often
am given assignments that I don't want to do. Last
week, I had to write a story on new trends in lawn/patio
furnishings for our Home &
Garden section, which was a chore. I'm 23.
I live in an apartment. I don't have a patio or a
lawn. I have no clue as to where to even buy lawn
furniture, much less what styles are "trendy".
But my boss wanted me to do it, so I did.
have you traveled?
been to Europe, the Bahamas/Caribbean. I've been to
California, all along the eastern seaboard - DC, New
York - all along the Gulf Coast. I don't think there's
anywhere in Florida I haven't been. Next month I'm
traveling to Boston, to which I've never been.
else should our readers know about you?
if they've read this much about me and have found
it at all interesting, I'm greatly impressed.
note: An inspiring interview with one of America's
young, talented, arts and entertainment writers.