JC/AOC staffer, Noelle Lagueux-Alvarez, recently spoke with Kathleen Joyner about her new role as the Public Information Officer for the Supreme Court of Georgia. Interview edited and condensed for clarity.
Noelle Lagueux-Alvarez: What is your professional background?
Kathleen Joyner: I graduated from the University of Georgia in 2002 with a double major in French and journalism. During college, I was intent on going into a very traditional newspaper career, and I did just that. I started my career in 2003 with the Chattanooga Times Free Press where I covered everything from education to county government. From there, I moved on to the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi. In 2011, I moved to Atlanta and started at the Daily Report where I covered a variety of beats including: the Georgia General Assembly, the Judicial Nominating Commission, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and the State Bar. I also filled in from time to time covering Georgia’s appellate courts. My time at the Daily Report introduced me to the legal world in Georgia. In 2015, I left journalism to work in public relations and communications. I worked for Georgia State University’s School of Public Health and its Honors College. When this role as the Public Information Officer (“PIO”) for the Supreme Court of Georgia opened, it really intrigued me.
NLA: Why did you seek the PIO position at the Supreme Court of Georgia?
Kathleen Joyner: It is the natural marriage between my passion for information and communications wedded to serving in government—a role that informs and educates the public about what their government is doing. The PIO position interested me because public knowledge and understanding of government is so critical and the work of our high court is so important. I want the people in Georgia to know what is happening and to be able to understand the Court’s decisions. As a communications professional, I can use my skills to clearly and accurately articulate the work of the court to the media and the public.
NLA: What do you hope to achieve in your new position?
Kathleen Joyner: My biggest goal is to make sure that the public has access to information about the Court. I want the public to know what the Supreme Court of Georgia is, what it does, and who is sitting on the bench. I want the public to have access to the Court’s opinions because those opinions may not affect just the parties involved. Often, decisions from the Supreme Court of Georgia have broader implications for the public generally and affect future cases. I see my role as translating some very complex issues into plain language to make them accessible to the public while also ensuring that I am respecting the precision and maintaining the accuracy of the Court’s opinions. That component of my job—balancing comprehensibility with accuracy—is an intriguing puzzle. It is of paramount importance that I am not just making the information accessible and understandable, but that it’s also conveying the correct details and the correct information.
NLA: Switching gears, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I wouldn’t call myself a gardener, but I like to grow vegetables. I’m only interested in plants that you can eat. My dad is a green thumb and that’s something he imparted to me. It’s a family tradition to have a garden. If I’m not at work, I’m usually in the backyard doing the usual—picking bugs off my tomato plants, harvesting my cucumbers, and the like. I also love to watch my kids at their activities. My son plays baseball, and he is such a diehard baseball fan. He is seven and it was amazing to watch his team play this year because it actually resembled baseball! My daughter is very much into performing arts and ballet. I love spending time supporting her love of dance. That sums up my three pastimes: my vegetable garden, my son’s baseball, and my daughter’s dancing. When I can squeeze it in, I also love to read. I usually have five books going at the same time. I have a terrible habit of starting one and picking up another, and another. But, eventually, I get through them all.
NLA: Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?
Kathleen Joyner: I really like science narratives. A few years back, I read a book called Spillover. It was all about viruses that pass from animals to humans. It now seems very prophetic. I also like some historical nonfiction. I love Erik Larson. He wrote The Devil in the White City. Right now, I’m reading The Splendid and the Vile, which he wrote as well. I also enjoy fiction. I just finished a book called Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I highly recommend it. It’s so vibrantly written.
NLA: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Kathleen Joyner: Yes, I do very much enjoy working with the media and reporters, but I want to make sure that the public knows that they have direct access to information about the Supreme Court of Georgia. I am a resource for everyone.