Christopher Blank

News Director

It started with ghost stories, of a sort. The wood floors creaking at night, dad assured me, confirmed the presence of spirits in our home. Years of night terrors followed. Then years of transference. Thank you for attending my slumber party. Let me tell you about the noises, friends... 

Eventually, the joy a child finds in manipulating other children's emotions matures into a high school theater career. In that regard, my teen years were of the traditional, unpopular variety.

One day, a few years after college, an editor at the St. Petersburg Times pulled me aside from my part-time job sorting mail and delivering faxes. "Why is your hair orange?" she asked. "And did I see you unicycling in front of that theater across the street?" Few things a person does in the services of "Art" translate into being taken seriously as a human being. To my surprise -- to my eternal, immeasurable surprise --  this was the start of a career as an arts reporter and critic, first at the Times, then at the Memphis Commercial Appeal and for many magazines, journals and newspapers in between. 

In some ways, radio journalism is a back-to-basics medium; people tell stories, share insights, opinions, beliefs and experiences of the verbal kind. And for all the Tweets and Facebook posts and clickbait headlines that parade so stridently upon our psyches day-to-day, the surest way to convince someone that their house is haunted is simply to turn off the lights and let their ears confirm it.

 

Ways to Connect

Marsha Blackburn on Twitter

Immediately after Congressman Marsha Blackburn won the primary for U.S. Senate, she and her Democratic opponent Phil Bredesen were invited to take part in four debates across the state. After a month of indecision, Blackburn announced that she would not face her opponent in Memphis at Rhodes College on Sept. 13. 

WKNO-TV

This week on WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines Eric Barnes hosts a roundtable discussion with reporters Bill Dries, Laura Faith Kebede, Karanja Ajanaku, and Toby Sells.

Kebede, with Chalkbeat Tennessee, first shares thoughts about recent TN Ready results. She says that while much has improved, performance is still low. Kebede says that one solution might be a renewed focus on higher grades.  

As former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn begin stumping for the open U.S. Senate seat, Bredesen appears to be moving to the center and focusing on statewide issues such as Asian Carp in rivers and broadband internet in rural areas. Meanwhile, Blackburn is focusing on hotbed national issues such as immigration, abortion and deregulation. 

WKNO-TV

This week on WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines, host Eric Barnes revisits the continued evolution of an old Memphis landmark. A year after its ressurection as a massive, mixed use community, Crosstown Concourse co-leaders Todd Richardson and McLean Wilson talk about its redevelopment, from an abandoned Sears distribution center to its current state. Richardson says that Crosstown Concourse was a learning curve, as they navigated the various stages of development.

WKNO-FM

More than 300 newspapers across the country this week took the unusual step of publishing coordinated edtorials, defending the values of a free press and pushing back against President Trump's assertion that the media is the "opposition party" and the "enemy of the people."

For journalists and media advocates such as political analyst Otis Sanford, the act of solidarity was a matter of standing up to Trump's Twitter pulpit. He also notes that with the intensification of certain hot-button issues such as white supremacy, the role of the journalist is under scrutiny.

This week on WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines, host Eric Barnes discusses the local justice system with soon-to-be-retired Shelby County Chief Public Defender Stephen Bush.

Bush believes that the juvenile justice system needs to be the last resort for youth. Adolescent brain development, he says, is a key focus in helping children avoid getting involved in the court system.

WKNO-FM

With the election just a week behind us, Tennessee's candidates for U.S. Senate have already launched new advertising strategies. Democrat Phil Bredesen's first web-only ad features Republicans vouching for his success as a former governor. Republican Marsha Blackburn doubles down on her endorsement of Trump and Trump's endorsement of her.

In his victory speech for the office of Shelby County Mayor Thursday night, Democrat Lee Harris praised his party for fielding strong candidates throughout countywide elections this year.

Shelby County Democrats' reboot paid off in the gain of several non-partisan offices, even if the Trump-charged election cycle only generated an average voter turnout. As political analyst Otis Sanford points out in this recap of election night, many of the 27.3 percent of registered voters who made it to the polls stuck to the party line.

WKNO-TV

This week on WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines, host Eric Barnes interviews guests about the Memphis real estate market, which is seeing record highs. Wendy Greenlaw with Chandler Reports calls the current market "unprecedented" in terms of demand and housing prices.  

"We are seeing figures that we have never seen in Shelby County," she says, citing increases in value across the board, from high-end homes to properties bought by investors for the rental market. 

"Consumer confidence is really high," says guest Steve Brown, president of residental sales with Crye-Leike. "Unemployment is low. There's a lot of pent up demand. A lot of people have put off buying and they feel better."

Home builder David Goodwin says that there is a "sense of urgency" to buy before interest rates increase.

Even before it was officially announced, The Daily Memphian had become an open secret within an increasingly small coterie of Memphis print journalists. 

For the first time in years, high profile reporters were leaving the Commercial Appeal, not because of layoffs, which had become semi-regular events at the Gannett-owned paper. 

They were just walking away: food writer Jennifer Biggs, sports columnist Geoff Calkins, popular blogger Chris Herrington. Others followed; the mystery of their departures a source of growing speculation. 

They left for a new web-based newsroom now being built from scratch by a nonprofit funded by philanthropists, many of them anonymous. The Daily Memphian was the result of wealthy citizens' frustration over the gutting of local news.

Eric Barnes, who hosts WKNO-TV's public interest show Behind the Headlines, runs this new nonprofit venture. In this interview, he talks about what the website could become. 

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