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

WKNO-TV

This week on WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines, host Eric Barnes talks with the new president and CEO of MLGW, J.T. Young. He's the 11th person to hold that title at Memphis' public utility, and has a wide-ranging background in customer service, marketing, sales, risk management, information technology, finance and supply chain management. In this interview, he answers questions on rates, storm recovery, and more. Bill Dries, senior reporter for the Memphis Daily News, joins the discussion. 

Fifty years ago, on March 28, 1968, a photo taken during the Memphis sanitation workers strike came to embody a more universal struggle.

Of all the pictures taken by civil rights photographer Ernest Withers over more than 50 years, the group of striking sanitation workers remains his ultimate image, saturated with hope and despair, a symbol of every struggle where the goal is basic human dignity. But the story behind the picture — later found to be one of deception and surveillance — has, for some, provided more sinister backdrop to the iconic image.

WKNO-TV

For years, Judge Larry Potter, recently retired, was the last word in code enforcement. As the man who started Shelby County's Environmental Court decades ago, his gavel ruled on all that is aesthetic -- from overgrown lawns to rat infestations. This week on WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines, Judge Potter discusses the court's role with host Eric Barnes and Memphis Daily News reporter Bill Dries. 

Timothy Huebner

On a downtown Memphis street corner, a historic marker placed in 1955 notes the former home of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. It also says that he engaged in certain "business enterprises" that made him wealthy. Timothy Huebner says a new marker nearby will add a much-needed clarification to that citation.

On this week's WKNO's Behind the Headlines, U.S. Attorney for Western Tennessee, Michael Dunavant, discusses his new role after being appointed by President Trump, including approaches to violent crime, gangs, the opioid epidemic and immigration. Host Eric Barnes is also joined by Bill Dries, senior reporter for the Memphis Daily News.

Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM

As the debate over immigration reform continues, foreign-born workers and the companies that employ them face increasing challenges. Of the 70,000 immigrants living in the Memphis metro area, many are here because of unique skills, ranging from specialized medical knowledge to hard-to-find athletic or artistic abilities.

Ballet Memphis is a rare arts nonprofit that has foreign workers regularly on staff – four of them currently. Bringing them here isn’t easy, and keeping them means expensive fees and reams of paperwork.


WKNO-TV

A new report, co-presented by the National Civil Rights Museum and the University of Memphis' Benjamin L.  Hooks Institute for Social Change, has ignited new conversations in Shelby County around race and poverty. Fifty years ago, just before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President Johnson's infamous commission to investigate the causes of race riots released the Kerner Report, which emphasized that racism was largely responsible for unrest in America's poorest neighborhoods.

This week on a special edition of WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines, our panelists take up a subject that is the focus of a PBS documentary, American Creed. What does it mean to be an American? Host Eric Barnes is joined by Madeline Faber, managing editor of High Ground News, Reverend Earle Fisher, pastor for Abyssinian Baptist Church and local artist Yancy Villa-Calvo. 

Stax Museum of American Soul Music

Before the 1960s, if musicians wanted to make a political statement, they might do it with a song. Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" or Frank Sinatra's "The House I Live In" could be issued as commentary, yet still fly under the radar of politics. Today, many artists are expected to take more public and nuanced stands on issues, sometimes to their detriment. Zandria Robinson, sociology professor at Rhodes College, says that today's outspokenness is part of a changing industry, but not unprecedented. 


WKNO-TV

This week on WKNO's Behind the Headlines, our journalists' roundtable discussion digs into some current issues, including the controversy with Paint Memphis murals and questions about charter schools. Host Eric Barnes talks with Ryan Poe of the Commercial Appeal, Laura Faith Kebede of Chalkbeat Tennessee, Toby Sells of the Memphis Flyer and Bill Dries of the Memphis Daily News

Pages