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


Three Memphis journalists join us this week for WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines with host Eric Barnes. Karanja Ajanaku of the New Tri-State Defender, Madeline Faber of High Ground News and Bill Dries of the Daily Memphian discuss upcoming elections, new park openings and more. 

In politics, Ajanaku says he attended the recent Trump rally in Southaven to talk with African American attendees. He says he genuinely wanted to know why they support the President's policies.

Last Tuesday, two very different political events took place in the Midsouth, both in style and substance. A Tennessee gubernatorial debate at the University of Memphis found Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean politely touting their policies on education, crime, healthcare and more. 

Later that evening, President Donald Trump appeared in Southaven, Miss., where he mocked an alleged victim of sexual assault. Political analyst Otis Sanford is among those who view Trump's performance and the continued polariation of the left and right as a nadir in American politics. 

This week, Tennessee's candidates for U.S. Senate took the stage at Cumberland University in Lebanon for an hour-long debate. The fast-moving format covered much ground: immigration, healthcare and infrastructure, among them. 


This week on WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines, host Eric Barnes continues his conversations with Shelby County's municipal school superintendents: Bo Griffin, Tammy Mason and Dr. Ted Horrell. 


Tammy Mason, superintendent for Arlington Community Schools, discusses where funding for Arlington’s Schools comes from, and the state of the school district's finances.  


When the Memphis Police Department made a sizable investment in body cameras, accountiblility and transparency were among the reasons cited for their implementation. Police encounters that are recorded are less likely to end up with complaints filed. Local governments can monitor the types of interactions being had between law enforcement and citizens. 


Just one week into his new job as Shelby County Mayor, Lee Harris tells WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines that his office is off to a great start.  Harris looks forward to streamlined communications between various government entities and closer relationships with municipal mayors. To ensure that, Harris says that he's meeting with city mayors individually and plans to host a roundtable conference to make sure the districts are communicating.  On education, Harris plans to create the position of education liaison to the Shelby County School Board.

Former Mayor Willie Herenton re-entered the 2019 Memphis mayoral race on Thursday with a Facebook post saying he had an "unfinished agenda."


This week, WKNO-TV’s Behind the Headlines looks at some of the issues facing Shelby County's municipal school districts, including school safety, bullying, state testing, and more. Host Eric Barnes talks to superintendents John Aitken, Jason Manuel and Dr. David Stephens about some of their challenges and success stories. 

Aitken, superintendent in Collierville, says that student safety is an ongoing discussion. In order to get grants certain measures must be taken, including a safety audit done by Homeland Security. 

Christopher Blank / WKNO-FM

As the media digs deeper into the finances of U.S. Senate candidates Phil Bredesen and Marsha Blackburn, political advertising is starting to highlight the the monied aspects of these candidates. Political analyst Otis Sanford tells us that Tennessee voters are fairly comfortable with wealthy people representing them in office, whether its as a governor or as a senator.

This week on WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson discusses a variety of educational topics with host Eric Barnes and Bill Dries, senior reporter for the Memphis Daily News. Up first: After being placed on a priority list a couple of years ago, East High School has seen double-digit gains with academic performance. Hopson attributes those gains to newly implemented vocational programs, such as biodiesel training. Vocational programs, he says, offer students who are not necessarily going to college a chance to train for