Christopher Blank

News Director

A native "Florida Man," Christopher started in this business as a copy clerk at the renowned St. Petersburg Times before persuading editors to let him write. He moved to Memphis in 2001 to cover arts and entertainment at the Commercial Appeal. Since then, he has contributed to nearly every publication in Shelby County, writing features on everything from the Civil War to Civil Rights. Also, Elvis... a lot of Elvis.   

He has won numerous awards for both print and radio reporting, including a 2017 Green Eyeshade Award for Public Service Journalism. 

In 2020, he was named Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. 


 

Ways to Connect

With a goal of vaccinating up to 34,000 people per week for at least the next four weeks, the City of Memphis is working on a closer-to-home vaccine delivery strategy.

Thrice-weekly Pop-Up Pods, or temporary vaccination sites, will come to areas where demographic and zip code data show a need for more doses.

“We will work with partners who have come forward saying they will host a pod,” said City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen, adding that it’s one of several ways to speed up “normalization” of the distribution process.

Each year, the Republican-supermajority Tennessee General Assembly proposes a number of laws guaranteed to infuriate people who live in urban areas, minorities, scientists, and those who believe government should not favor one religion over another. 

As Memphians bundled up and stayed indoors last week during the winter storms, two other storms were a-brewing, as they say, in the public sphere. More than 2,000 unused COVID vaccine doses went into the garbage -- a major waste blamed on weather and miscommunication. In addition, the Shelby County Health Department ended up with a massive stockpile of more than 30,000 doses, that ran afoul of state policy.

UPDATE: The boil water advisory was lifted Thursday afternoon as a safe level of water pressure has been restored citywide. Residents are advised to flush out their home water systems, including cycling through water and ice from refrigerators and freezers.  

Memphis Police Department files

Marc Perrusquia is no stranger to lawsuits over access to public records. Back when he was an investigative reporter for the Commercial Appeal, the paper’s lawyers filed a number of suits on his behalf to acquire government documents.

But the University of Memphis’ Institute for Public Service Reporting, where Perrusquia is director, is not a big-budget news organization. 

Across Shelby County, eight primary pumping stations send water flowing into the sprawling network of water mains beneath our streets, which adds up to about 3,700 miles worth of civic plumbing. And that massive aquatic infrastructure was hit with a one-two punch this week, according to Memphis Light Gas & Water officials. 

First, pumping station wells (there are 140 of them) began freezing up, their machinery and electronics burning out due to the strain. They’re still being fixed, but it means reservoirs are low and less water is entering the system.

A proposed pipeline designed to pump crude oil from the Valero refinery in Southwest Memphis to a second Valero facility south of Collierville would run nearly 50 miles across North Mississippi. But the first few miles, at least, would pass through some predominately African American neighborhoods where activists have been fighting the project for at least a year. 

Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM

In Texas and Arkansas, regional power suppliers have struggled to keep up with the demand as the week-long winter storm keeps people at home with the heat cranked up. Millions are without power for a third consecutive day, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott faces a backlash for placing the blame on frozen windmills and green energy. 

Caleb Suggs/WKNO

Pothole Report

City of Memphis crews are now shifting focus to filling potholes that were left in the wake of last week's winter storms. They're asking residents to call 311 to report any. The head of public works for the city, Robert Knecht, says 16 crews will be tackling the broken road infrastructure, double the number that work on the issue during some seasons.  Typically, crews can respond to a notice within 3-5 days , but Knecht says that may be extended to 5-10 days because of the high volume anticipated.  

MLGW Update

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee delivered his third annual State of the State address this week, promising massive funding so rural areas can get broadband Internet and new mothers on TennCare might receive more postpartum care. 

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