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

A mass transit project in Nashville could be stalled by the state legislature. This could be bad news for cities trying to get their own projects done.

In this week's Capitol Hill Conversation, WPLN's Bradley George talks with reporter Bobby Allyn about why mayors in Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville say it's a bad idea to let political parties in Nashville weigh in on how cities make decisions on their mass transit needs.

Tennessee lawmakers gear up for more battles over Common Core educational standards. Governor Bill Haslam may find himself in a tough spot.

In this Capitol Hill Conversation, WPLN's Bradley George talks about the most recent battles over Common Core with Tom Humphrey, the State Capitol reporter for the Knoxville News-Sentinel. 

Governor Bill Haslam wants low income students to have vouchers for private schools. But Tennessee Republicans don't think income should be the issue.

She was a powerful influence in the Memphis arts community for more than 50 years. 

Typing skills -- along with new educational benchmarks --  have some teachers worried about their students' ability on next year's Common Core assessment tests. 

GOP Lawmakers set their sights on Governor Bill Haslam's power to make appointments to various state boards and commissions. Should legislators have more influence?

Some of the boards are relatively obscure. Others are often in the headlines, such as the State Board of Education and the State Textbook Commission. In this week's Capitol Hill Conversation, WPLN's Bradley George talks with reporter Andrea Zelinski about why legislators want more sway in picking people to fill the 3,500 appointments currently handled by the Governor. 

Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN

Shelby County Schools will have ten fewer schools in its system by the fall. Closures affect about 2,700 students in low-income neighborhoods.

Christopher Blank

In a county with dozens of optional school programs, many parents still see few options. Why does Shelby County Schools struggle to retain the best and the brightest?

Every year, in the middle of January, hundreds of Memphis parents load up their mini-vans with tents, portable generators and a few days’ worth of provisions. Then, the stakeout begins. They drive past the Shelby County Schools administration building, waiting for somebody to start the line.

Five years ago, Tennessee lawmakers voted to allow guns in parks, but gave cities the right to opt out of the law. Now, they're shooting down the city veto.

Uncle Sam's money rep for Tennessee tells us how you can save money and find free tax assistance.