Christopher Blank

News Director

It all started with ghost stories. Dad convinced me that spirits lurked just outside my bedroom door at night. After years of night terrors, I began listening to LPs of spooky tales, memorizing them and acting them out around campfires on those balmy winter nights in South Florida. In this way, other children would suffer as I had.
 
Naturally, this dramatic flair evolved into a prestigious four-year engagement on the high school drama circuit where my mother’s rapturous reviews provoked standing ovations also from my mother.
 
One day, while working part time as a copy clerk at the St. Petersburg Times, an editor asked me why my hair was dyed bright orange. I explained that it was because I was “an actor.” Was my future decided out of pity? Out of concern for my mental health? I cannot read minds. However, the next thing that happened is that I was made a theater critic.
 
For more than a decade, The Commercial Appeal’s readers tolerated my opinions on everything from classical music to ballet. Even WKNO-FM let me create a little club for theatergoers.
 
When this fine radio station went looking for someone to tell stories of the “news” variety, I made the argument that Memphis is a city full of great stories; no other has a richer cultural narrative. The crossroads of America is a crucible of stories from all walks of life. Also, crossroads are known for ghosts and devils, and who doesn’t love those?
 
They totally bought the argument. So now, I’m looking for great stories. What’s yours?

Ways to Connect

A somber procession began on Sunday in the courtyard of the former Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968. Everyone in Memphis knows about that piece of history, but until recently, folks were unaware of a massacre that happened in the same part of town 100 years earlier.

In what is now the South Main Arts District of Memphis, civil rights' history has been written in blood on more than one occasion. The balcony of the Lorraine Motel (now the National Civil Rights Museum) commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King’s death. But no memorials existed for another horrific act of racial violence that erupted here in 1866 – until now.


Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM

Ruma Kumar spent six months researching how Shelby County Schools used $90 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Mostly, it paid for teacher training, evaluations, a streamlined hiring process and crucial data. Results have been varied, but overall promising. A 1-year extension on the grant will preserve this expensive training model for now. But with Shelby County Schools facing a major deficit, the district may have to reconsider the costs of training a better teaching staff.

Thanks to computers and synthesizers, today’s musicians have countless ways to create instrumental sounds. Two Memphis musicians are now planning a concert using one of the first electronic keyboards to replicate real instruments – the Mellotron. Take a listen to this technological marvel of early modern music.


It might be hard to imagine a time when ice was a luxury item. But for such times were made silver bowls like this one, found in the permanent collection of the Brooks Museum of Art. On this week's Culture Desk, curator Stanton Thomas describes this serving dish's unique significance in a Southern home. 


Christopher Blank

Will the General Assembly fund a $90 million new home for more than 200 years of state records? Or will librarians and archivists have to find another way to manage an impending overflow?


Christopher Blank

Leaders of Tennessee’s Freemasons voted Thursday to uphold a ban on gay men. Meeting in Nashville, the Grand Lodge of Tennessee held firm in the belief that homosexuality is un-Masonic, a view also shared by the Grand Lodge of Georgia.


When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide last June, a couple of farmers in rural Somerville, Tenn., tied the knot.

The couple — Mark Henderson and Dennis Clark — say their neighbors responded within hours.

"We came home and there was a bottle of champagne in a potato salad bucket on the front porch," Henderson says.

But the response from another community, one that they've been actively involved in for years, wasn't as welcoming.

Simon Mott

One of Memphis' great producers and engineers is back in Memphis this week, revisiting old haunts, showcasing his photography and even performing at the Hard Rock Cafe. Terry Manning talks to WKNO about sound, imagery and his latest instrumental album.


Jim Eikner, whose courtly charm and debonair zest for life loomed large in Memphis' media sphere, died Wednesday at age 82. He had been the voice and face of WKNO-TV for nearly three decades.


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