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?

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OBITUARY
6:00 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Memphis Arts Leader Martha Ellen Maxwell Dies

Martha Ellen Maxwell

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


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EDUCATION
7:30 am
Fri March 7, 2014

New Tests Could Pose Problems for Shelby County Schools

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


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CAPITOL HILL CONVERSATION
7:30 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Governor Fights GOP in the "Battle Over the Boards"

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. 

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EDUCATION
8:00 am
Fri February 28, 2014

School Closings to Affect Neighborhoods and Options

Credit 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.


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EDUCATION
7:30 am
Tue February 18, 2014

A Line of the Times: School Choice in Tennessee's Worst School District

Memphis, Jan. 22, 2014 -- Within 12 hours of one person starting a line outside Shelby County Schools, parents began pitching tents to get students into optional programs, expecting a five-day wait. Due to cold temperatures, school officials honored a sign-up sheet and that allowed campers to go home.
Credit 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.

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