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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FOOD
7:30 am
Thu April 23, 2015

Chicken Wings in a Pulled Pork Town? Jennifer Biggs Says Wings are Taking Flight

Once considered a humble -- if messy -- finger food, chicken wings and drummies are on the rise even in Memphis' best barbecue joints.

Commercial Appeal food critic Jennifer Biggs says that wings have come along way from the spicy, fried and sauced appetizer that originated in Buffalo in the 1960s. Memphis restaurants now serve them in a variety of styles, though it's not uncommon to smoke them. After all, Memphis is where smoked meat is king.

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CITY FINANCES
7:30 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Casting a Wider Net: The High Cost of Policing

Commercial Appeal investigative reporter Beth Warren.

The Memphis Police Department accounts for 40 percent of the city's budget. Reporter Beth Warren explains the price tag and the product.

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CITY FINANCES
11:27 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Memphis' Financial Blues -- A History of Chasing Money

The financial security of Memphis is at stake as the city plans for future growth amidst decades of economic stagnancy. Marc Perrusquia explains.

In a new six-part series, Commercial Appeal investigative reporter Marc Perrusquia explores the challenges facing the city's finances in the coming decades. The biggest problem, he says, is a stagnant tax base trying to prop up a sprawling infrastructure.

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CIVIL WAR
7:30 am
Wed April 8, 2015

Collierville Man to Portray Gen. U.S. Grant at 150th Anniversary of Lee's Surrender

Dr. Curt Fields as Union General Ulysses S. Grant.

Dr. Curt Fields will portray Gen. Grant on April 9, when the National Park Service commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War.

Five years ago, Dr. Fields noticed that he had the same stature and general appearance as Union general Ulysses S. Grant. The adjunct sociology professor at the University of Memphis grew a beard, bought a uniform and embarked on an epic journey of living history reenactments. 

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News and Features
7:30 am
Thu April 2, 2015

Modern Day Memphis -- A Product of the Civil War

Memphis was delivered to the Union army after a brief naval battle in the Mississippi River in 1862. The city remained a haven for African-Americans who escaped slavery and fled to the North.

Next week, on April 9, thousands will gather in Appomattox, Virginia to mark the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War. While the city of Memphis spent most of the war years under Union control, the city would play a major role as a beacon of freedom for many enslaved people, says Rhodes College history professor Timothy S. Huebner.

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