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.

 

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Stax Museum of American Soul Music

Before the 1960s, if musicians wanted to make a political statement, they might do it with a song. Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" or Frank Sinatra's "The House I Live In" could be issued as commentary, yet still fly under the radar of politics. Today, many artists are expected to take more public and nuanced stands on issues, sometimes to their detriment. Zandria Robinson, sociology professor at Rhodes College, says that today's outspokenness is part of a changing industry, but not unprecedented. 


WKNO-TV

This week on WKNO's Behind the Headlines, our journalists' roundtable discussion digs into some current issues, including the controversy with Paint Memphis murals and questions about charter schools. Host Eric Barnes talks with Ryan Poe of the Commercial Appeal, Laura Faith Kebede of Chalkbeat Tennessee, Toby Sells of the Memphis Flyer and Bill Dries of the Memphis Daily News

This week on WKNO-TV's Behind the Headlines, Dr. Marjorie Hass, President of Rhodes College, discusses the impact of Rhodes on the city of Memphis and more. She is joined by host Eric Barnes and Bill Dries, senior reporter for the Memphis Daily News. 

WKNO-TV

This week on WKNO's Behind the Headlines, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter discuss the county's efforts to deal with the opioid crisis.

WKNO-TV

It's budget season and officials are discussing how the money will be spent. On WKNO's Behind the Headlines, Shelby County Commission Chair Heidi Shafer and Memphis City Council Chair Berlin Boyd talk about the budget and more this week. 

Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM

A massive display of law enforcement from multiple Tennessee agencies, including additional assistance from Mississippi and Arkansas, greeted protesters concerned about the recent removal of Confederate statues from two Memphis parks. 

The rally organizers, through a Facebook page called Confederate 901, originally planned to meet at the Memphis welcome center Downtown and form a motorcade past the parks where statues of Jefferson Davis and General Nathan Bedford Forrest were removed in December. 

WKNO-TV

Perhaps the biggest Memphis headline of 2017 happened just a few days before Christmas. The City of Memphis sold two of its iconic parks to a newly minted nonprofit to expedite the removal of two Confederate monuments. This week on WKNO's Behind the Headines, the city's chief legal officer, Bruce McMullen, talks about the unseating of Civil War icons Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis with host Eric Barnes and Bill Dries of the Memphis Daily News

WKNO-TV

As 2017 comes to an end, journalists look back on the year-that-was in Memphis and the Mid-South. This week's Behind the Headlines offers a roundtable discussion of the big stories that affected our community, from all the things that were built, to the few that were taken down. Karanja A. Ajanaku with the New Tri-State Defender, Toby Sells of the Memphis Flyer and Bill Dries of the Memphis Daily News joins host Eric Barnes.  

Houston Cofield for the Memphis Daily News

The bronze statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis' Health Sciences Park was removed Wednesday at a symbolic 9:01 p.m., after a city council vote handed the park to a nonprofit organization, thus circumventing a state law forbidding Tennessee cities from removing "war memorials" on public land. 

WKNO-TV

This week on WKNO's Behind the Headlines, host Eric Barnes digs into next year's local and state elections with Lee Mills, chairman for the Republican Party of Shelby County and Corey Strong, Chairman for the Shelby County Democratic Party. Bill Dries, senior reporter for the Memphis Daily News, joins the discussion.

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