Grant Blankenship

Reporter

Grant came to public media after a career spent in newspaper photojournalism. As an all platform journalist he seeks to wed the values of public radio storytelling and the best of photojournalism online.

Ways to Connect

Evan Vucci / AP Photo

The Trump administration unveiled its proposed 2018 budget Thursday morning. Unsurprisingly, the budget calls for significant increases in military and border security spending while dramatically reducing the funding for a number of other government agencies.

Several of those cuts, including reductions at the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will affect a variety of Georgia-based programs that receive federal funding.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Learning English is not easy.

That can be true even for immigrants to the United States who have had the benefit of the best education available in the countries where they grew up.

Now imagine you're a kid from a country torn apart by war or political unrest. You may be lucky to be literate in your first language. Taking a child like that from speaking no English to speaking the language well enough to go to high school is no mean feat. 

On Second Thought is broadcasting from Savannah for the Savannah Stopover Music Festival. As the first of two house bands for the trip, listeners got to hear Savannah's own Lulu the Giant, fronted by bassist Rachael Shaner. As much jazz combo as rock band, Lulu the Giant's sound is built around Shaner's stand up bass and love of the blues. Enjoy this live session with the band, recorded at The Grey Restaurant. 

WIKIPEDIA COMMONS / Creative Commons

Attorneys on both sides of a high-profile case of what was alleged to be voter fraud in Georgia say they have agreed those charges were unfounded.

In the lead up to a contentious local election in 2015, sheriff’s deputies in Hancock County ­– 100 miles east of Atlanta – knocked on doors checking to see if voters were living where their drivers’ licenses said they did. The board of elections identified 180 voters, mostly African-American, who were mismatched and accused them of voter fraud.

After out-of-court mediation, an agreement issued this week refutes that. 

Grant Blankenship

Do you remember the last time you worked really hard on something? If someone was working on the same thing and got ahead before you, you would want to know why that happened, right?

That’s where the leaders of many Georgia schools find themselves. Last year schools on Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s Priority Schools List thought they had dodged a bullet when the Priority School District proposal died at the polls. That would have allowed state takeover of what the state calls failing schools. Now a bill in the Georgia House has raised that idea again.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

How will you celebrate when you pay off your house? After 20 years in her home purchased with the help of Macon Area Habitat for Humanity, Lillie Ward burned her mortgage.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

This was going to be a town hall whether anyone planned it that way or not.

Hundreds of people piled into the boardroom of the Green County Board of Commissioners to speak with workers from the offices of Senator David Perdue, Senator Johnny Isakson and 10th Congressional District Representative Jody Hice. Things started well when Jessica Hayes from Hice’s office shared some news.

“This is the largest crowd we’ve ever had for mobile office hours,” she said.

Jason Vorhees / The Macon Telegraph

Jordan Harrell is a great speller. But there was a time when this year's Bibb County School District spelling champ was never guaranteed to ever spell. Or even speak.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Federal assistance is on the way for people affected by the storms that hit south Georgia on the weekend of January 21.

Governor Nathan Deal’s office says the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help residents of an 11 county area that includes the town of Adel, where a tornado killed seven, and Albany where the second tornado in a month’s time wrecked a large section of the city. This is the second federal disaster designation for Albany this year.

The total list of counties is Baker, Brooks, Calhoun, Clay, Cook, Crisp, Dougherty, Thomas, Turner, Wilcox and Worth. 

Shayna Waltower / Center for Collaborative Journalism

Schools in Macon-Bibb have largely re-segregated along racial lines. One quarter of all white students in the county go to a single charter school. These facts and others are what we are asking you to talk to us about in a project with our partners at the The Macon Telegraph and the Center for Collaborative Journalism. Hear what a few people had to say in this video from our first conversation and then come join us Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Museum of Arts and Sciences for the second discussion.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Storms in South Georgia have devastated the communities there in the last few days. Since the storms began this past weekend, at least 15 people have been killed and dozens more injured.

 

 

GPB’s Grant Blankenship was in Albany earlier this week, covering the scene there. He joins us to provide an update on the damage.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

The storms that ripped through South Georgia and killed 15 people and injured dozens were only the most recent weather tragedy to hit the state. In fact, it was less than a month ago that a tornado ripped through the city of Albany. Now storm recovery in the South Georgia town is starting all over again.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Across the Deep South, people are picking up the pieces after a weekend of violent storms and tornadoes. Twenty people were killed this weekend, seven of them near the South Georgia town of Adel, where recovery began before the danger was even over.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

There is a mountain of shredded trees next to a church on Gillionville Road in Albany.

On a recent morning with the morning fog yet to lift, Brian Jefferson hauled in the day’s first load. About 20 cubic yards of limbs and tree trunks dumped at the bottom of a pile 30 feet tall and with a footprint of a ball field. Jefferson has made a lot of these trips since storms and tornados hit an eight county swath of South Georgia on January 2.

“I was working 11 hours, seven days a week. It’s just long,” he said.

This weekend, shows from folk duo Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards, Austin's Greyhounds opening for Drivin' and Cryin', Decatur band Biteroots and a math rock extravaganza at the Fresh Produce Music Hall. 

Aaron Lee Tasjan is a songwriter.

That's worth saying because once upon a time he probably would have answered to guitar player. He is that, to be sure, but on his second album "Silver Tears," Tasjan gives the listener a collection of funny, sweet, well crafted and just a little melancholy songs. They are exercises in self examination and self reproachment delivered with a trickster's grin.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

It's a landmark that will soon be moved to a new patch of land. 

The home Little Richard called home as a kid in Macon's Pleasant Hill neighborhood is one of eight slated to be moved out of the way of a massive Georgia Department of Transportation expansion of the Interstate 75/Interstate 16 interchange. About 40 other homes will be demolished. 

You could call Adia Victoria's relationship with the South a love/hate kind of thing, but that's not quite it. Her music grapples with the history and the promise of the region (and the failure to deliver on the same) without the stereotypical sentiment of a lot of Americana music. When she sings she's stuck in the South, you get the feeling she'd like to burn it down and build it anew rather than merely escape.

Hear three songs from Adia Victoria's debut record from the GPB Performance Studio. 

Grant Blankenship / Telegraph of Macon

There are probably twice as many bears in the center of Georgia as researchers previously thought.

The new number, somewhere between 412 and 458, is based on a new analysis of data collected in a University of Georgia study between 2012 and 2015. That means the ten bears killed in the annual one day Middle Georgia bear season, five females and five males, were more like two percent of the overall population rather than the five percent a similar kill total suggested in 2015. 

Grant Blankenship / GPB

How ready are Georgia's kids for college and work? According to numbers released by the Georgia Department of Education, they are not quite as ready as they were last year.

The Department of Education looks at a number of measurements, everything from standardized test scores, how well kids perform in advanced academic tracks as well as in vocational programs, even school attendance to put together their College and Career Ready Performance Index.

When Jake Fussell was growing up in Columbus, Georgia, he spent a lot of time on the road with his dad, Fred Fussell. Fred is a documentarian and museum coordinator who would travel around Georgia and the South examining how people lived, the things they made and the music they played. What stuck with Jake was the music. Eventually he picked up the guitar and took as his mentor the legendary Georgia fingerstyle guitar player Precious Bryant.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Wildfires continue to burn all across the hills of north Georgia. 

 

The U.S. Forest Service is fighting the state’s largest fires: they’re burning tens of thousands of acres in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

 

Georgia has to fight the fires on state and private land, and hundreds of personnel from multiple agencies are working around-the-clock to contain them.

 

Some of the larger fires have burned for weeks, but smaller fires pop up every day, seemingly out of nowhere. That’s what happened recently on Ryo Mountain just outside of Fairmount in Gordon County.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

When they were both kids growing up in Macon, R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills and classical violinist Robert McDuffie bonded over Hardy Boys books and shared records.  When they weren't making music together at church, anyway. 

"When my family moved here from Atlanta in 1971 my parents were looking for the best musical program in any church here," Mills said. "And the church that they found that had the best musical program was run by Bobby's mother."

The friends listened to records or watched TV together Sunday nights after church. That changed in their teen years. 

Grant Blankenship / Telegraph of Macon

 

Georgia continues to improve its graduation rate, but the state's high school experiments, its charter schools, are lagging behind.

Georgia’s high school graduation rate improved for a fifth straight year, according to data released Tuesday by the State Department of Education, to 79.2 percent. That’s about 3 points off the national rate.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Barbeque smoke was in the air and a country band was belting out “Wagon Wheel” when Margreta and Bill Smith set foot in the pecan orchard at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville for the first time in over 20 years.

The Smiths met and married in the 1950s when both of them were among the thousands of people employed at this legendary psychiatric hospital. Margreta was a nurse and Bill was an attendant. An employee reunion picnic within sight of the iconic, white domed Powell Building is what brought them back.

GPB

A few years ago, St. Paul and the Broken Bones stormed onto the Soul Revival scene from their home in Alabama. 

The sound grabbed you clearly, but the thing that held it all together was the energy and showmanship of lead singer Paul Janeway.

In this short video, hear Janeway talk about how this started for him, with his love of Georgia's own Otis Redding.

Georgians Flock To Early Voting Sites

Oct 18, 2016
Grant Blankenship / GPB

Early voting kicked off Monday in Georgia and long lines at some of the polls have done nothing to deter early voters.

Gwinnett County’s only polling station is no exception with hundreds of residents lining up to vote. Paquita Wright, a local business owner, stood in line for nearly three hours this morning. She had hoped to beat the rush she expects to see closer to Nov. 8.

Grant Blankenship / Georgia Public Broadcasting

Should the State of Georgia execute Gregory Paul Lawler as planned on Wednesday, it will mark a milestone in at least two different ways.

 

Lawler was sentenced to death for the 1997 killing of Atlanta police officer John Sowa. His execution will be the seventh in Georgia in 2016. That makes two more than in 2015 and makes Georgia the only state in the nation accelerating the rate of execution year over year. That’s the first milestone.

 

  

Susto is a disease of the soul that has its origin in Mexico. Think of it as a kind of soul death. Sufferers are said to be walking shells of their former selves. But the good news is it can be cured.

Southern music is hot right now. From Americana to hip hop, there are plenty of artists seeking to hang their sound on the hook of some piece of the Southern musical tradition. Meanwhile, there are other artists who have unmistakably carved out a piece of Southern sonic soil for themselves, even if unintentionally. Athens band New Madrid could fall into this second category.

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