Alumni Profile: Fred Blankenship ’92

The first thing you notice when talking to Fred Blankenship ‘92 on the phone is the positive attitude that radiates from his voice. It is genuine. It is uplifting. And it is welcoming. In every conversation, he pulls you in with a tone of voice that can best be described as engaging. It is no wonder, then, that this Bishop Montgomery graduate has spent his professional career using his voice. He uses his voice not only to deliver the news, but to tell powerful stories that inform, educate, and inspire. It is his own story, however, that is also an important one to tell.

During his time at Bishop Montgomery, Blankenship made friends, got involved in activities and athletics, and generally had a great experience. He was also unsure of himself, perhaps in part because he would sometimes stutter when speaking. It is during these high school years when most kids are getting comfortable in their own skin, discovering who they are, and figuring out what they might want to do in their lives. Blankenship was working on the first two things. The last part he knew.

From the time he was 12, Blankenship knew he wanted to be on television as a news reporter. One night while watching the news, he became enthralled with a story and wondered how many other people watching might be feeling similar emotions. “I said to myself, ‘if this reporter is telling this story, maybe I can tell stories like that someday, too’,” says Blankenship. He knew his calling; he just did not know how to get where he wanted to go.

After high school, Blankenship attended Los Angeles Harbor College because he was not quite prepared to leave home just yet. While taking classes at Harbor, which he paid for himself, he also worked in a day care at a local YMCA and helped with the afterschool program at St. Margaret Mary School in Lomita. He spent the rest of his time working to reach his goal of getting on television. “I knew what I wanted to do,” he says. “I just had no idea how to get myself inside the [television] box.”

Blankenship moved on to the University of San Francisco and began a string of internships in radio and television. “I thought I was going to be a career intern,” he jokes. He worked at USF’s radio station, spent time as a public affairs intern at K-EARTH 101, and interned at the now-defunct KFOL. It was all great experience, but Blankenship was not yet at his goal of telling stories on television. So, he found an internship at San Francisco’s NBC affiliate, KRON, in the sports department. “I did sports for about eight months and I realized that I did not want to stay in sports,” he says. “I wanted to do news.” When the internship ended, Blankenship’s career was about to take off. He just did not know it yet.

The day his internship at KRON ended, Blankenship went to the news desk to inquire about opportunities to stay on in that department. “The woman at the news desk told me ‘you probably don’t want to do this, but you can come in at 3:00am with the morning crew’,” he recalls. For Blankenship, this was all he needed to hear. “She had no idea that this was my dream,” he says. “You never know where life is going to take you. All you really need is an opportunity.”

That opportunity for Blankenship began a career arc that has taken him all over the country and served as a launching pad for where he is today. While working with the morning crew at KRON, Blankenship applied for a minority training employee internship. Out of the 400 candidates who applied, Blankenship got the job, which entailed working for four months each in San Francisco, Wichita, Kansas, and Omaha, Nebraska. “I was in the door and I was in the game,” he says. “I was willing to work and I was willing to learn.” It was, for Blankenship, another opportunity. And they didn’t stop coming.

After his stint in San Francisco, he headed to Wichita, where after two months, a reporter left. At 23, Blankenship applied for the vacant job and was rewarded for his tenacity. After a few years, he moved to San Diego and KGTV; another opportunity was about to present itself. He was asked to fill in as an anchor one day and soon after saying yes, realized he had no idea what he was doing. He impressed his colleagues and bosses in San Diego, however, and soon became a full-time anchor. “I kept getting better,” he says. “I dedicated myself to my craft.”

After seven years in San Diego, an opportunity to go to the ABC affiliate in Atlanta presented itself and Blankenship took the job when the station, WSB, offered him the coveted morning show. While at WSB, Blankenship received an offer to work at a station in New York City, widely considered the number one market and a dream destination for anyone working in the news. Blankenship turned the New York job down for several reasons, one of which was the fact that the station wanted him to change his name. “I knew I did not need to do that,” he says. Staying in Atlanta has been one of the best decisions of his life and his professional career.

His work at WSB has become his dream job and Atlanta has become home. Since 2007, Blankenship, who has three kids with his wife, Paige, has been a pillar in the Atlanta community. He anchors the morning and noon news and he hosts local leadership and community events and celebrations. One of his true passions is working with kids and young adults to provide them the encouragement and support they need to be successful. And it is no surprise that giving back in this way is something Blankenship feels strongly about. While at Bishop Montgomery, Blankenship received opportunities that had a profound impact on his life.

At the start of his sophomore year, Blankenship admits that he was misplaced into Honors English II. He had not tested into the class, but when he arrived, his teacher, Mrs. Patricia Lynch, gave him a chance to stay. It was an opportunity that he has not forgotten in almost 30 years. “Mrs. Lynch saw potential in me, I guess,” he says. “She also saw someone who needed guidance. I was a kid who needed that at the time. You do not forget something like what she did for me. The influence was real.”

In addition to the faith Lynch had in him, Blankenship credits Bishop Montgomery with providing him with the formation and care that he needed at the time. “Bishop has always had a great support staff,” he says. “The structure and love that I received allowed me to go on and do the things I always dreamed of doing. I am thankful for teachers like Mrs. Lynch. No one does this stuff alone.”

Throughout his life, Blankenship has taken advantage of all the opportunities that have come his way. He is proof that having a dream is important, and that overcoming obstacles and working toward achieving your goals is what will get you to where you want to be. “I used to stutter at times when I spoke,” he says, “and to have that as part of your life and now speaking on television for a living is proof that there is absolutely nothing you cannot do in life.” It is a message that we can all take to heart.

Follow Fred on Instagram @fredblankenship or on his public Facebook page by searching ‘Fred Blankenship’.