Matt Shafer Powell

Director of News Content/Executive Producer

Matt was born and raised in Western Michigan, near Grand Rapids. Like many of his generation who eventually worked in radio, Matt spent an inordinate amount of time as a boy with a tape recorder, a microphone and 45s stacked an inch high on the record player. His dreams of being on the radio became reality at the age of 17, when he convinced the news director at a Grand Rapids radio station to let him work for free. Later, while working toward a broadcasting degree at Central Michigan University, he discovered the thrill of the audio production process; in the years since, he's worked as a producer of radio commercials and as an audio engineer, creating soundtracks for videos and films.

In public radio, he's found the perfect confluence of his interests in storytelling, news, writing and audio production. He joined WUOT in November 2002 after heading up Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Bureau. A self-described "sports geek," he also enjoys writing fiction, playing guitar and laughing ‘til it hurts with his wife and three children. Among his guilty pleasures, he lists hockey fights, socks with sandals and the BeeGees' disco-era stuff.

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(7:34 p.m. ET, Friday, July 3, 2015)

Authorities say it is now safe for thousands of Blount County residents to return to their homes and businesses following their evacuation from an area west of downtown Maryville.  Between 5000-6000 residents were evacuated after a CSX tanker car carrying acrylonitrile burst into flames just before midnight Wednesday. 

  In the month since we launched WUOT's Tenn Words project, we've received more than 400 responses to the question "What keeps you up at night?".

WUOT's Brittany Crocker has spent a great deal of time loading those responses into a spreadsheet, assigning various "topic" tags to each response and combing through the results so that we can identify any trends that might arise. 

forbes.com

Music lovers from around the world are making the annual pilgrimage to the tiny town of Manchester, Tenn. for the four-day Bonnaroo Festival, which starts Thursday.  This year's lineup of musical acts includes Billy Joel, Mumford & Sons, DeadMau5, Florence and the Machine and dozens more.  

University of Tennessee School of Music instructor Dr. Kelly Thomas died Sunday night after suffering an allergic reaction to a wasp sting.   Thomas was 40 years old.

In a message sent out to School of Music faculty, students, staff and alumni, Director Jeff Pappas referred to Thomas as "our beloved tuba professor".

  As a journalist, one of my favorite questions has always been "What keeps you up at night?"  When posed to someone in a position of power, the answer can humanize the experience of governing, while exposing specific concerns that may still need our attention.

Beyond that, someone's honest answer to that question can open a discussion about either our shared concerns as a society or those issues and fears that make each of us unique.

But what, exactly, does the question mean?

Last month, folk music legend and political activist Guy Carawan died at the age of 87.  Guy and his wife Candie were stalwart forces in both the national Civil Rights movement and East Tennessee's folk music scene. 

WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

Our Tenn Words display made its debut at the International Biscuit Festival in downtown Knoxville on May 16 and we were thrilled with the response.  Throughout the day, visitors to the festival had the opportunity to read the wall, discuss the responses that were pinned to it and post their own ten-words-or-less answers to the question "What Keeps You Up At Night?".  Some of the answers were whimsical and fun; others were quite poignant and provocative:

WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

If asked to answer that question in ten words or less, how would you respond?

"My cancer coming back"

"Losing my job"

"Someone hurting my kids"

"My daughter's employment status"

nps.gov

Knoxville and the communities that surround the Great Smoky Mountains have been dealing with dreadfully poor air quality for generations.  

In recent years, however, the news has actually been encouraging.

A combination of tighter restrictions on air polluters and the migration away from coal as a fuel source by utilities like the TVA means the air is actually cleaner and healthier here than it has been in decades.   

Library of Congress

Hundreds of Civil War experts from around the country are in Knoxville this week to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war's end.   The four-day conference features speeches, tours, music and all forms of historical discussion, specifically relating to the end of the Civil War and Tennessee's transition to peace time.

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