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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Unemployment
9:01 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Tennessee's Unemployment Rate Since The Great Recession

Credit WUOT News

On December 18, 2014, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced Tennessee's preliminary unemployment rate (seasonably-adjusted) fell 3/10 of a percentage point from October's rate of 7.1%.

The Tennessee rate is a full percentage point higher than the November's national rate of 5.8%.

This chart shows how Tennessee's unemployment rate has fared since the early days of the Great Recession:

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Manhattan Project National Park
4:00 am
Thu December 18, 2014

National Park In Oak Ridge To Present ‘Two Sides’ Of Nuclear Story

Credit U.S. Department of Energy

The atomic bombs that detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 brought a horrific, devastating war to a close.

But it also represented the instant and complete annihilation of two cities,  the brutal death of approximately 185,000 Japanese civilians* and the dawn of the nuclear weapons age.

In the 69 years since the first bomb fell over Hiroshima, pro- and anti-nuclear forces have used these two points to engage each other in a heated debate over the ethical necessity of nuclear weapons and their proliferation. 

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Five Points
5:45 am
Tue December 16, 2014

In Five Points, Winter Celebration Seeks To Develop Unity

Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

This time of year, neighborhoods throughout East Tennessee are breaking out the hot cocoa and Christmas tunes to celebrate the spirit of community and togetherness that many of them enjoy throughout the year.  

It’s a sentiment that’s easy to take for granted.  Unless you live in a place like Five Points.

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Unsilent Night
4:00 am
Fri December 5, 2014

The Cacophonous Beauty Of Knoxville's Unsilent Night

Participants serenade downtown Knoxville during the city's inaugural "Unsilent Night" performance in 2012
Credit nief-norf

  Since 1992, Holiday revelers in cities around the globe have been taking to the streets each December with boom-boxes and other portable music devices to perform Phil Kline's sparse, nebulous composition "Unsilent Night".  

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Wild Turkeys
4:30 am
Fri November 28, 2014

Twenty-five Years After Re-introduction, Wild Turkeys Now Common Sight In TN

Credit TWRA

If you happen to see a wild turkey waddling down the road near your East Tennessee home, you have Billy Minser to thank. 

By the 1950's, turkeys had all but disappeared from the region.  In 1979, Minser and friend Jack Murray were among a small group of wildlife conservationists who released 18 wild turkeys from Missouri into the woods at the University of Tennessee Arboretum in Oak Ridge. 

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Panhandlers
9:12 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Knoxville To Consider Crackdown On "Aggressive Panhandlers"

Credit M. Michelle Powell

If you live or work in downtown Knoxville or you've been there to visit, you've probably been confronted by a panhandler.  The Knoxville city council meets Tuesday, where it'll discuss plans to beef up the ordinance that attempts to prevent "aggressive panhandling".  In this interview with WUOT's Matt Shafer Powell, Knoxville's Downtown Coordinator Rick Emmett says it's time to tweak the law...

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NPR Clock Change
6:44 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Hey! Wait! Something Sounds Different!

Credit doggies.com

You may have turned on WUOT this morning and thought, "Hey! Wait! Something sounds different!"

Maybe you thought, "Now I could swear they usually do the news at this time..." or "Did I slip into some weird space-time continuum from which there's no escape?"

Well, it's not your imagination--something is different. (But it's not a weird space-time continuum.)

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Native Flute
4:30 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Native Flute's Haunting Sound Keeps Cherokee Tradition Alive

As a child, Randy McGinnis learned to play the Native American flute, but he didn't begin to appreciate its fragility as an important symbol of his Cherokee heritage until he was an adult.   "About twenty years ago," he says, "I realized it was disappearing.  There was nobody playing the Native American flute.  It was fading away."

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Election 2014
1:51 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Election Results From Some Of East Tennessee's High-Profile Races

Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

State Constitutional Amendment 1 (abortion):

  • Yes (53%)
  • No (47%)

State Constitutional Amendment 2 (judicial selection):

  • Yes (61%)
  • No (39%)

State Constitutional Amendment 3 (income tax):

  • Yes (66%)
  • No (34%)

State Constitutional Amendment 4 (lotteries):

  • Yes (70%)
  • No (30%)

Tennessee Governor

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Election 2014
1:21 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Johnson Loses Re-election Bid; Already Moving On

Credit Metro Pulse

  In an election day replete with landslides in East Tennessee, the battle for the 13th State House seat was a noticeable exception.  Republican challenger Eddie Smith defeated Democratic incumbent Gloria Johnson by less than 200 votes in the hotly contested district.    Shortly after conceding the race, Johnson announced her intentions to run for Democratic State Party Chair.  And shortly after that, she spoke with WUOT's Matt Shafer Powell...

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