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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Knoxville Zoo
12:43 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Wild Bear Attempts Knox Zoo Break-in Under Cover Of Darkness

Otis (shown here), one of four black bears at the Knoxville Zoo, was sound asleep last night and oblivious to an attempted break-in by one of his wild cousins.
Credit Knoxville-zoo.org

Maybe he was looking to find a place where he could get a good night's sleep.  Maybe he was lonely and looking for a little female companionship.  Or maybe he was inspired by the story of an 82 year-old nun who broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge last summer. 

No, says Knoxville Zoo Mammal Curator Amy Flew, the young black bear seen scaling one of the zoo's perimeter fences early this morning was probably just looking for food.  And for the record, she says no one is sure whether the bear was actually a "he".

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2013 Awards
8:50 pm
Sun June 23, 2013

WUOT Receives Four First-Place Awards In Annual Public Radio Broadcasters Contest

WUOT Director of News Content Matt Shafer Powell poses with NPR's Weekend Edition Host Scott Simon at the annual Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI) conference in Cleveland, Ohio. WUOT received four First-Place reporting awards at the ceremony, which was hosted by Simon.
Credit Aaron Selbig, PRNDI

On June 22, 2013, WUOT was recognized with four first-place awards at the Public Radio News Directors Inc.

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Civil Service Lawsuit
4:30 am
Mon June 17, 2013

Nashville Court To Hear State Employees' Complaint Today

Credit TSEAonline.org

Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Amanda McClendon will hear testimony today related to a class-action lawsuit filed against the State of Tennessee, charging the State's Department of Human Resources with violating the two year-old Tennessee Excellence, Accountability and Management (TEAM) Act.  The law, passed in 2012 by Bill Haslam's administration with support from the Tennessee State Employees Association, requires the state to provide a 60-day notice and career placement, job testing and job placement for any employees losing their jobs through lay-offs.  The TSEA's lawsuit claims T

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Marijuana Arrests
3:52 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Knox County Blacks More Likely To Be Arrested For Pot Possession Than Whites

Credit Dohduhdah via Wikimedia Commons

In a county where nearly 87% of the population is white, blacks in Knox County are arrested for marijuana possession more than six times as often as whites.  That's despite statistics that show marijuana use among blacks and whites is similar.  The findings were revealed in a recent study of FBI crime data by the American Civil Liberties Union.   The ACLU concluded blacks in America are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for possessing pot than whites.  At 4.0, Tennessee's disparity rate is slightly above

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Boy Scouts
1:44 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

Some ET Churches Considering Split With Boy Scouts

Credit bsamuseum.org

Members of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston, Texas today have passed a resolution opposing the recent decision by the Boy Scouts of America to accept gay scouts.  And while the resolution doesn't encourage individual churches to sever ties with their affiliated troops, Baptist churches throughout the country are considering just such a move.  In East Tennessee, at least three churches are weighing their options, but not all are Baptist.  Scout Executive Larry Brown of the Great Smoky Mountains Council of the Boy Scouts of America wouldn't identify the specific churches, b

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Y-12
4:51 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Chlorinated Water Spill At Y-12 Results In Fish Kill

A sign near East Fork Poplar Creek in Oak Ridge advises against swimming, wading or fishing.
Credit Oak Ridge Today

Officials from the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge say a spill of chlorinated water over the weekend killed approximately 8500 minnow-sized fish and almost 30 salamanders.  A Y-12 statement says about 6,000,000 gallons of the water poured into East Fork Poplar Creek on Saturday when a pipeline burst.  Crews from Y-12 were able to contain the spill and inspections on Sunday revealed no additional casualties of fish or other aquatic wildlife.  Biologists from nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory predict the long-term effect of the spill on fish and salamanders will be minimal.  

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COPD
4:00 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

Tennessee Women Far More Likely To Have COPD Than Men

A lung x-ray shows a severe case of COPD
Credit James Heilman, MD

A new data analysis by the American Lung Association shows women in Tennessee are nearly twice as likely as men to suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD.  Often related to smoking, COPD is the name given to a group of incurable lung ailments that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.  The study, released today, reports the prevalence of COPD among American women is rapidly approaching the rate for men. In Tennessee, the prevalence rates aren't even clos

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Christian-Newsom Murders
3:33 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Judge extends George Thomas sentence

Credit Tennessee Department of Correction

A Knoxville judge has added time onto the sentence of one of the participants in the January 2007 kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.  On May 17, a Davidson County jury sentenced George Thomas to a life sentence with the possibility of parole for his role in the crimes, leaving the chance Thomas could be released from prison at the age of 75.  But today, Judge Walter Kurtz ordered Thomas to serve two consecutive life sentences for the murders of Christian and Newsom, as well as an additional 25 years for the rape of each of the victims.   The n

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Bruce Downsbrough
8:46 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Judge Orders Former UT Foundation Chief To Remain In Jail, Cites History Of Molestation

Credit University of Tennessee

Federal Magistrate Clifford Shirley has ordered the former Chief Operating Officer of the University of Tennessee Foundation to remain in jail pending his trial on child pornography charges.  The decision to keep Bruce Downsbrough in custody came after testimony Monday revealed Downsbrough had once molested two boys, aged 10 and 11, while living in Boulder, Colo.   According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, police investigators testified that Downsbrough pleaded guilty to the crimes in 1986 and paid $3500 for the boys to attend counseling.  Downsbrough was arrested last week at his

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Ernest Moniz
4:00 am
Mon June 3, 2013

New U.S. Energy Secretary To Visit Oak Ridge Today

Credit U.S. Department of Energy

New Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will visit Oak Ridge on Monday to tour the D.O.E.'s facilities there, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Spallatial Neutron Source.   It's one of Moniz's first acts as Energy Secretary, having just taken over the post from his predecessor Stephen Chu on May 21.  The M.I.T. physics professor sailed through his Senate confirmation 97-0, despite concerns from environmentalists about his support of nuclear energy, natural gas exploration and his connections to large oil companies like BP and Shell.     

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