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.

Ways to Connect

TruckBeat: "He Was My Baby"

Jun 10, 2016

Jessica Akhrass' brother died from an overdose of prescription opioid painkillers.    

Now, she is working on a memoir about the experience of losing her brother and successfully pushing for changes in Tennessee state law to tighten regulations around prescription opiates.

“It’s emotionally draining. You have to relive what happened in detail,” says Akhrass, who lives in Lenoir City. 

She says she hopes her book will help fight the stigma associated with addiction and encourage other people to fight for change, even when they’re not sure where to start.

  On this episode of TruckBeat, producers Matt Shafer Powell and Jess Mador examine access to healthcare, and how a lack of transportation and other poverty-related barriers –– non-medical things like bad credit, the location of a grocery store, and a low-paying job without sick days –– combine to form an undeniable bond between low-incomes and poor health. We hear Knoxvillians’ ideas for improving healthcare access. And TruckBeat producer Leslie Snow looks closely at this issue, and one possible solution. It’s called Telehealth.

Do you have a question or comment for our next Dialogue?  

Post it our Twitter account or just click here.

America’s National Park Service turns 100 years old this year and on this segment of Dialogue, we take an historical trip in time to celebrate our favorite national park—The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Author Courtney Lix joins host Matt Shafer Powell to discuss some of the people who have contributed to the park’s legacy throughout the last century.  And she discusses her new book Women of the Smokies.  

CBT Satire Examines Generosity In All Its Complexity

Mar 30, 2016

On the surface, generosity may seem like a rather simple concept.  Person One is nice to Person Two and Person Two is grateful.

But the new Clarence Brown Theatre play "The Open Hand" reveals a hidden complexity that accompanies nearly every act of generosity.   "It's about not only our discomfort with generosity, but how people are ungenerous," says Calvin McLean, the play's director. 

When Watches Become Warnings

Mar 30, 2016

Do you know the difference between a severe weather "watch" and a "warning"?

Here's how National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologists make the distinction:

Announcing TruckBeat! from Jess Mador on Vimeo.

KNOXVILLE—WUOT, the public radio station licensed to UT, has already launched its new crowdsourced health project called TruckBeat, but the beat has been without a truck—until now.

There are currently 72 people waiting  to be executed on Death Row in  Tennessee, but with general support for the death penalty waning, their fate is now uncertain.  On this episode of Dialogue, University of Tennessee Law Professor Penny White and death penalty attorney and litigator Stephen Kissinger join host Matt Shafer Powell to talk about how attitudes are evolving about the question of whether a crime should be punishable by death.  

Do you know a police officer who has had to discharge his/her firearm in the line of duty?  Would that person be willing to talk to WUOT News about it for an upcoming special?  

Click here


In the news media, we spend a good deal of time talking. But we're not always so good at listening.

The East Tennessee Listening Project is designed to turn traditional models of journalism on their head.  We want to know what you think is important.  And we're developing new, innovative ways to find out what's on your mind:

TruckBeat is a new public media storytelling experiment about the issues that matter most to people across Knoxville and East Tennessee.