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

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.

lovekitchen.org

This week, Ellen Turner,one of the founders of Knoxville’s fabled Love Kitchen, passed away at the age of 87.   Since 1986, Ellen and her twin sister Helen Ashe have been providing meals, comfort and care to some of Knoxville’s less fortunate residents.  In the meantime, they’ve emerged as local folk heroes with an international following, even appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show.  But those who know the sisters say the notoriety never changed them--- they remained humbly committed to their mission of feeding Knoxville’s poor. 

The hundreds of tuba and euphonium players and aficionados who are descending upon Knoxville this week have one thing in common:

They love the tuba.  

And not in a "gosh, that's so cute" kind of way.  They respect and admire the instrument's broad range, its smooth tones and its potential as a tool for awe-inspiring virtuoso performances.

Furrow Auction Co.

On Saturday, March 14, six antique automobiles from the estate of the late U.S. Senator Howard K. Baker, Jr. will go up for auction.  The proceeds of the auction will be donated to the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee.  

WUOT's Matt Shafer Powell spoke with Blake Wilson of Furrow Auction Company and Baker's daughter Cissy to learn more about the Senator's passion for his cars.  

The Method is a series that explores the intersection of science and society. In modern journalism, science reporting often repeats the material in press releases or studies without engaging in the critical thinking that defines the scientific method. The Method will look at science through a different lens. How does scientific research affect you and your community? That's the story we hope to share with you. 

WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

The University of Tennessee's McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture recently received a gift of 191 maps, some dating from the late 16th century.  Many of the older maps blend artistic renderings of sea monsters, sailing ships and native peoples with practical depictions of the physical landscape.  In short, the mapmakers put the "art" in "cartography".

That was not uncommon at the time, says Lindsey Waugh, Coordinator of Academic Programs at McClung.  "These maps represent expressions of civic pride, of national pride."

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