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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Soldier Returns
5:00 am
Wed August 27, 2014

ET Soldier Returns Home After 69 Years

The remains of PFC Cecil E. Harris came home to East Tennessee Tuesday, nearly 70 years after he was reported missing while fighting in France.

The Shelbyville native was a 19 year-old husband and father at the time of his disappearance.  He was listed among the missing in January 1945 after his rifle platoon was overrun by German forces during the Battle of the Bulge.  The violent offensive was the Germans’ last of the war; they surrendered three months later.

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Unemployment
2:56 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

Tennessee Unemployment Rate Takes Upward Jump

12-month comparison of unemployment rates in Tennessee
Credit WUOT Image, Data from Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development

  Tennessee’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate rose sharply in July, the largest monthly increase in more than five years.  But economists say there’s no cause for alarm.

The rate rose from 6.6 percent in June to 7.1 percent last month.  The last time the rate increased half a percentage point from one month to another was March of 2009.  At that time, in the midst of the Great Recession, Tennessee’s rate rose from 9.6 percent to 10.1 percent.

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John Duncan III
4:30 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Official Misconduct Charges Removed From Former Trustee’s Record

Credit Knox County

The case against former Knox County Trustee John Duncan III has been dismissed and charges that he misused public funds have been expunged from his criminal record.     

In July of 2013, Duncan resigned his Trustee position and pleaded guilty to official misconduct.  Duncan admitted he had distributed nearly $60,000 in bonuses to himself and six other employees for completing an online training program, even though none of them had actually completed it.   

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University of Tennessee
5:08 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

UT Freshman Class Biggest In Decades

Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

The roughly 4700 University of Tennessee students moving into their first college dorms this weekend will represent one of the largest and smartest freshman classes in recent history.

University of Tennessee officials say the total number of incoming freshmen is the highest it’s been in 30 years. 

Chancellor Jimmy Cheek says a big reason for the increase in freshmen is the school’s push to graduate students on time.  In the last four years, UT’s six-year graduate rate has increased from 60 percent to 67.5 percent. 

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Breaking
10:09 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

ELECTION 2014: Campfield and Hall Ousted, Alexander Survives, Justices Retained

Controversial State Senator Stacey Campfield has been defeated in the 7th District primary by Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs in a race that was never close.  Briggs collected 67% of the vote,  Campfield received 28% and Mike Alford registered 6% of the vote.

Fellow Republican Steve Hall was also unseated in his 18th District State House race by Martin Daniel.  Daniel will go unchallenged in the general election after collecting 15% of the vote in Thursday's primary.

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Election 2014
4:30 am
Thu August 7, 2014

Campaign Signs Fight For Attention In Crowded Election

Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

A hopeless romantic might say the collection of campaign signs on the corner of Robertsville Road and the Oak Ridge Turnpike looks something like a flower garden, a festive, mid-summer explosion of reds, whites and blues.

“It’s ugly, it’s a nuisance and there’s no reason for it,” says Georgia Hudson, passing through the gauntlet of signs on her way to the Oak Ridge Visitors’ Center.  “I think they should be banned statewide.”

So much for hopeless romance.

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Gay Marriage
4:30 am
Wed August 6, 2014

Tennessee Marriage Law Faces Important Challenge Today

Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

Gay marriage advocates are expected to pack a Cincinnati courtroom today as attorneys from Tennessee and three other states attempt to make the case that their respective state laws against gay marriage are unconstitutional.

In an unusual move, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will allow attorneys from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee to plead their cases back-to-back. 

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Y-12 Protesters
12:57 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

Y-12 Protesters Appeal Sabotage Convictions

From left to right, Michael Walli, Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed.
Credit transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com

The legal team representing three peace protesters who broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge has appealed their convictions to one of the highest courts in the country.

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Patrick Sullivan's
4:30 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Patrick Sullivan’s Iconic “Painted Ladies” To Be Auctioned Off

Credit Knox Heritage

For more than a decade, the Painted Ladies of Patrick Sullivan’s flirted with male customers at the corner of Jackson and Central in Knoxville’s Old City.  They were painted on the windows of the saloon’s second floor, each adorned with the accoutrements of an 19th century call-girl.  Their presence was an artistic wink at the bar’s raucous past, one that includes rumors that it once operated as a brothel.

The bar closed down in 2011. 

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Nashville Area Code
2:04 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Middle Tennesseans Begin Preparations For New Area Code

Credit WUOT News, Todd Steed

  Since 1995, the 615 area code has been synonymous with Nashville and its surrounding areas.  That will soon change.

Nashville’s rapid population growth and the emergence of cell phones and other communication devices means the 615 code will soon run out of phone numbers.  Beginning in March, all new phone numbers from within the existing 615 area code will contain the new code 629.

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