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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ORNL
4:00 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

ORNL Employees Preparing To Leave Lab At Year’s End

Credit ornl.gov

For some employees of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, these last few days of December are bittersweet.  As of January 1, they’ll no longer be employed at the lab.

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High School Equivalency
4:30 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Tennessee To Offer Alternative To GED Starting In 2014

Credit state.nj.us

 Since 1942, the General Education Development (GED) exam has been a valuable tool for students who didn’t earn a traditional high school diploma.  But recent changes in the administration of the exam have moved the state of Tennessee to offer an alternative.

The changes began in earnest when Pearson VUE, the company that administers the exam, announced the cost of the exam would increase in Tennessee from $75 to $120.  More importantly, it would only be available on-line.  

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College Graduation
1:15 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Grant To Encourage TN Students To Graduate Sooner

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

 Tennessee has been named one of three states to receive a million-dollar grant to address the length of time it takes for a college student to graduate.

In most of the state’s four-year colleges and universities, it takes the average student about five years to earn a bachelor’s degree.  And it takes the average student at a two-year college approximately four years to earn an associate’s degree.

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Christmas 2013
4:30 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Short Shopping Season Forces Retailers To Scramble

Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

As Holiday shopping seasons go, this has been a strange one.

For starters, Thanksgiving came six days later this year than last.  “That’s significant,” says Ann Fairhurst, a retail professor and head of the Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management at the University of Tennessee.  “That’s six fewer days that the retailers have to capture those dollars and so they’re really pushing promotions all the way to Christmas.”

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Kingston Fossil Plant spill
1:56 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

TVA “Looking Ahead” As Ash Spill Anniversary Looms

Swan Pond Road in Harriman overlooks a sea of coal ash following the December 2008 spill of ash from the TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant.
Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

It was one of the darkest moments in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s long history. 

Residents of the Swan Pond community living near the TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant awoke early on the morning of December 22, 2008 to a sea of gray sludge barreling its way through the community.  More than a billion gallons of coal ash being stored in a nearby pond had broken through a retaining wall and blanketed more than 300 acres around the plant, destroying homes, killing fish and filling local waterways with a thick muck laden with toxic materials.  

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K-25
2:26 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Crews Complete Demolition Of K-25 Plant In Oak Ridge

The K-25 building in Oak Ridge was once the world's largest building under one roof.
Credit osti.gov

 An important link to Oak Ridge’s nuclear history no longer exists.

This morning, crews completed the demolition of the K-25 plant, the giant U-shaped building that once served as the nation’s main source of bomb-grade uranium.  At the time it was built, the K-25 plant was the world’s largest building under one roof.

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Holiday Travel
4:30 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Record Number Of Travelers To Hit Tennessee Roads This Christmas

Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

If you’re looking for one of the positive by-products of the Great Recession, consider the fact that holiday travel dropped off substantially in 2009.  That means those who did venture out on the open road found it decidedly less crowded.

Those days are gone.

AAA’s National Travel Forecast suggests a record 94.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this holiday season.  That’s a .6% increase and represents the fifth consecutive year of increases in travel volume. 

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Ryan Loskarn
4:30 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Former Alexander Staffer To Press Court For Leniency At Bond Hearing

Ryan Loskarn is escorted from his Washington DC home by US Postal Inspectors following his arrest on child pornography charges.
Credit WJLA-TV/Associated Press

  A week ago, Ryan Loskarn was still the Chief of Staff for Lamar Alexander, Tennessee’s Senior Senator in Washington. 

Since then, Loskarn’s been fired, replaced, arrested and charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.  U.S. Postal Service Inspectors raided Loskarn’s Washington D.C. home on Wednesday and claim he attempted to hide a portable hard drive from them, one allegedly containing “hundreds” of pornographic images of children.  They also claim he offered pornographic material for download from his computer.

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Prison Phone Services
4:37 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Families Of Tennessee Inmates Could See Lower Phone Costs

Credit americantimes.org

New regulations by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could lower the cost of phone calls between Tennessee inmates and their families.  But prison rights advocates say the regulations don’t go far enough.

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Cocaine Ring
9:39 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Feds Break Up Major Cocaine Ring in Knoxville

Credit justice.gov

Federal prosecutors say several local and federal law enforcement agencies have arrested 21 people in connection with an illegal drug distribution ring that involved the trafficking of $17.5 million dollars' worth of cocaine and crack cocaine.   All 21 appeared in court this week and entered "not guilty" pleas on charges ranging from conspiracy to distribute cocaine to money laundering.  One defendant also faces a felony firearms charge.   The cases will go to trial February 11.

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