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

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.

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."

Amy-Jill Levine is a New Testament scholar who specializes in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

She's also Jewish.

"People do think it's weird that I'm a Jew and I happen to be an expert in the New Testament," she says.  "But when we think about that, Jesus is Jewish, all of his immediate followers are Jewish, the New Testament talks about Jews, so at the very basic level, studying the New Testament is studying Jewish history."

The Tennessee Senate Health and Welfare committee has officially killed a bill that would have provided health insurance to thousands of low-income Tennesseans.  The plan, known as Insure Tennessee, was being touted by Governor Bill Haslam as an alternative to the federal Affordable Care Act.  However, the administration couldn't get enough votes to push it through the Senate committee.  The Senate committee vote came only moments after House speaker Beth Harwell announced she didn't have enough votes to get the bill approved in the House.

WUOT's Dialogue program is alternately hosted by Matt Shafer Powell, Chrissy Keuper and Brandon Hollingsworth.  This live call-in program addresses a variety of issues important to Tennesseans and attempts to drill down to find the stories and the people behind the headlines.   In 2014, Dialogue featured live interviews on everything from homelessness and gay marriage to endangered animals and social media.  This particular episode explores such universal themes as racism, violence, friendship and forgiveness....


The late country singer and songwriter Hank Williams has a special place in Knoxville lore.  After all, it was the last place he was seen alive before his mysterious, premature death at the age of 29.  Tonight, "Lost Highway"--the story of Hank Williams' life and music---comes to the stage at the Clarence Brown Theatre.  The play stars Peter Oyloe, who’s making a career out of portraying Williams at various venues around the country.  WUOT’s Matt Shafer Powell recently had the chance to sit down with Oyloe and discuss Hank Williams—the singer, the songwriter …and the man…