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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Haslam Approval
5:09 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Haslam’s Support Falling Among Independents

Credit tn.gov

 A new poll released Monday by Middle Tennessee State University shows Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam’s popularity has fallen substantially in the last year.  The poll showed Haslam’s approval dropping from 61 percent in the Spring of 2013 to 47 percent. 

MTSU pollsters suggest the drop was primarily due to a marked decrease in support from Democrats and Independents.  Approval among Democrats fell from 52 percent to 42 percent while support from Independents dropped from 69 percent to 41 percent.

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Knox County Schools
4:30 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Educators Call For Greater Control Of Finances

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, left, with Knox County School Superintendent Jim McIntyre
Credit wbir.com

A bill making its way through the legislature in Nashville would give local school districts more power over the money they receive from the governments that fund them.  Currently, schools districts like Knox have to get permission from the county before they can move large amounts of money from department to department. 

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Drug testing
3:48 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Bill Would Allow Drug Testing Of TN Judges

Knoxville Judge Richard Baumgartner stepped down from the bench and was disbarred in 2011 after revelations he had acquired and abused prescription painkillers.
Credit knoxnews.com

Two East Tennessee legislators have introduced a bill that would allow the testing of criminal court judges for illegal drug use.  The bill was created as a response to  Knoxville's 2009 Christian/Newsom murder trials, in which presiding Judge Richard Baumgartner abused painkillers while on the bench.

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Fort Sanders shooting
4:58 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Knoxville Police Snare Suspect In Fort Sanders Shooting

Brandon Middlebrook is suspected of shooting two people in an apartment near the UT campus Tuesday night
Credit Knox County Sheriff Department

The Knoxville Police Department has named a suspect in a Tuesday night shooting near the University of Tennessee campus that sent three people to the hospital for injuries.  Police say 25 year-old Brandon Middlebrook of Knoxville will face a variety of charges, including two counts of attempted first-degree murder.  Middlebrook has a long criminal history that includes charges of aggravated rape, aggravated burglary, theft, aggravated assault, vandalism and attempted robbery.   

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Winter 2014
3:48 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

East TN Heating Bills Expected To Spike With Cold Temps

Credit dutil.com

 With January heating bills showing up in mailboxes soon, East Tennesseans may want to prepare themselves for an unpleasant surprise.

In Oak Ridge, City Electric Director Jack Suggs says bills for those residents who use electric sources like heat pumps could jump 30 to 40 percent from their December bills.  And December bills were substantially higher than November’s. “People do need to be bracing themselves a little bit for sticker shock,” Suggs tells WUOT News, “and they need to be thinking about putting a little extra aside.”  

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homelessness
5:16 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Deep Freeze Especially Hard On Knoxville's Homeless

Michael Barton is among the homeless who won't be staying in a shelter tonight.
Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

Huddled against the wind and snow in his black leather jacket and gray hoodie, Michael admits he doesn’t know where he’ll stay tonight.  When the temperatures dip into the single digits, as they’re supposed to do this evening, he tries to find a friend who’ll give up a sofa or a place on the floor.  But often, he finds himself sleeping outside.  “I don’t know where I’m going to stay,” he says, a toothpick and a cigarette bala

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Rural Homelessness
4:30 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Forum To Address Rural Homelessness In Rhea County

Credit iqsolutions.com

You expect to see homeless people in cities like Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga and Memphis. 

You probably don’t expect to find them in the small Rhea County town of Dayton (population 7313).   But they’re there.

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Marijuana
3:51 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Marijuana Supporters In TN Hoping This Is The Year

Credit urbancusp.com

Supporters of medical marijuana in Tennessee say a change in popular attitudes about pot may help them pass a bill decriminalizing the drug.

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Propane
4:11 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Governor Temporarily Eases Restrictions On Propane Delivery

Credit propanepressure.com

With propane in short supply and Tennessee bracing for another arctic cold snap, Governor Bill Haslam has issued an Executive Order that should speed up propane delivery over the next few days.

The State of Emergency declaration means truckers hauling propane in Tennessee are now allowed to exceed federal limits on the amount of time they spend on the road.   Currently, those regulations restrict propane drivers to 70 hours per week, with no more than 11 hours on the road at a time.  They must also leave 10 consecutive hours between shifts.

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Suicide
12:39 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Suicides Rival Traffic Deaths In Tennessee

Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

  For years, motor vehicle accidents represented the leading cause of injury death in Tennessee, with suicides running a distant second.  The Status of Suicide in Tennessee 2014 report released this week by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network suggests the two are now about equal.

In 2012, the last year in which state-specific data are available, 958 Tennesseans died on the roads.  That same year, 956 took their own lives.

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