May 5, 2016



TruckBeat is a health storytelling project about East Tennessee. It’s a collaboration between Matt Shafer Powell of 91.9 FM WUOT and independent multimedia producers Jess Mador and Leslie Snow. We’re taking our food truck-turned-mobile studio out on the road to report on community health topics in depth: obesity, mental health and access to health care. However, we've taken a particularly close look at the region's addiction crisis.


More about TruckBeat:

TruckBeat’s in-depth radio segments air at various times on WUOT, but can also be accessed on TruckBeat’s interactive website, the station’s website, and as a podcast through iTunes and SoundCloud. Video stories will also be available on the, on YouTube and Vimeo.

TruckBeat builds on the station’s existing Tenn Words project, and both are now part of a larger effort called the East Tennessee Listening Project. Tenn Words, which WUOT launched in the spring of 2015, is a crowdsourcing project that encourages the region’s residents to identify their fears, challenges and hopes in 10 words or less. Each TruckBeat segment includes a Tenn Word montage and a feature on a topic related to a different East Tennessee health issue. 

“When we looked at all of the Tenn Words submissions, we saw that health was a major issue,” said Matt Shafer Powell, WUOT director of news content.

TruckBeat focuses on a variety of health-related topics, but the TruckBeat team is paying particular attention to East Tennessee's addiction crisis.  But, since the truck will be traveling around East Tennessee to listen to people’s concerns and ideas, the topic areas could expand.

“If we’re finding while we’re out there that people are really interested in something else, we can shift gears. Interaction with the community helps shape what TruckBeat is,” Powell said.

TruckBeat was borne out of WUOT’s participation in “Localore: Finding America.” WUOT was one of 15 stations chosen in a national competition to participate in #FindingAmerica, which was created by AIR, a Boston-based network of independent public media producers. The idea was to bring together forward-thinking producers and stations to work on public media projects that embody the founding vision of a public broadcasting service—to bring media to “all of the people.”

Through #FindingAmerica, WUOT was paired with independent producer Jess Mador, who relocated to East Tennessee from Minneapolis, where she reported for news organizations such as Minnesota Public Radio. 

“TruckBeat will be a success if our radio and video stories reflect an authentic picture of what makes Knoxville and East Tennessee unique," Lead Producer Jess Mador said.  

"We want to hear from East Tennesseans from all walks of life about the health issues they face. That’s because TruckBeat operates on the principle that the most compelling stories are usually not discovered inside the newsroom – they’re found outside, in conversation with people in the community.”