Telling Public Radio's Story

Telling Public Radio’s Story FY 2017

1. Describe your overall goals and approach to address identified community issues, needs and interests through your station’s vital local services, such as multiplatform long and short-form content, digital and in-person engagement, education services, community information, partnership support and other activities, and audiences you reached or new audiences engaged.

WUOT’s news department routinely informs its listeners about economic, political, societal and community through numerous broadcast, digital and community engagement vehicles.  In addition to traditional broadcast journalism via newscasts, features, documentaries and call-ins, WUOT is also reaching out to new audiences through social media story sharing, the WUOT Public Radio app and community outreach efforts. 

Examples of engaging news audiences, included a profile of SYSTERS, a University of Tennessee student group that encourages teenage girls to study and work in engineering; a conversation with a local professor who invented an app that helps speech-challenged individuals communicate with their care providers; and a week-long series about five East Tennesseans from various walks of life whose lives were influenced by firearms.   

WUOT’s TruckBeat spent several weeks in a rural East TN community to share the stories of opioid addicts and those trying to help them.  WUOT’s “Dialogue” provided opportunities for the community to ask questions directly to newsmakers, community movers and shakers and experts in various fields and disciplines.  Topics ranged from the presidential election to the revitalization of downtown Knoxville. 

All broadcast material is also shared through WUOT’s digital and social media platforms. WUOT considers feedback received from our listeners in our efforts to shape our news coverage to best fit what the community feels is significant to life in East Tennessee.   

2. Describe key initiatives and the variety of partners with whom you collaborated, including other public media outlets, community non-profits, government agencies, educational institutions, the business community, teachers and parents, etc.  Illustrate the many ways the station is connected across the community and engaged with other important organizations in the area. 

During FY 2017, WUOT brought its listeners the voices of experts and people connected with current events that affect East Tennessee. The station provides context and perspective regarding local issues by speaking with a variety of individuals and organizations throughout the community.  

Maryville College’s Aaron Astor explained the role of the Appalachian Regional Commission in combating poverty in the region, as well as criticism of the agency created in 1965; a National Weather Service meteorologist explained an historic drought gripping our region; Knoxville Area Transit executive director Dawn Distler discussed improving the city’s mass transit and rider experiences; TVA historian Pat Ezzell talked about the effects of the agency’s many dams on ecology and East TN communities; Officials from the Department of Children's Services, Harmony Family Center, Transfiguring Adoption and Omni Visions discussed issues surrounding foster care in Tennessee. 

WUOT also connects its listeners to the arts and cultural community with numerous regular interviews with local artists and cultural organizations. Examples include Aram Demirjian of the Knoxville Symphony and Dan Allcott of the Oak Ridge Symphony. Unique musical guests were also featured in conversations shared on-air and online, including composer Sarah Kirkland Snyder, Rachel Grimes, Theo Bleckmann and Wu Fei, particularly in their association with the Big Ears festival. 

3. What impact did our key initiatives and partnerships have in your community?  Describe any known measurable impact, such as increased awareness, learning or understanding about particular issues.  Describe indicators of success, such as connecting people to needed resources or strengthening conversational ties across diverse neighborhoods.  Did a partner see an increase in requests for related resources?   

During FY 2017, WUOT’s “Finding America” TruckBeat pursued an in-depth project in rural Roane County regarding its opioid addiction problem that had reached epidemic proportion.  In addition to producing numerous radio and video stories about how this one East TN community is dealing with the issue, WUOT worked in partnership with the Roane County District Attorney’s Office, the Roane County Public Defender’s Office, and the Roane County Health Commission in a town-hall program, “Roane is Better Together”.  

The multi-media and recovery storytelling event featured a panel discussion with health experts, lawmakers and recovering local addicts moderated by WUOT News Director Matt Shafer Powell.   More than 300 people from Roane County and a dozen community organizations came together to share their experiences of addiction, assistance and recovery.  The joint effort resulted in increased visibility and awareness for the numerous programs and resources Roane County provides to those struggling with addiction issues.  

Other examples of connecting people to resources and strengthening neighborhood conversations were WUOT’s report with Knoxville Community Development officials describing the challenges facing low-income renters, with a focus on Section Eight housing.  Another news feature reported on how one’s zip code affects well-being and introduced WUOT listeners to a group of women in Knoxville’s Parkridge neighborhood, who are determined to ‘beat the odds’.   

WUOT also partners with area non-profits and local businesses during twice-a-year “Community Partnership Days”. During FY 2017, WUOT highlighted Contact Care Line (suicide prevention), the East Tennessee Foundation (philanthropy), HABIT (Human Animal Bond in Tennessee), the Cancer Support Community in East Tennessee, MEDIC Blood Centers, Law’s Interiors and Designs, The Trust Company and Dream Katcher Lodge.  These special partnership days resulted in the following outcomes:

Donation of new interior décor to Cancer Support Community East Tennessee; Additional HABIT training for East TN schools, churches and community groups; Assistance in obtaining much-needed new refrigeration equipment for MEDIC Blood Centers.  

4. Describe any efforts (programming, production, engagement activities) made to investigate and/or meet the needs of minority and other diverse audiences (including, but not limited to, new immigrants, people for whom English is a second language and illiterate adults) during FY 2017, and any plans you have made to meet the needs of these audiences during FY 2018.   

Our monthly public affairs series, Dialogue, routinely addresses issues that apply to or affect minority populations. Kent Southworth of Bridge Refugee Services  and Stephanie Teatro of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition were among panelists for the February 2017 Dialogue, which focused on the issues surrounding refugee resettlement in the state. During another “Dialgoue”, State Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd discussed problems with broadband internet access in rural areas.   

Other WUOT programming featured historical researcher and Greenville resident Randi Nott about Andrew Johnson’s role in ending slavery and photographer Thomas Allen Harris, whose research studies photographic documentation of minority communities.   

In Fiscal Year 2018, WUOT’s news department will be working with the University of Tennessee School of Nursing to craft a new series that would analyze health care from a human perspective, including factors that disproportionately affect women and minorities.  

5.  Assess the impact that your CPB funding had on the station’s ability to serve its community.  What was the station able to do with the CPB grant that it wouldn’t be able to do if it didn’t receive it?   

CPB’s annual Community Service Grant to WUOT helps provide funding for national programming, specifically, National Public Radio, which our audience expects and demands.  This federal funding helps offset the huge cost of NPR programming, which enables WUOT to invest local funding into providing our community with unique, local content produced specifically for our local audiences.  Providing quality local and national public service programming is labor intensive and an expensive endeavor.  CPB support enables WUOT to serve our community with both local and national programming.  Without our CSG, WUOT’s programming would be severely impacted.