Skip to main content

wuotStarting next week, WUOT 91.9 FM and UT’s College of Social Work will ask East Tennesseans one question: “What keeps you up at night?”

That question and the community’s response to it are the start of Tenn Words, an ambitious crowdsourcing project that encourages the region’s residents to identify their fears, challenges and hopes.

To gather this information, WUOT will staff a Tenn Words exhibit at various locations throughout the region. Anyone may answer the questions anonymously by writing a response in ten words or less on a slip of paper posted on the booth’s wall.

The exhibit will debut Saturday, May 16, at the International Biscuit Festival in downtown Knoxville.

Responses will be catalogued and analyzed for overarching trends and interesting outliers by the project’s creator, WUOT Director of News Content Matt Shafer Powell, and students from UT’s College of Social Work.

Powell said results will guide the radio station’s special news programming, which may include documentaries, news series, and feature stories.

“Crowdsourcing on social media is a popular tool journalists use to gather information and opinions,” said Powell. “While this project has a digital component, the majority of responses will come from direct person-to-person interactions, which we call ‘organic crowdsourcing.'”

In addition to identifying themes for news content, Powell said the Tenn Words exhibit has the potential to become a gathering point for public discussion and mutual understanding.

“We’re excited to partner with WUOT on this project,” said Karen Sowers, dean of the College of Social Work. “Our students will receive valuable hands-on experience related to their field of study as well as learn about the community they will serve if they work in this region after graduation.”

Plans are to continue the project throughout the next year, asking a new question each quarter. Powell said the college’s students also will have the opportunity to staff the exhibit starting this fall.

Listener-supported WUOT 91.9 FM is licensed to the University of Tennessee. WUOT is a member of NPR and a Public Radio International affiliate. The station’s primary format is classical and jazz music, news, and public affairs. WUOT serves listeners throughout East Tennessee and parts of Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. The station broadcasts 24 hours a day seven days a week and streams on the web. WUOT’s second audio channel, WUOT-2, is available on HD Radio, Internet radio, and the web.


Matt Shafer Powell (865-974-9354,

Karen Sowers (865-974-3351,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,