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WUOT, the public radio station licensed to UT, has already launched its new crowdsourced health project called TruckBeat, but the beat has been without a truck—until now.

TruckBeat will introduce its new truck, which is part billboard, part listening booth and part recording studio, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 3, near Krutch Park and Market Square in downtown Knoxville.

Truck Beat1

The public is invited to drop by, see the truck, and share a story. Then, plans call for the truck to travel around the region throughout the spring, collecting more stories along the way.

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

TruckBeat builds on the station’s Tenn Words project, and both are part of WUOT’s larger effort called the East Tennessee Listening Project.

Tenn Words, which the station launched in spring 2015 with the College of Social Work, is a crowdsourced project that encourages the region’s residents to identify their fears, challenges and hopes in ten words or less. Each TruckBeat segment features a Tenn Words montage and a topic related to a health issue in East Tennessee.


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

For now, TruckBeat will focus on four main areas: addiction, mental health, access to care and obesity. 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 that residents are really interested in something else, we can shift gears. Interaction with the community helps shape what TruckBeat is,” Powell said.

The March 3 TruckBeat event is timed to coincide with a radio segment about the truck and how it will be used to further the station’s crowdsourced storytelling efforts.

TruckBeat was borne out of WUOT’s participation in “Localore: Finding America.” WUOT was one of fifteen 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. She’s originally from the New York area.

Powell and Mador have collaborated since last summer to develop TruckBeat. Mador plans to lead the project through July, 2016. WUOT has committed to continuing TruckBeat into the future, and the station and Mador are looking for additional funding to help keep the project going at maximum capacity.

Powell said the TruckBeat truck itself has quite a story.

WUOT bought the truck from WBIR. Purchased by the TV station in 1982 to broadcast from the World’s Fair in Knoxville, the truck was used for decades as a live truck until it was retired from the station’s broadcast fleet last year.

The truck has been customized for the TruckBeat project. Some of WBIR’s old TV equipment has been stripped from the inside and soundproofing has been installed, allowing the vehicle to be used as a rolling recording studio. The truck’s rear doors have been outfitted as “bulletin boards” to display Tenn Words submissions from the public.

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

Listener-supported WUOT 91.9 FM is qualified by CPB and is a member of NPR and an affiliate of Public Radio International and American Public Media. 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 around the clock and streams on the web at WUOT’s second audio channel, WUOT-2, is available on HD Radio, Internet radio and on the web.


Matt Shafer Powell (865-974-9354,