Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Sound Effect Host / Assistant News Director

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KNKX, and hosts Sound Effect. He joined KNKX after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.

Gabriel received his Master's of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and his degree in English at Cornell University. He’s been honored with the Kavli Science Journalism Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and won awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. He lives in West Seattle with his wife Ashley and their two sons, Ezra and Oliver.

Gabriel’s most memorable KNKX moment was: “In just my second week here, I found myself covering the unfolding story of a mass shooting and citywide manhunt. It was a tragic and chaotic day, when the public badly needed someone to sort the facts from the rumors. It made me proud of our profession.”

Ways to Connect

Courtesy Gracelynn Shibamaya

College is really expensive. People take out loans, they work a million odd jobs, and if you’re lucky, you have parents who set up a college fund. When Gracelynn Shibayama was 17 years old, she had a college fund. But then, she got an email from her parents.    

“We had to use your college fund to pay for Calvin’s rehab. So, at that point it was like, Oh, this is getting really serious and if I want to go to college, and I thought that was going to be there, I’m going to have to start thinking about it now,” says Gracelynn.

Courtesy of Wil Miller

In the late 1990s, WIl MIller was working as a King County prosecutor in Seattle. And for the first time, he was exploring the gay nightlife. Spending his evenings in the city’s gay bars introduced him to his future lover and, through him, to crystal meth.

“If you're a gay man in the 90s and you're a little overweight and you’re a little self-conscious, it really seemed to solve all of my problems,” Miller said. “It played into every one of my weaknesses.”

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

Last June, Ana Ramirez headed to a meeting of the Western Washington University student government. She had just been elected as Vice President for Governmental Affairs and, as it turned out, the meeting was about her.

Ramirez, now a 19-year-old sophomore, is an undocumented immigrant, brought into the United States from Mexico when she was six months old. She had just learned from university administrators that she wouldn’t be allowed to assume the position she had campaigned for and won.

And sure enough, when she arrived at that meeting, she was told to leave.

Courtesy of Michael Henrichsen

Michael ​Henrichsen’s parents met at a Duran Duran concert. He’s named after the lead singer of INXS. He practically has 1980s and 90s pop music in his DNA. So maybe it’s no surprise that, after hearing a Debbie Gibson song in a piano bar, the 30-year old Henrichsen got a little obsessed.

Credit Chris Cozzone

Tricia Arcaro Turton’s career started with a big fat “no.” She says she was never one to be discouraged just because someone tells her she can’t do something. And at a young age, she was told that she couldn’t be a 

boxer. She decided to write off the sport all together.

But later in life she would undergo grueling training, and eventually became a professional boxer. This, of course, came after she played elite rugby on the United States national team. She’d rack up 8 wins and 4 losses as a boxer before retiring in 2005, and now she has her own gym.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

 

When Meg Martin first moved to Olympia, Washington from Montana in 2007, she was recovering from a drug addiction and looking to start a new life. In Olympia, she threw herself into outreach work. She volunteered for a program that uses bicycles to deliver clean needles to people on the street who use injection drugs.

 

Night after night, she’d encounter people who were homeless. Because these men and women were actively using drugs, they were not eligible to stay in area shelters.

 

Courtesy Daniel Brown

For many in the Seattle area, Royal Brougham might be little more than a regal sounding street near Safeco Field. But Royal Brougham was actually one of the longest tenured reporters in U.S. newspaper history, working 68 years, primarily as a sports columnist and editor, for the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

In the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle, tucked among the bungalows sits an ornate yellow and red building. On one side flies the American flag, and on the other flies what’s called the Dharma Flag.

This monastery is one of the most important sites in the world for one of the four major traditions  of Tibetan Buddhism -- the Sakya school. And it houses a genuine princess: Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho Sakya is one of the most prominent female lamas in Tibetan Buddhism, and the widow of the man man once held the Sakya throne. She goes by Dagmola to her friends.

Michal Lotzkar

After World War Two, when millions of Jews and other groups were murdered by the Nazis, the world made a promise: Never forget. But soon, the generation that remembers firsthand, the people who survived, will be gone.

Credit Gabriel Spitzer

Out in Elma, Washington, there’s a modest dairy farm, set against the backdrop of low hills and the cooling towers of the defunct Satsop nuclear power plant. On the farm, cows are doing what cows do.

Jose Torres owns the place. But that wasn’t always the case. Jose started out as an ordinary farm worker, when this farm was owned by Bill Goeres. Bill’s father farmed around here, and so did his grandfather. But eventually, Bill became sick. He had to make a decision as to whom he would pass on this land and this way of life.

City of Soap Lake

 

Soap Lake, in Central Washington, is a small town with a really big dream. It’s home to about 1,600 people, and its economy has seen better days. A lot of small towns in that situation might respond by trying to lure a big-box store or coming up with a snappy tourist slogan. But those ambitions are far too puny for Soap Lake.

 

(courtesy Nancy Leson)

This story originally aired on June 18, 2016.

Nancy Leson, half of knkx's  Food for Thought duo, has been in the food industry for a long time. But some of her earliest memories of food come from bars -- not as an employee, but as a patron — a six-year-old patron. 

Leson grew up in Philadelphia, in a time and place where children were allowed to belly up to bars and eat Slim Jims and pickled eggs, or order a Coke with loads of  Maraschino cherries. 

The reason Leson wound up in those bars was that that was where she would find her mother. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Caros and Ben Fodor didn’t always hate each other’s guts.

“Like, at birth, when he was first adopted, we were close, because he didn’t talk,” Caros said.

The irritation is mutual.

“Caros and I really didn’t get along growing up,” Ben said. “I don’t even know how to describe that guy. He’s kind of an a------, but he’s not like your stereotypical jerk. He’s got his own little way of ruining things.”

Hello KNKX and NPR One listener!

 

One unique thing about NPR One: You get to skip the pledge drives!

 

Of course, quality journalism still costs money. So, instead of listening to multiple days of sparkling on-air banter about the value of public radio, I'm asking you to take, oh, 60 seconds or so to read my note, consider what KNKX and NPR programs mean to you, and -- I hope -- translate that into a gift during our Spring Drive.

Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

Maxine Linial is a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and one of the world's leading researchers on an obscure group of microorganisms called simian foamy viruses.

She’s been at the Hutch for 40 years looking through microscopes in the lab and studying swirling cells in petri dishes. However, that changed very suddenly five years ago.

Courtesy of Diane Whalen

As a young girl in Catholic school, Diane Whalen always wanted to be close to God. She set her sights on becoming a nun, until puberty hit and her interest in boys forced her to make a course correction.

It wasn't until Whalen was in her 20s that she started hearing people advocate for women’s ordination into priesthood. The Church never did come around to this idea, but an organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests began ordaining women outside of the Church institutions. In 2010, Whalen became the first female ordained priest in Washington.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Growing up in Seattle in the 1930s, it was Bonnie Buckingham’s brothers who played the guitar. But Bonnie coveted it, and would take any opportunity to get her hands on the instrument. Soon, she says, “they couldn’t get it away from me.” So began the musical life of the woman who would become known as Bonnie Guitar.

Bonnie showed herself to be a prodigy and, in spite of having hardly any female role models, she busied herself playing local gigs and slowly getting better and better. 

When it comes to music, the idea of band rivalries goes back decades. The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones has been a classic matchup that goes back five decades.

In the Pacific Northwest, the most visible example of a band rivalry started 25 years ago, when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were two of the biggest bands in the country.

provided by the Compline Choir

The Compline service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church feels very traditional – ancient, even. But the all-male Compline Choir chants its monastic prayers and hymns to a pretty eclectic flock. Elders bent with age mix with people who live on the street, families with small children and young adults in a pretty obvious drug haze.

They’re all there to feel the thrum of sacred music, ringing through this soaring, 90-foot-high cathedral.

ElmerGuevara / Wikimedia Commons

For Claudia Castro Luna, nothing transports her back to her native El Salvador more quickly, and more vividly, than then pupusa. It’s the unofficial national dish of El Salvador, consisting of a think corn tortilla wrapped around a rich filling.

But for Castro Luna, Seattle’s first civic poet, the pupusa contains more than pork, cheese and beans. It contains the history of the country of her birth, and of her journey away from it.

Facebook

Sometimes on Facebook you might read what seems like a cry for help from a friend, someone struggling to cope who might need you to intervene.

Or maybe it’s nothing -- just someone quoting song lyrics or something. It’s hard to know, and it’s often easier to just ignore it.

The suicide prevention group Forefront is helping create tools for people who notice red flags in a friend’s post.

These are tools that Stephen Paul Miller didn't have several years ago, when he saw a concerning post on by a friend on Facebook.

Courtesy of David Liston

Private investigative work is dangerous, thrilling, romantic – or at least, that’s the impression you’d get if you just hear about P.I.s from TV and movies. In reality, according to David Liston, it can be so tedious that “there has to be something kind of wrong with you in order to be able to do it.”

Courtesy of David Liston

David Liston finds people who don't want to be found; that's part of the job.  Liston is principal at David Liston Investigations, a private investigation firm based in University Heights. But this case was different. Liston was looking for a man believed to be homeless in the Seattle area in order to give him a message: You stand to inherit millions of dollars. 

Warren Langford

The recent public conversations about gender identity and transgender people have tended to focus on bodies: biological sex versus gender identity, the clothes people wear, what bathrooms they use. But one issue that has gotten less attention is the intersection of gender and voice. Even as trans people work to look like the person they are inside, some find that they still sound like someone else.

used with permission of Jason Padgett / struckbygenius.com

Sound Effect's Gabriel Spitzer talks with Tacoma resident Jason Padgett about the night he was mugged outside a Tacoma karaoke bar, and how that incident changed the trajectory of his life.

Padgett suffered a concussion in the attack, as well as internal injuries. He also developed post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Courtesy of Autumn Rusch

Autumn Rusch was born with holes in her heart – so many, that her cardiologist described it as looking like it had been shot with a BB gun. As she grew up, her condition worsened. She was hospitalized for weeks on end, and her heart would at times reach an unimaginable 300 beats per minute. At the age of 14, she was given a new heart that would prove a great match. She recently celebrated her 20-year anniversary with it.

Gabriel Spitzer

In 2004, the city of Seattle installed five, high-tech, self-cleaning public toilets at a cost of $5 million. The toilets -- which opened at the push of a button disinfected themselves automatically -- were hailed as public service that would need little in extra staff hours to maintain.

It didn't turn out exactly like that.

Andrew Becraft / Flickr

The South has its Civil War battlefields. The Northeast has colonial-era sites. But what do history nerds in the Northwest have? We have Lewis and Clark.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out in 1804 to chart their way across a great divide, the unmapped North American continent.

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