Gabriel Spitzer | KNKX

Gabriel Spitzer

Sound Effect Host and Producer

Gabriel Spitzer is the Host and Senior Producer of Sound Effect, KNKX's "weekly tour of ideas inspired by the place we live." Gabriel was previously KNKX's Science and Health Reporter. 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

Marchers gather outside Seattle City Hall on Wednesday afternoon.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

 

Thousands marched peacefully from Seattle’s Capitol Hill to City Hall on Wednesday, chanting demands to “defund the police.” The demonstrators gathered at Cal Anderson Park, the site of repeated clashes with police over the past several nights, and made their way through the neighborhood toward downtown Seattle.

Protesters march through Seattle on Saturday, in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Washington state health officials say they’re watching carefully to see whether crowded protests will contribute to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Heath Secretary John Wiesman says, in general, outdoor activities are less risky than indoor ones. But he says anything that brings people close together for long periods is concerning.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

We are a country wracked by illness, by economic crisis, and by tears in our social fabric that have existed all along, but are too gaping to ignore, once again. 

How do we think about these twin emergencies — the pandemic, and the spasm of grief and anger over racism and police violence? What lessons could history possibly teach us about such an unprecedented situation?

A brand-new toilet set-up at an ecampment near Interstate 90 and Rainier Avenue.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

This story originally aired on June 8, 2019.

Mark Lloyd pops his trunk and pulls out his supplies: kitty litter, a small military surplus tent, toilet paper, sanitizer and a 5-gallon plastic bucket, complete with toilet seat.

This is the rudimentary toilet set-up that Mark has been assembling and delivering to homeless encampments for about three years now. He guesses he’s given away between 75 and 100.

“It's something people need, and I can fill it,” he says. “You really can only do good when you provide people a more sanitary situation than they were.”

You won't find a colony of alligators in a sewer like this one. It would be "a completely inhospitable environment in the first place," says Snopes.com founder David Mikkelson.
Sean Havey / The Associated Press

This story originally aired on June 8, 2019.

No, Thomas Crapper didn’t invent the modern flushing toilet. Airplanes don’t directly dump “blue ice” and human waste from 30,000 feet. And alligators can’t thrive in a New York City sewer.

These are some of the abundant toilet myths that have circulated across the internet and beyond.

The nation’s first reported coronavirus case — a Snohomish County resident — returned to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from China in mid-January. New research suggests the patient, known as WA-1, may not the source of the outbreak in Washington.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

 

New research suggests the nation’s first reported coronavirus case — a Snohomish County resident — was not the source of the outbreak in Washington, as previously thought.

This story originally aired on June 1, 2019.  

In 2018, Seattleite Chris Jeckel decided it was time to visit Tokyo. He had just ended a four-year relationship, and he was struggling to find his footing again. Tokyo seemed like the perfect place, he said, to "shake things up."

James and Krystal Marx on patrol together during May Day 2016
Courtesy of James Marx

 

This story originally aired on June 1, 2019.  

Krystal Marx is a City Council member in Burien. Her husband James is an Iraq War veteran. They’ve both experienced hardships that never fully left them: in her case, it was poverty and homelessness as a kid; for him, it was combat-related PTSD.

Their relationship, and their healing, began on rival superhero teams.

This photo was taken at a rodeo in Hobbs, New Mexico, where rodeo clown J.J. Harrison fell down in front of a 2,000-pound, charging bull. "I remember thinking this could be the end," he said.
Courtesy of J.J. Harrison

This story originally aired on June 1, 2019. 

When J.J. Harrison fell down in front of a charging, 2,000-pound bull in Hobbs, New Mexico, everything seemed to slow down.  

"I just remember thinking this could be the end," he said.

It wasn't. And even though Harrison was pretty beat up that day, he was back at it almost immediately. "I got my check and I drove five hours to get to the airport," he said, "because I've got to keep going."

Adrian Florez / KNKX

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, some clear patterns have emerged. One is that people of color are being affected by this virus at higher rates than white people. 

In Washington state, the disparities are especially stark among the Latino population.

More than a third of the state's COVID-19 cases have been Latino, which is way out of proportion to their 13 percent share of the general population.

Nurses conduct drive-through COVID-19 testing at UW Neighborhood Northgate Clinic in March.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Washington state officials say they have received a big shipment of coronavirus testing materials from the federal government, putting the state on track to have enough resources to keep a lid on the outbreak in coming months. 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

COVID-era isolation affects all of us. And for people with special needs, it brings all sorts of particular challenges, many that can’t be solved with a Zoom call.

That’s why most days, you can find a bald, heavily tattooed guy, salt-and-pepper beard down to his sternum and wearing a bright blue face mask, driving around Western Washington to check in on his clients — all adults with developmental disabilities.

“I call it my ‘Melissa outreach,’” says Gino Jevdjevich, a crisis counselor with the nonprofit Sound Health. “Melissa Ethridge, she has a song, ‘Come To My Window.’ I started joking about that song at the beginning, but now I call it my ‘Melissa outreach.’”

Thomas Kyle-Milward (center) with his Milk and Scotch teammates at the Columbia County Fair in Oregon in 2014. He was "very insulted" when competitors talked trash about his overalls. But they weren't laughing after he beat them to the finish line.
Courtesy of Thomas Kyle-Milward

This story originally aired on May 25, 2019.
 

Thomas Kyle-Milward wears a tie to work, but deep down he’s still a farm boy.

Kyle-Milward grew up on a small family farm outside Portland, Oregon. The farm had its own rhythm: morning and evening chores, planting, harvest. And every year — the Columbia County Fair.

Kyle-Milward is building a life in urban Tacoma now, but he still makes it out for the fair each summer. And, as he’ll proudly share, he brings along bragging rights as the 2014 wild cow milking champion.

Laura Michalek passing the previous winner in the 1979 Chicago Marathon.
Courtesy of Laura Michalek

This story originally aired on May 25, 2019.
 

Laura Michalek is an auctioneer. She lives in Tacoma and does mostly fundraising work, and she’s been at it for a couple of decades.

But this story is about one of the first times Laura was in the spotlight, and it actually comes way before her auctioneer career.

This all starts in the year 1979. Laura’s in high school in Berwyn, Illinois — just outside Chicago. And she’s running on the cross-country team.

Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer and climate scientist Judy Twedt, outside the KNKX studios in Belltown.
Jennifer Wing / KNKX

 

This story originally aired on May 25, 2019.

When most of us see scientific data presented on graphs and spreadsheets, the meaning behind the numbers can get lost pretty fast — even when they are explained by an expert.

 

Vietnam war and draft protest
Courtesy of Fred Lonidier

 

This story originally aired on May 25, 2019.

In the mid-1960s, there was a number that loomed large for many American men: 26. That was the cutoff age for the draft. If you were antiwar, or just didn’t fancy going off to combat, it could be a race to stall the process long enough to hit that birthday, before being hauled in front of the draft board.

Courtesy of Emily Wickman

Joy, for Jonah, is simple.

“That flies are in the room,” says the 6-year-old from Tacoma. “And I get to squish them.”

For his mom, Emily Wickman, these difficult times still harbor moments of joy, too. Only, they’re more complicated, laced with the frustrations and anxieties of coping and raising kids during the pandemic.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

 

There is a lot to worry about right now: our jobs and our health. How will we be able to make next month’s rent or mortgage payment? Then there is the bigger question — will life ever be the same again? 

But, even though we are living in unprecedented and scary times, there is still room for laughter. There is still a lot to smile about and be grateful for. 

What are your moments of joy? This is the question we are asking today on Transmission. 

 

Tests people can take themselves at home work about as well at detecting COVID-19 as tests given by health care providers, according to Seattle researchers. They say self-administered tests could play a big role in confronting coronavirus, as well as future outbreaks. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

This story originally aired on April 27, 2019. 

 

 

By the time Stuart Olsen was 7 years old, he had endured more surgeries than most people experience in a lifetime. The focus of all of this medical attention and effort was on his legs.

 

“I must have had 11 or 12 surgeries to try and fix my legs,” Olsen said.

 

Doctoral student David Caldwell
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX


This story originally aired on April 27, 2019. 

 

The science of prosthetics has come a long way from the crude wood-and-metal devices of earlier generations. Bioengineers have even developed artificial limbs that can be operated by the user’s mind.

Now, a team at the University of Washington’s Center for Neurotechnology is working to take that one step further: engineering a device — say, a prosthetic arm — that can actually deliver the sensation of touch.

Amir Afrasiabi works in computer vision and artificial intelligence.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX


This story originally aired on April 27, 2019. 

 

Amir Afrasiabi had glasses as a kid. No big deal. But he found he had to constantly get new and more powerful ones, and he still seemed to struggle to see.

Amir would later discover that he had a degenerative eye condition called keratoconus. It would eventually reroute the course of his career and his life.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

 


Telling stories live is both the oldest form of entertainment, probably, and a newish thriving art form. In the Pacific Northwest there are a whole range of storytelling series and events. These usually happen in a smallish venue, maybe a coffee shop. 

And needless to say, that’s been interrupted. 

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

 

This story originally aired on April 20, 2019.

 

What if history cast someone you admire as the villain?

If you’re Edward Nixon, longtime resident of Lynnwood, Washington, you spend your life telling the parts of the story that don’t wind up in the textbooks.

Michael Stravato / Associated Press

This story originally aired on April 20, 2019. 

Back in the early 1980s, many people in El Salvador wanted an escape from poverty. They were trying to get the government to adopt policies that would redistribute that country’s wealth.

To the United States, these policies looked like communism.

ADRIAN FLOREZ / KNKX

 

We explore the power of the antibody — a protein that our blood cells make when our body encounters a virus.

Scientists have known for more than 100 years that if you take antibodies from someone who has recovered from a virus and transfer plasma, a blood byproduct, from that person to someone who is sick with that same virus, the patient will usually fare better than someone who doesn’t get this extra help.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Today’s episode: Learning as we go. 

The thing that makes COVID-19 so tricky is its newness. It’s a disease that literally did not exist in humans until a few months ago. There was no handbook for treating it, no established way to screen for it and, as has become painfully clear, no detailed protocols for how doctors should handle the waves of sick patients. 

That has meant that health workers at virtually every point on the spectrum — from paramedics to primary-care doctors to ICU specialists — have had to learn on the fly. 

UW Medicine Virology lab manager Greg Pepper processes antibody tests.
UW Medicine

 

People who have recovered from COVID-19 get some level of immunity to the virus. Now scientists at the University of Washington are set to start testing people for past infection. 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Today’s episode: Confronting Mortality. 

This is not something a lot of us are used to thinking much about. Dreading, sure. Avoiding, you bet. But thinking hard about it, and what it means during a time like this — not easy. 

In this episode, we connect with people who have gotten intimate with mortality. 

Sister Judy Byron (in blue, at left) having a dialogue with board members of Merck Pharmeceuticals in New York at the Interfaith Center.
courtesy of Judy Byron

This story originally aired on March 23, 2019.

When Judy Byron became a nun, she thought she'd spend her life wearing a habit and teaching school. And she did do that, for a while. But then an opportunity came along to make an impact in a different way.

Sister Judy became a shareholder. A shareholder in pursuit of justice.

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