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

Courtesy of Grace Sullivan

 

This story originally aired on November 9, 2019.  

If you went back in time and told 14-year-old Grace Sullivan that she’d grow up to study biology, she probably wouldn’t know what you were talking about. 

 

That’s because 14-year-old Grace didn’t know about cells, or atoms, or what a negative number was. Instead, her schooling covered what her parents considered relevant: quilting, knitting, grinding wheat, canning — and most of all, bible study. 

 

Courtesy Seattle Band Map

This story originally aired on November 9, 2019.  

Rachel Ratner is in a band called Wimps. She’s also a software engineer and a brand new mother — and the creator of the Seattle Band Map

Courtesy of Erica C. Barnett

For the past 19 years, journalist Erica C. Barnett has been covering local politics in the Seattle area. For much of that time, she was struggling with alcoholism.

Addiction, she says, turned out to be the one problem she couldn’t talk her way out of. In her new book “Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse and Recovery,” she takes readers on her circuitous journey to sobriety.

Courtesy of Sam Blackman

This story originally aired on October 26, 2019.

When Sam Blackman first met his adopted baby daughter in 2007, the pediatrician and first-time father says he did the one thing he knew instinctively how to do: examine her from head to toe. 

 

“I put my ear up to her chest and listened to her heartbeat, listening for murmurs,” he says. “But in the end all I could find was a beautiful healthy child. Our child.”

 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

 

Tammy Edwards survived COVID-19. It was miserable, but she made it. She had hoped that once the virus ran its course, she could then get back to her life and her work as a nurse in Tacoma. 

Federal guidelines suggest a typical person sick with COVID should get better after a week or two. Tammy Edwards is three months past that point, and she is still recovering. 

Lexi Walls / Veesler Lab, UW

One of the nation’s first human clinical trials testing a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is producing encouraging results, according to the Seattle-based scientists leading the study. 

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Washington started the phase-one trial on March 16. In this early phase of developing a vaccine, researchers want to ensure mainly that it does not pose serious health risks, and that it does boost immunity. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

 

This story originally aired on October 19, 2019.

Grace Jo was 6 years old when her mom scooped up her and her older sister, and set out to cross the Tumen River into China. 

 

“We walked three nights and four days,” Jo said, recalling the trek along rocky mountain trails. “A lot of tree branches were hurting our skin. A lot of wild animal sounds we could hear at night, and we had to hide from people.”

 

At the river’s edge, the water level went up to her mother’s hips. 

 

“My mom managed, and all three of us able to cross river and come to China.” 

 

But escaping North Korea and finding freedom are two different things. Five years later, Jo and her family were captured, and deported back to North Korea. 

 

  The fact that she’s alive, not imprisoned or executed, is kind of miraculous. She — and hundreds of other North Korean refugees — owe their lives to a Seattle-area man named John Yoon. 

 

Robert F. Bukaty / The Associated Press

 

As we move into the heart of our Pacific Northwest summer, families with children are facing a dilemma: what to do with kids, cooped up for months, and itching to see friends. 

COVID-19 cases are rising in Washington, but experts say it doesn’t mean kids need to stay on lockdown. 

This map from AIDSVu shows the rates of people living with HIV per 100,000 residents.
AIDSVu

 

The Seattle area is leading the way on controlling a viral epidemic, besides COVID-19. A new analysis of 39 cities shows the region’s health system has been effective at treating people with HIV and AIDS. 

Seattle came out ahead of all the cities analyzed on a key measure: how many people infected with HIV are virally suppressed.

Courtesy of Jourdan Imani Keith

One of the heartbreaking things about the past few weeks for Jourdan Imani Keith is how many of her poems, ones that touch on anguish, outrage and sadness — feel so current right now.

Keith is Seattle’s Civic Poet, and she sighs deeply as she reflects on it.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

 

Toxic exposures to cleaning products are up sharply since the pandemic began, according to the Washington Poison Center.

In the first half of the 2020, poisonings due to misuse of cleaners such as bleach or rubbing alcohol are up 54 percent over the same period last year. There are similar jumps in cases involving children who’ve ingested hand sanitizer, as well as cannabis.

Courtesy of Ilan Speizer

 

This story originally aired on March 30, 2019.

The American Blues is a genre born of suffering — of oppression, heartbreak and hard work. It originated in African-American communities of the Deep South, but it all sounds very familiar to Jewish Seattleite Ilan Speizer.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Imagine getting out of prison after almost two decades, and being released into … this.

That’s what was on Jennifer Tilford’s mind as she stood in the parking lot at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, waiting for the man she’s been married to for three years, but has never been alone with.

Life for both of them is about to change radically.

“There is no normal and there's not going to be the same normal ever again,” Jennifer said. “Not only because Jason's coming home, but because of the whole virus.”

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Since the COVID-19 pandemic landed in Washington, the economic fallout has driven more than a million people in the state to apply for unemployment insurance. 

Those payments have become the safety net for workers during the worst recession in many decades. The federal government beefed it up significantly in the CARES Act — a recognition of how urgent the situation is for tens of millions of Americans. 

But now, after weeks and, in some cases, months out of work, large numbers of unemployed Washingtonians still have not gotten paid. 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

A lot of us this year have gotten used to relying on computer models for projections of how many new COVID-19 cases we can expect, or when the economy might start to rebound. But those models can’t tell us how we’re going to feel, or how lockdown and grief and social breakdown will change the way we see and experience the world. 

Well, turns out there’s a model for that, too. 

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Crowds gathered Sunday for a major march in Seattle’s most racially diverse area. Protesters assembled at Othello Park in the city’s Rainier Beach neighborhood to demand an end to police violence and systemic racism, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. KNKX asked people at the "We Want To Live" march and rally what it feels like to be part of this moment. 

Our hero, suiting up for the water.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

 

This story originally aired on June 29, 2019.

It’s 1985 — think New Coke and “We Are the World” — and little 8-year-old Gabe is shivering on the tile floor next to Jewish Community Center swimming pool in Canton, Ohio. I’d just wrapped up my “Advanced Beginners” swim class, and was lined up with the other kids awaiting our Red Cross cards. That card would be my ticket to the next class: Intermediate. 

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.

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

 

Audio Pending...

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.

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