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 Kate Noble


This story originally aired on October 20, 2018.

Kate Noble says she knew at a young age that her family was dysfunctional.


“Many layers of conflict. Maternal, psychiatric dysfunction, absentee father,” Noble recalled.


Help came to Noble in the form of a dream. She was three and a half years old.


This story originally aired on October 20, 2018.

Growing up in Taiwan, Dean Huang always knew he wanted to study abroad, especially after visiting cousins that had immigrated to Boston. “It’s just that Taiwan is really small, and I feel like I can maximize my potential and challenge myself to receive a different education.”


This story originally aired on October 20, 2018.

This Danish tooth-maker became a dream therapist, at the urging of his Jewish Unitarian minister wife. As one does.

OK, better back up. For Flemming Behrend, his career as a dental technician was something that he loved. He hand-made artificial and prosthetic teeth, shaping porcelin and pigments into lifelike choppers. He appreciated the art of it, and the satisfaction that came from delighting his patients. 

Matt Kaeberlein, Ph.D., with his silver Keeshond Chloe, 14, and his German Shepherd Dobby, 8. Betty, a black mixed-breed around 13-15 years of age, is unpictured.
Courtesy of Kaeberlein

Researcher Matt Kaeberlein runs the Kaeberlein Lab at the University of Washington, where he and his team studies the biology of aging. Their goal is ambitious: to learn the biological mechanisms behind what makes people get "old," and then to find interventions that would actually slow the rate of aging.

They'd like to increase the human healthspan, or the period of life spent free from disease. And, for that matter, they'd like to extend the canine healthspan, too.

Courtesy of Obie Pressman


The ad read, “Help wanted with chores around the house, heavy lifting and going for walks.” 


It was the late 1990s, and Obie Pressman needed the work, even if the ad wasn’t especially illuminating. 


“It struck me as a little odd," he said. "I knew I wasn’t getting the whole story.” 


Courtesy of Laureen Nussbaum


On a dark and rainy afternoon, Sound Effect producer Jennifer Wing and I meet Laureen Nussbaum in the lobby of a retirement home in North Seattle. Laureen is a petite woman. She is 92 years old, and insists on helping us with our gear. 


Laureen opens her arms to receive one of our bags, “Can I carry something?” she asks.


Jennifer hands over her coat and with that, Laureen glides up an enormous spiral staircase as we speed up a bit to keep up with her.


Courtesy of Katie Morgan

It started out like any other underwater volunteer shift — scattering food for the salmon and perch, then diving down deeper to hand feed the rockfish, sturgeon and other species who make their home in the 400,000-gallon tank. 


Craig Egan


This story originally aired on Oct. 14, 2018.  

Craig Egan, who lives in Tacoma, stumbled into an obsession kind of by accident. It happened on FaceBook.


“A friend of mine posted some graph that had an anti-vax slant to it. At that point I had no idea that this was a thing,” Craig remembers.


To say Joe Petosa Jr. and his family are into accordions would not be doing them justice. The Petosa Accordion company goes back almost 100 years, when Carlo Petosa started hand crafting accordions in his Seattle basement. That tradition was passed down to Carlos’s son, Joe Petosa, then to his grandson, Joe Jr., and now onto his great grandson, Joe the third. The custom instruments they make are sought after all over the world.

Agnes Bodor


As a kid, Agnes Bodor had a few unusual interests.

“I was really crazy about books about illnesses, you know, images of skin rashes and things like that,” Agnes said.

One day she spotted a small microscope in a store window, and longed to have it. That was unrealistic, considering that her family was poor and living under the Communist government in Hungary. But one day, a family friend with no children of his own stopped by Agnes’s house, and presented her with a small box.

Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service


Whether you know it or not, you’ve already gone viral — hundreds of thousands of times, in fact.


Viruses are part of who we are in a very concrete way. Fully 8 percent of our genetic code comes not from human ancestors, but from viruses, according to Harmit Malik. 


View through one of the look out towers at Fort Casey on Whidbey Island.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX


In the late 1800s, the U.S. government constructed three state-of-the-art defense systems: Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island and Fort Worden in nearby Port Townsend. They were built to thwart possible intruders from entering Puget Sound.


“The three of them in combination form this triangle, which has come to be called the triangle of fire,” said Sam Wotipka, who works for Washington State Parks.


Courtesy of Mark Rose

This story originally aired on Sept. 8, 2018.

Growing up on Mercer Island, Mark Rose was captivated by rock n’ roll. And like most kids, he wanted to be a part of it. But unlike most kids, Mark did end up in the music business. He didn’t make it as a musician, but instead worked on the business side of things.

 Comedian Bengt Washburn. When he’s not performing stand up, he’s he’s hosting the Rule of Three podcast.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX


As a child, Bengt Washburn had two passions: art and comedy. Everything he drew made it to a child’s first art gallery — the refrigerator. His early comedic taste was formed by the records his dad brought home.


Washburn’s dad got Steve Martin’s "A Wild and Crazy Guy" record.


“My parents had a really good sense of humor," Washburn said. "They were funny people."


Courtesy of Cindy Healy


Growing up in Southern California, Cindy Healy wasn’t thinking much about her career. 


“The expectations for me, a girl growing up in the 1970s, they were really low,” she said. “The career advice I got was you’d better get in that kitchen and learn how to cook, 'cause you’re going to be someone’s wife someday.” 


The summer after she graduated high school, she did what a lot of Orange County teens did: she got a summer job at a theme park. In this case, Knott’s Berry Farm. 

Wolfe Maykut shares his story at Sound Effect's June storytelling event in Seattle.
Adrian Florez / KNKX


Once upon a time, there was a kid who discovered he had a flair for the stage. And that kid gave a performance (in his best Axl Rose mode) that would change the summer, and maybe even the lives, of a bunch of Boy Scouts.  


That kid was not Wolfe Maykut. But Wolfe was profoundly affected by the events in this story. It began for him when his parents, hoping to link him up with some of the good kids, enrolled him in Scout Troop 120. 


Monica Martinez



The sheer physicality of aging and dying are things we try not to think about, so it’s especially striking when these subjects turn up in unexpected places — say, your indie rock playlist. 

Carrie Goodwin plays bass for the Seattle-based band Great Grandpa, and she also happens to be a nursing student. In her song “Rosalie,” Goodwin introduces us to someone losing her grip on life — and maybe gets us a little closer to wrapping our brains around our common fate. 

Posey Gruener / KNKX


For decades, soldiers in the U.S. Army learned military navigation using a very specific map. Today, that map is burned in the memories of generations of service members. And it happens to be a map of a tiny town in Washington called Tenino. 

“It’s a topographical map, its scale is 1:50,000 … and up until about 2012, everybody in the army knew the Tenino Map Sheet,” said John Millard, a military veteran who used the map in training in the 1980s. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX


Every year, in the Fall, Dr. Ron Naito makes a trip to Still Creek. The Portland, Ore. primary care doctor visits the creek, in the shadow of Mount Hood, to watch the salmon come back. 


“They always return to within 100 yards of where they were born, and it’s quite sort of a spiritual kind of thing, because that’s where they die and also where new life is coming in the coming months,” said Dr. Naito, from his hillside home in Portland, Oregon.


This story originally aired on September 22, 2018.    

In 1931 in the small southeast Washington town of Asotin, a 12 year old boy named Herbert Nicholls Jr. shot and killed the town sheriff. 

Nicholls was starving and abused, and had run away from home and broken into the local store to steal some food. The sheriff came in to find him, and Nicholls fired the gun with the intent to scare him away. Unfortunately, the bullet hit the sheriff in the head, killing him instantly. 

Courtesy of Silvana Clark

This story originally aired on September 22, 2018.   

"When I was 11, my mother had me quite well trained for a certain job. But then she fired me from this job. She fired me because I was not cooperating with her shoplifting escapades." 

So begins Silvana Clark's story of rebellion. 

Clark is a writer and speaker based in Bellingham. When she was a kid, one of her main jobs was to accompany her mother to the supermarket, and position herself just so at the far end of the cart. 

Courtesy of Shawn Wenzel

This story originally aired on September 22, 2018.   

My first job in broadcasting came in 1992, in Canton, Ohio, when someone decided that I should be the guy to read the morning announcements at GlenOak High School.

You know the announcements -- they play over the school’s PA system and update the student body on vital news, such as where to buy raffle tickets or what the cafeteria is serving for dessert.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX


(An essay from Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer)


He looked wildly out of context. This was a place of ice and tundra, of weathered brown skin and tan Carhartts. But this guy showed up in neon-colored rain gear with hippie jewelry and zero explanation of why he was there. 

And he couldn’t really tell us — he only spoke Japanese. 

Dominic Sivitilli grew up on a farm. 

“It was a beautiful place to grow up," Dominic said. "We had all ranges of animals, with a really ancient forest, with a really majestic river there. And so there was just an incredible amount of adventure to my childhood. That was my backyard. And so my mind always kind of drifted to ‘where the hell did this all come from?’”

Dr. Sarah Myhre is a research associate at the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington. As a paleoceanographer, she studies ancient climate fluctuations by analyzing core samples of the ocean floor.

She's become a prominant voice sounding the alarm on climate change. But it was one of her non-scientific publications that brought on a recent wave of attention, not all of it welcome.

"I get harassed all the time on the internet. I get weird emails, I get hate mail. And the majority of that is in line with what other women scientists also receive," she said.

Maxwell Hendrix

In the small hours of April 2, 2001, a 92-foot trawler called the Arctic Rose was swallowed up by the Bering Sea. The Seattle-based crew of 15 went down with it, and it was called the deadliest fishing accident in 50 years.

There was no mayday call, no survivors and no obvious reason for this terrible tragedy.

A Coast Guard investigation came up with its most likely scenario: that the crew had mistakenly left a watertight door open, allowing waves to swamp the boat.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

The plan for Nathan Myhrvold was to go into academia. He had his Ph.D in physics, and had even done some work with Stephen Hawking.

But then he got pulled into this side project. The project turned into a company, the company got acquired by a little Redmond concern called Microsoft, and before long Nathan became the company’s Chief Technology Officer.

But Myhrvold kept his passion for science … and while he was at Microsoft -- in his abundant free time --- he started writing papers about dinosaurs.

Courtesy of Sam Blackman

Patient advocates say when you're getting medical care, it's important to be a squeaky wheel. And that goes double when you're the parent of a sick child, who may not be able to advocate for him- or herself. 

While that may be wise, it doesn't necessarily endear one to the doctor -- especially if he's been working an 18-hour shift and is trying to get some sleep. 

Sam Blackman is a cancer researcher and a former pediatric oncologist in Seattle. He shared this story of two assertive parents, and what they taught him about being a doctor. 

How a homeless man helped this writer overcome his fear of the woods

Sep 28, 2019
Bryant Carlin

This story originally aired Dec. 22, 2018.  

Olympic National Park, with its temperate rainforests and stunning views, exerts a natural pull on many Pacific Northwesterners. But it repelled Seattle writer Rosette Royale. To Royale, the park seemed like a damp, mucky, inhospitable place. "I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to haul a 50-pound pack into the wilderness and camp there for days," he said. "It didn't make sense."

Then he met Bryant Carlin.

Steve Albertson


This story originally aired Dec. 1, 2018.  

Meet the two teams:  

Seattle NABA is the local branch of the National Adult Baseball Association. When they’re not suited up, they’re tech workers and bartenders and consultants. At least one is a retiree.

The San Quentin A’s, in their green-and-gold uniforms, are all inmates at San Quentin prison in California. And it was on their turf that the two teams met for a recent four-game series.