Kari Plog | KNKX

Kari Plog

Digital Content Manager

Kari Plog is an eager newcomer to public radio and a longtime admirer. Her background as a print journalist started at The News Tribune in Tacoma, where she covered government and communities across Pierce County.

Her work included an award-winning investigation into a deadly boat launch in Tacoma. Before joining KNKX in November 2018, Kari worked for her alma mater, Pacific Lutheran University, where she served as senior editor of the institution’s magazine, producing long-form storytelling from Parkland to Norway.

Kari also worked for several years as a college newspaper adviser at the University of Puget Sound, and continues to serve as a passionate advocate for aspiring journalists and student media. She’s a lover of orca whales, wine and Prince. She lives in Tacoma with her husband and their lovable 75-pound lapdog, Bernie.

Ways to Connect

A sign directs vehicles toward a drive-up testing site at the Tacoma Dome in March 2020. It was one of the test sites hosted by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department early in the pandemic.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

Pierce County residents had their first opportunity to respond to a controversial proposal that would terminate a public health partnership between the county and the City of Tacoma.
 
And their collective response during Monday’s Pierce County Council committee meeting was overwhelming: many called the effort “reckless” and “dangerous” as the county faces a surge of COVID-19 cases.

A sign directs vehicles toward a drive-up testing site at the Tacoma Dome in March. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department hosted the coronavirus testing site for several days for high-risk groups at the start of the pandemic.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

UPDATE, Dec. 4: Adds remarks from Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and details about Monday's committee meeting.

As public health officials continue to deal with an exponential surge in COVID-19 cases, the Pierce County Council is preparing to vote on a proposal that would dissolve the public health partnership between the county and the City of Tacoma.

The West Seattle Bridge is seen looking east following an emergency closure several weeks earlier, Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press (file)

Seattle transit officials say they're moving forward to repair the West Seattle Bridge, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Thursday.

“Repair or replace?” has been the primary question in the months since the span closed to traffic earlier this year. Now, after weighing all the factors and listening to stakeholders, Durkan says repair — at least in the immediate future — is the best option.

Dr. Nicole Yarid, an associate medical examiner for King County, walks into the autopsy room dedicated to examining people who died from COVID-related complications. Yarid told KNKX that the pandemic response has detracted from other priorities.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Since its founding more than a century ago, Washington state has seen few changes to the way sudden or unusual deaths are investigated. And experts from every corner of the system acknowledge it’s far from perfect. 

Family and friends of Manuel Ellis gathered for a Father's Day celebration this summer in honor of the late South Tacoma man, who was killed in police custody in March.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

The Washington State Patrol has finished its investigation into the killing of Manuel Ellis, who died in March while being restrained by Tacoma police officers.

Nicole MacMaster, who lives in Central Washington, goes through records related to her mother's death in 2012, including amended copies of her mother's death certificate. MacMaster was featured in KNKX's three-part series on death investigation.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

A new law going into effect in 2021 will, in part, provide more funding for training in the state's system of death investigation. The change is the first small step toward improving education for chief death investigators statewide, especially elected coroners — who serve about a third of Washington’s population and have a wide array of experience

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Saying goodbye is hard. But sometimes, it’s an opportunity to celebrate. Today, we celebrate nearly six years and 214 episodes of Sound Effect with one final episode.

For our finale, we’ll spend two hours looking back at some of the most memorable stories from the show, which has showcased hundreds of stories that the people from our region have shared with us — and with you.  

We’ll meet a gay man defiantly carving out space for himself in the country music world, when — to his shock — a record label called.

We’ll hear how an unlikely friendship drew a Seattle man to leap out of his comfort zone.

And we’ll hear the tale of a family cat who wanted nothing to do with her family, and many other stories today.

There will be some laughs and some tears. But most importantly, this episode will be a celebration of this place we live — and all the hard work that went into sharing what makes the Pacific Northwest unique.

From left to right: Yến Huỳnh, Ashley Jackson, Sonj Basha, Rachel Alger, Ivana Trottman, Rachel Morowitz, Abriel Johnny, Sharlett Mena, Hannah Sabio Howell, Bre Weider, Akua Asare-Konadu, Yasmin Trudeau, Graciela Nuñez Pargas, Lucy Aragón Noriega.
Karina Matias / Karinamatias.com

Sharlett Mena’s campaign for Washington’s 29th Legislative District may have ended after the August primary. But the driving force behind why she ran in the first place is continuing into Tuesday’s general election. 

Mena launched the #VoteAsYouAre project to center voices of people who she says have been historically overlooked or made invisible in government. It’s a movement of young women and non-binary people who are working to empower others with similar lived experience — especially within millennial and Generation Z populations — to use their voting power. 

Sound Effect producer Jennifer Wing conducts an interview atop the Space Needle in Seattle.
KNKX

Nearly six years ago, before the show that eventually became Sound Effect first aired, the team cycled through a lot of rejected names: Northwest Corner, Public Market, Face for Radio, to name a few.

Now, 214 episodes later, the household name that has brought you hundreds of stories from people and places across the Pacific Northwest signs off for good.

Nicole MacMaster says she still has unanswered questions about the death of her mom, Frankie "Ellen" Schmitz. She says her mother didn't get the death investigation she deserved.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Nicole MacMaster remembers her mom, Frankie "Ellen" Schmitz, as a doting grandmother who loved to crochet. Christmastime was her favorite, and she always kept her house spotless. Nicole says she can practically smell bleach just thinking about her mom’s home, even all these years later. 

“She had a really good heart,” she said. 

Mother and daughter had their ups and downs, but they spent time together right up until the end. Nicole says she wouldn’t trade her for anything. 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

This week on Sound Effect, it’s all about music. We take a look back at some of our favorite stories about musicians, their work and what inspired it. First, we meet a software engineer who created a map of Seattle bands and their connections. Then, a bassist for the band Great Grandpa discusses the intersection of nursing and art.

Hayley Thompson, the coroner in Skagit County, says the makeshift morgue she rents from the local hospital — a space converted from a closet — has a lot of flaws. But it's better than what most coroners have.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

It isn’t often a coroner gets to deliver good news. Last week was an exception for Hayley Thompson.

The Skagit County coroner learned her office was awarded a $250,000 federal grant, seed money that will eventually fund a renovation to bring all of her operations under one roof.

Thompson told KNKX Public Radio that this will offer the county consistent control of death investigations. And it’s long overdue.

Skagit County Coroner Hayley Thompson (left) and Connie Le Sourd, owner of Mount Vernon Cemetery, arrange urns of unclaimed remains in a shared crypt during a committal service in October 2019. Thompson is one of 17 elected coroners in Washington state.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Dr. Carl Wigren could stand in for just about any medical examiner as seen on TV. He’s witty, a fast talker who knows a lot about investigating deaths.

In fact, Wigren has been on TV, after testifying as an expert witness in high-profile criminal cases. He’s the guy you call when a death investigation furnishes more questions than answers. 

And, Wigren says, that happens a lot more than you think. 

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, left, and Harold Moss in 2018. Moss died Monday night at the age of 90. Woodards describes him as a father figure to her.
Courtesy of the City of Tacoma

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards says the feelings she gets talking about her mentor, friend and adoptive father Harold Moss, who died late Monday at the age of 90, are still raw. Even so, she feels compelled to talk about him — now more than ever.

Musician Rosemary Ponnekanti plays the double bass for Pakak, a walrus at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, in late July. Ponnekanti, who works for the communications team at the zoo, composed music that prompted musical responses from the walruses.
Courtesy of Point Defiance Zoo

Walruses have a huge vocabulary of sounds. They whistle, they grunt, and they can even sound like a steam train.

But, Rosemary Ponnekanti says, they also can sound musical. 

“They make bell-like sounds and they can use their flippers to make percussive noises,” said Ponnekanti, who works on the communications team at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma. “They also get this funny, guttural kind of (sound) — I can’t even do it myself because I don’t have the right equipment in my voice.” 

Heat rising from the roadway blur the image of a fire truck driving through a burned out area Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, during a media tour to survey wildfire damage in Bonney Lake.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

A wildfire that has consumed a hillside overlooking the Sumner Valley in East Pierce County continues to burn. The Sumner Grade Fire, which started Monday evening, has burned an estimated 800 acres in the Bonney Lake area. It’s destroyed four homes.

Meanwhile, a number of separate brush fires and structure fires have flared up nearby, putting an unprecedented strain on fire districts’ pool of resources.

Gibraltar Senior Living, which operates under the name Alpha Cottage LLC, is located in the Parkland area of unicorporated Pierce County, near Franklin Pierce High School.
Kari Plog / KNKX

This story has been updated to include remarks from the state's long-term care ombuds. 

A long-term care facility in Pierce County was put on notice for unsanitary conditions two weeks before an employee brought COVID-19 into the building, infecting a majority of the residents living there. It was the latest in a series of similar warnings from the state that called into question the safety of residents. 

Gibraltar Senior Living houses many residents who are formerly homeless and suffering from severe mental illness.

Xuyen Le, Tommy Le's aunt, speaks while Sunny Le, Tommy's father, listens in the background during a news conference Wednesday at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service in South Seattle.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

An outside investigator presented the King County Council with a scathing review of the sheriff’s department on Wednesday, centered on its handling of the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Tommy Le.

Le was killed three years ago by sheriff’s Deputy Cesar Molina, who was responding to a report of a disturbance in Burien. Initial reports said Le wielded a knife in the incident, but the review concluded all he had on him was a ballpoint pen.

Artist Toka Valu stands in front of the murals he helped create at the site of the future Federal Way light rail station. The murals were damaged in an act officials suspect is racially motivated.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Authorities are investigating vandalism to temporary murals near the construction site of the future Federal Way light rail station. Sound Transit says the murals included depictions of people of color, and officials suspect the damage is racially motivated.

Family and friends of Manuel Ellis gathered Friday to celebrate what would have been Ellis' 34th birthday. Ellis was killed by Tacoma police nearly six months ago.
Melissa Ponder

Friday would have been Manuel Ellis’ 34th birthday. 

“I was there when he was born,” Regina Ellis Burnett said of her nephew. “Unfortunately, I was not there when his life was taken. We’re here to celebrate.”

Adrian Florez / KNKX

In this episode of Sound Effect, we’re featuring stories from this show and the KNKX newsroom that earned regional and national recognition.

Youth and education reporter Ashley Gross talks about a quirk in state policy that is giving an artificial boost to graduation rates across the state. KNKX’s Will James dives into the turmoil that, up until recently, plagued the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office. Producer Posey Gruener shares the story of a beloved professional boxer whose life was tragically cut short. Gabriel Spitzer introduces us to a man who is helping his homeless neighbors, one makeshift toilet at a time. And producer Kevin Kniestedt shares what he learned after rediscovering a box of old love letters from past girlfriends. (KNKX's Ed Ronco and Geoffrey Redick also earned recognition for long-form storytelling about the five-year anniversary of the Oso landslide, part of the station's regional reporting project KNKX Connects.) 

A person wears a mask as she waits to enter the Ram Restaurant and Brewery, Tuesday, June 23, in Tacoma.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Health officials in Pierce County are taking steps to learn just how many people are wearing masks in public, and if they’re wearing them correctly. They say their findings show it’s not enough, and habits vary widely depending on the type of location.

Staff and volunteers with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department recently conducted a 48-hour survey, during which they observed people in more than 20 locations countywide.

An election worker sorts ballots at the Pierce County Election Center in Tacoma.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

It's primary election day, and KNKX Public Radio has a roundup of some key local, state and federal races. Catch up on past coverage and view the latest results. (Last updated Aug. 7, 4:50 p.m.)  

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor talks on his phone at a staging area at the ferry terminal in Steilacoom in 2018, after a plane was stolen from Sea-Tac Airport and crashed.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

Against a backdrop of mounting scrutiny and calls for change, Pierce County voters will elect a new sheriff for the first time in nearly two decades.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor announced in October that he would retire after serving for 19 years — the longest tenure for a sitting sheriff in the state’s second-largest county.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

We have all been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in our own ways. And the Sound Effect team has been doing our best to cover it in a podcast called Transmission. Today on Sound Effect, we share some more stories that have stood out to us from the series.

Monet Carter-Mixon (center), sister of Manuel Ellis, joined Ellis' family and friends Sunday for a balloon release celebrating the late father of two, who was killed March 3 in Tacoma police custody.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

“You are loved. You are missed. You are remembered.”

Those were the words printed on dozens of balloons that were released into the air in downtown Tacoma on Father’s Day, during an event honoring Manuel Ellis.  

Katrina Johnson, cousin to the late Charleena Lyles, spoke at a rally on June 18, 2020, the three-year anniversary of Lyles' death.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Katrina Johnson stood alongside a score of families Thursday morning, demanding justice for a long list of Black men and women whose lives were taken by police officers, both here and across the country.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

We have all been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in our own ways. And the Sound Effect team has been doing our best to cover it in a podcast called Transmission. Today on Sound Effect, we share some more stories that have stood out to us from the series.

The family of Manuel Ellis and their attorney, James Bible, address reporters during a news conference Tuesday in Tacoma. They renewed calls for the state to lead an independent investigation into Ellis' killing on March 3.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Gov. Jay Inslee says he’s convinced the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department shouldn’t lead the investigation into the killing of Manuel Ellis. He announced Wednesday that the state is reviewing how the investigation should proceed, including who will make charging decisions.  

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

UPDATE, June 10: Gov. Jay Inslee says he's convinced the Pierce County Sheriff's Department can't lead the investigation into Manuel Ellis' death. The governor is working with Attorney General Bob Ferguson to decide how the investigation will proceed. Read the latest developments here

The family of Manuel Ellis has released a new video from the night Ellis was killed in police custody. Their attorney says it shows a man "begging for his life." 

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