Gabriel Spitzer

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

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, and hosts KPLU's weekend program Sound Effect. He joined KPLU 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 KPLU 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

Dennis Wise / University of Washington

Researchers at the University of Washington say they have figured out how to make lasers do something they have never done before: make a liquid colder.

sharkhats / Flickr

Sound Effect's Gabriel Spitzer spoke with phonographer and sound artist Chris DeLaurenti about his journey into the tunnels beneath Washington's mothballed nuclear power plant.


Mary Ellen Mark / Tiny, Streetwise Revisited

In 1983, Martin Bell and his wife, acclaimed photographer Mary Ellen Mark, set out to document the lives of young people living on the streets of Seattle, and he says he’ll never forget meeting one in particular: 14-year old Erin Blackwell, who went by Tiny.

“She was beautiful and engaging and impossible to forget,” Bell said.

Tiny would go on to become the unofficial star of "Streetwise", the heartbreaking, intimate and, at times, exuberant 1984 documentary.

Michael Dwyer / AP

Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses are down in Washington, but new statewide numbers show that progress is being offset by another alarming statistic.

Between 2008 and 2014, the number of people who died from prescription narcotic overdoses dropped from over 512 to 319. But over the same period, the number of deaths from heroin overdose nearly doubled, to 293.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer.

As you may have heard, KPLU is now in a transition period and there is much uncertainty around the future of Sound Effect. So what do we do when we’re feeling frightened or anxious? We watch videos of cute animals.

Elaine Thompson / AP

The Alaskan Way Viaduct in downtown Seattle has continued to sink, according to the most recent inspection. Washington transportation officials say the structure is still safe to drive on and no additional repairs are needed. 

Daniel X. O'Neil via Creative Commons

A pair of Seattle City Council races remain up in the air after the latest count, with thousands more ballots still to be tallied.

The tightest race in town is still District 1, covering West Seattle and South Park, where the margin narrowed just a bit further after the Monday afternoon update.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

The e. coli outbreak tied to Chipotle restaurants in the Pacific Northwest continues to expand. Twenty-five people in Washington and 12 in Oregon have confirmed infections, with dozens more suspected.

All 43 Chipotle restaurants in Washington State and the Portland area are closed while public health officials investigate the outbreak.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Washington’s health insurance exchange is open for business for the third time since the Affordable Care Act went into effect; and exchange managers say consumers can expect a smoother shopping experience this time.

The open enrollment period officially began Nov. 1 for most consumers. This time around, there will be more plans to choose from – some 148 offered by 13 different insurance companies.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

A tenants group says it has settled a lawsuit against the developer of a high-profile property in downtown Seattle, across the street from City Hall. The agreement, which would pour millions into affordable housing, follows a public incident of political pressure involving a city council candidate.

Courtesy of Timothy Ray Brown

In 2007, Timothy Ray Brown underwent an experimental bone marrow transplant to treat his life-threatening leukemia. The marrow cells he received were no ordinary cells: They contained a very specific mutation that confers resistance to HIV. Brown, who grew up in Seattle but was living in Europe at the time, had been infected with HIV more than a decade earlier.

The procedure was harrowing, involving multiple rounds of chemotherapy, followed by radiation. He came down with graft vs. host disease and had to have a whole second transplant. But in the end, Timothy Ray Brown became the first person in the world functionally cured of HIV.

Seattle Departemnt of Transportation

Seattle voters are getting ready to choose who will represent their district. Seven district seats will be decided, as well at two at large positions. KPLU’s election series, Back On The Block, revisits issues affecting each district and introduces us to the candidates.

Ijeoma Oluo

The stereotype about the Northwest is that we are, you know, nice - maybe not always warm, maybe not always effusive, but polite. One could take that as the mark of living in a truly civilized place. But there’s another way to see it too: As a way to avoid uncomfortable truths.

Visitor7 via Wikimedia Commons

In the late 1980s, Paul Ingram was a prominent member of the community in Olympia, serving as a senior sheriff’s deputy and chairman of the Thurston County Republican Party.

Then he was implicated in a shocking series of crimes: His own daughters accused him of sexually abusing them, repeatedly, over many years. But that was just the first twist in a tale full of bizarre turns.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The maker culture is built around a do-it-yourself ethic. It’s not unusual to meet people teaching themselves carpentry, computer hacking or electrical engineering. But what about DIY biochemistry? or do-it-yourself genetic engineering? or do-it-yourself neuroscience?

Scott Applewhite / AP

The president of Liberia thanked Seattle-area philanthropists at a weekend appearance in Bellevue, crediting their early support during the Ebola crisis with helping to save many lives.

Nobel Peace laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf cited support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others as crucial in helping Liberia eradicate Ebola. The Allen Foundation committed $100 million, while the Gates Foundation pledged $50 million.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Seattle scientists have managed to genetically transform human cells in the lab from HIV targets to HIV killers, and the technique could have implications for cancer and other diseases.

The virus that causes AIDS loves to go after a particular group of white blood cells called T-cells, a key part of the immune system. T-cells have a protein on their surface that the virus attaches to and uses to invade the cell.

Elaine Thompson / AP

The visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping will cause especially thorny and unpredictable traffic tie-ups. Transportation officials are asking drivers to plan for delays, or better yet, stay off the roads.

President Xi will be traveling around Seattle and the I-5 corridor, but we won’t know when or where until the last minute. Security is tight for his visit, and that means not revealing his schedule.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

How do you make something called a “slime mold” sound even more disgusting? Call it “dog vomit slime mold.”

It looks more or less like you’d expect, at least from a distance.

“It looks a little bit gross to some people. I think it’s pretty cool,” said Angela Mele.

AP Images


Each week on Sound Effect we invite a panel a journalists to talk about local stories they feel didn't get sufficient attention.


Joining host Gabriel Spitzer this week are Sarah Anne Lloyd of SeattlishAnsel Herz of The Stranger and Aaron Burkhalter of Real Change

Lloyd said a Washington State Supreme Court decision about the future of charter schools seems to have gotten lost amid the hubbub of the Seattle schools strike.

AP Images

Each week on Sound Effect we invite a panel a journalists to talk about local stories they feel didn't get sufficient attention.

Joining host Gabriel Spitzer on this week’s show were journalists Nina Shapiro, Mike Lewis and Sarah Stuteville share their take on some of the under-reported stories of the week. 

Jason Brisch / Flickr

The city of Seattle will be back before a judge Tuesday over its minimum wage law, as the professional organization representing franchise businesses appeals an earlier court loss.

Seattle’s law lets small businesses raise their minimum wage more slowly, but it treats most franchises like big businesses: A chain restaurant that is independently owned has to hike its wage just as fast as one owned by corporate.

AP Images

There's always interesting stuff in the news that gets overshadowed by the big stories. On Sound Effect we invite a panel a journalists to talk over their nominees for under-covered story of the week.   

Joining KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer at this week's roundtable are Hannah Brooks Olsen of Seattlish, Josh Feit news editor of Seattle Met magazine and Emily Parkhurst Digital Managing Editor of the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Brieana Ripley, KPLU

Not so long ago, before there were self-driving cars, microprocessors or even abundant electricity, the state-of-the-art technology was clockwork. Through cams and springs and gears, craftspeople were able to create precise tools, rudimentary robots and exquisite pieces of art.

Brittany Nicole Cox is one of a handful of antiquarian horologists trained to preserve and restore those objects. She does that from her Seattle workshop where, in gloves and a white lab coat, Cox gingerly removes a box from one of her vintage hardwood cabinets. It’s her specialty-within-a-specialty: A Victorian-era automaton.

AP Images

There's always interesting stuff in the news that gets overshadowed by the big stories. On Sound Effect we invite a panel a journalists to talk over their nominees for under-covered story of the week. 


New statewide test scores released Monday largely confirm what a sneak peek suggested earlier this summer: Pass rates on the new, tougher assessments have dropped, though by less than many feared. But those results come with an asterisk in one grade.

Washington students outperformed the scores from a national trial run of the Smarter Balanced Assessments last year. That’s in line with preliminary results released in July.

Pamela Wible

Physicians are in the business of saving lives but they have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession.  An estimated 400 doctors a year take their own lives. Pamela Wible is a physician in Eugene, Oregon and she’s devoted a big part of her career to helping doctors cope with thoughts of suicide.

Stem Box

Imagine getting a box containing a ball of bones and fur regurgitated from an owl. That’s just one of the gross things a Seattle researcher plans to send to girls nationwide, as part of a new bid to attract girls into science.

Kina McAllister works as a research technician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and she’s the mind behind Stem Box. The subscription service sends out a kit each month geared toward awakening the scientist in young girls.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

To get a sense of why many in far-flung Seattle neighborhoods were eager to move to district-based representation on City Council, head to 125th and North Aurora and start walking south.

There are auto shops, shabby motels and several marijuana stores. But it's not the type of retail that illustrates the case for district-specific council representation; it's what the walk to the store lacks. The sidewalk often peters out and disappears, leaving pedestrians nose-to-nose with traffic.

“In 1954 it was like this, and in 2015, it’s just dirt. Just a dirt path,” says retired teacher Richard Dyksterhuis.

Austin Jenkins

Washington state regulators are tightening their grip on medical marijuana this week by targeting dubious patient authorizations. But some clinics say the changes, which begin Friday, will put them out of business.

The new Cannabis Patient Protection Act requires any health care provider who authorizes more than 30 medical cannabis patients in a month to report to the Department of Health.