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

Mars Hill Church Seattle / Flickr

When music writer Kathleen Tarrant moved to Seattle, she noticed a divide between two groups in the Northwest. On the one hand, you had secular alternative kids who grew up rebelling against the church and other establishments, all set to grunge and indie music. On the other hand, there were young Christians who grew up drawn to the same alternative music, but also to religious faith. In the 1990s, these two groups began to commingle with artists like Dave Bazan and Damien Jurado, faithful Christians who also played alternative music.

Andrew Becraft / Flickr

The South has its Civil War battlefields. The Northeast has colonial-era sites. But what do history nerds in the Northwest have? We have Lewis and Clark.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out in 1804 to chart their way across a great divide, the unmapped North American continent.

Nate Stevens

What happens when you confront the gulf between life and death and, somewhat to your surprise, you choose life?

That’s what Nate Stevens faced one day on a stretch of road in Indonesia. Stevens was not the world-traveler type, but the Seattleite made the trip in part to get out of his comfort zone. That included summoning the courage to climb aboard what was the main mode of transportation in the area he was visiting: an electric scooter.

Julie Randolph-Habecker

Julie Randolph-Habecker followed her father's footsteps into the field of science. He was a pathologist, diagnosing patients from behind the microscope. She became a research pathologist, exploring what was behind the disease. However, when her dad fell ill with lung cancer, that meant understanding too much about what was killing him.

Julie remembers looking through a microscope at her father's cancer cells. "Everywhere I looked there were cancer cells. And they all looked bizarre and evil. I knew immediately when I looked at that slide, it was horrible."

pee vee / Flickr

When Jena Lopez’s child started showing signs of having a non-traditional gender identity during the preschool years, she wasn’t sure what to do. Can a 3- or 4-year-old really know that she’s a different gender from her biological sex? And Jena knew the outlook for transgender kids was grim: Research has shown they tend to have high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.

Courtesy Logan Hofkamp

Many teens, if not most, have fantasies of ditching their mom and dad and just parenting themselves.

In fact, there is a legal way to do that. At age 16, Logan Hofkamp became an "emancipated youth," which is, as he puts it, like "divorcing your parents and becoming your own legal guardian."

He tells us why he's glad he did it, but he also reflects what he may have missed out on. 

Courtesy Nick Morrison

KPLU's Nick Morrison has had many jobs, ranging from disc jockey to adult theater manager to music publication entrepreneur. So it might come as no surprise that he also worked in the family business.

Nick's father was in the potato business in Eastern Washington, and after some time in San Francisco, Nick returned home in need of some work.

He and his father had never really taken the time to get to know each other, and Nick, arriving back home with a pony tail and bell bottoms, was probably not going to improve things.

Courtesy of Leila Mirhaydari

Editor's Note: This story originally ran as part of Sound Effect's inaugural episode which aired Jan. 10, 2015.

Tim Bouwer / Flickr

What does it mean to age? When are we over the hill? And what are the side effects of a longer lifespan?

On our most recent episode of Sound Effect on KPLU, we explored the idea of aging with Dr. Dan Gottschling. 

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.

Flikr

Who do we have to thank for countless wasted hours playing Solitaire on the computer over the last twenty-five or so years? Wes Cherry didn't invent solitaire, but he did invent solitaire for the modern age.

In 1988, he was an intern for Microsoft, and on his own time he wrote code that would become Solitaire for Windows.

These days, he runs a cidery on Vashon Island with his wife and his son. Out at his orchard, he talked about his motivation for creating the game, and some of the inside stories as to why it ended up looking the way that it does. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU


Cancer researchers, doctors and survivors gathered Wednesday at hundreds of summits across the country to give guidance to the federal government’s cancer "moonshot.” At the summit in Seattle, hosted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, “Big Data” emerged as a priority.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

 

Editor’s note: KPLU has hired an independent editor to oversee coverage of this story.

The non-profit Friends of 88.5 FM has reached a deal with Pacific Lutheran University to purchase KPLU.

After 50 years of serving Western Washington under PLU, 88.5 is set to become an independent, community-licensed station. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Children who have been victimized often have to tell their stories to strangers – detectives or advocates working on their behalf, as well as attorneys working for their alleged abuser. And giving testimony in a criminal trial is stressful in the best of cases. But imagine that child could reach down and put her hand on a warm, gentle dog at her feet, to feel comforted and secure and, hopefully, composed enough to provide the facts necessary for getting justice. That’s what a foundation in Bellevue is working to provide.

Centrum Foundation

When Stuart Dempster learned about the empty two-million gallon water tank on the Olympic Peninsula, he had one thought: he had to make music there. Dempster is a well-known composer and trombonist, an emeritus professor at the University of Washington with a longstanding interest in recording music out in unusual spaces.

Paebi / Wikimedia Commons

Members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are grieving after learning of the death of tribal chairman Jim Boyd on Tuesday. Boyd was also an award-winning singer and songwriter.

Boyd’s friends have described him as a major figure in northwest Native circles.

I-5 Design and Manufacture / Flickr

Hospitals in Washington are required to serve patients even if they have no way to pay. But a public interest law firm says many duck their obligations by failing to screen patients for eligibility. Now they’re bringing a class-action lawsuit against a hospital in Seattle.

Blue Origin

The Puget Sound region’s burgeoning space sector will be in the spotlight this week as rocket makers, telescope designers and asteroid miners head to Seattle for a major commercial space industry conference.

The NewSpace conference has been held in Silicon Valley for about a decade, but starting this year it will alternate between the Bay Area and Seattle.

ElmerGuevara / Wikimedia Commons

For Claudia Castro Luna, nothing transports her back to her native El Salvador more quickly, and more vividly, than then pupusa. It’s the unofficial national dish of El Salvador, consisting of a think corn tortilla wrapped around a rich filling.

But for Castro Luna, Seattle’s first civic poet, the pupusa contains more than pork, cheese and beans. It contains the history of the country of her birth, and of her journey away from it.

(courtesy Nancy Leson)

Nancy Leson, half of KPLU's  Food for Thought duo, has been in the food industry for a long time. But some of her earliest memories of food come from bars -- not as an employee, but as a patron — a six-year-old patron. 

Leson grew up in Philadelphia, in a time and place where children were allowed to belly up to bars and eat Slim Jims and pickled eggs, or order a Coke with loads of  Maraschino cherries. 

The reason Leson wound up in those bars was that that was where she would find her mother. 

Alexandra Kocik / Northwest News Network

The CEO of Washington’s biggest state-run psychiatric facility will not have to report to jail on Wednesday. The case relates to a man awaiting admission to Western State Hospital.

Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Craig Adams had ordered CEO Cheryl Strange to either admit the man to Western State or surrender herself to authorities. Now the commissioner has agreed to push back his deadline to June 21. The delay comes after the state Attorney General’s office filed a motion on Monday for the commissioner to reconsider.

Ed Ronco / KPLU

Thousands came together in a Seattle park Sunday evening to express sorrow and anguish over the mass shooting in Florida, in which 50 people lost their lives. Clutching signs with messages of grief and lighting rainbow-colored votive candles, people of multiple faiths and backgrounds converged on Cal Anderson Park in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

To some residents in the Seattle neighborhood of Magnolia, things seem to be going downhill. They point to a rise in the number of homeless people living in RVs parked on their streets, and along with it, increases in property crime, blight and disorder. So earlier this year, a group of neighbors pitched in to hire a private security service to patrol the neighborhood.

Courtesy of David Liston

David Liston finds people who don't want to be found. That's part of the job -- Liston is principal at David Liston Investigations, a private investigation firm based in University Heights. But this case was different. Liston was looking for a man believed to be homeless in the Seattle area in order to give him a message: You stand to inherit millions of dollars. 

Warren Langford

The recent public conversations about gender identity and transgender people have tended to focus on bodies: biological sex versus gender identity, the clothes people wear, what bathrooms they use. But one issue that has gotten less attention is the intersection of gender and voice. Even as trans people work to look like the person they are inside, some find that they still sound like someone else.

Alexander Synaptic / Flickr

This week Sound Effect brings us stories of coming out of the darkness.

‘Bathed In Light’

Imagine being in a cramped, sunless space for three whole months and then emerging into the light. That’s exactly what Petty Officer Steve Watkins experiences at the end of a submarine patrol at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. To kick off our show, he tells us about climbing the 20-foot ladder toward the pinprick of light at the top, and bursting out into fresh air. “It’s just the most amazing experiences,” he said, “just to be bathed in light.”

Courtesy of Jason Schmidt

Jason Schmidt was three years old when police barged into his house and arrested his father for selling cocaine. “That was a very confusing evening for me,” said Schmidt, a Seattle author. It turned out to be just one episode in a chaotic childhood, where love and warmth mingled with drugs, violence and crime.

(Credit Gabriel Spitzer)

Kristi Hamilton had hit rock bottom. After the passing of her mother, repossession of her house, and a long stretch of severe drug and alcohol abuse, she found herself homeless. She found herself sleeping anywhere she could — a friend's house, her car, shelters, or behind a grocery store. But between a renewed faith and winning what is the equivalent of a lottery ticket if you are homeless, Hamilton pulled herself out of the darkness, and returned to a life filled with sobriety and a roof over her head.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

The community group hoping to preserve 88.5 FM as an independent radio station has hit its $7 million fundraising goal a month ahead of schedule. KPLU General Manager Joey Cohn announced live on the air Thursday afternoon that nearly 18,000 donors have raised enough money to make a bid for the station.

"It's unprecedented, I mean, we've been saying we have made public radio history, and we really have,” said KPLU General Manager Joey Cohn. “To raise $7 million dollars in four and a half months -- that's never been done."

As Katrina Spade, the founder and executive director of Urban Death Project, watched her children grow rapidly, it sank in that she was aging just as quickly — and death was on the same fast track.

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