Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Assistant News Director

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. 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.”

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Rail Travel
3:57 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Crews Work to Prevent Landslides on Seattle-Everett Rail Corridor

Amtrak Cascades trains were delayed 81 times last winter due to landslides.
Oran Viriyincy Flickr

Rail is an increasingly popular option for commuters between Seattle and Everett. But there’s one big drawback: the tracks are plagued by falling mud, rocks, and plant material. Last winter, slides delayed 81 Amtrak trains, and 206 Sounder commuter trains.

Now heavy equipment is clearing debris from the slopes above the tracks and building walls to catch small stuff that slides. They’re also beefing up safety fences, which act like tripwires on the hillsides that automatically stop trains when there is a slide.

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Mental Health
5:01 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Therapist Uses Extreme Sports To Treat Mental Illness

Mikayla Cheney says the flight in iFly's wind tunnel made her live in the moment.
iFly Seattle

You might think you’d have to be crazy to jump out of an airplane or scale a mountain with no ropes, but new research suggests extreme sports could actually have some therapeutic benefits for people with mental illness.

A Seattle-area therapist is hoping that action sports can help troubled young people find some relief, just as they helped him with his own struggles.

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stolen!
11:29 am
Thu August 15, 2013

‘Books on Bikes’ Seattle Librarian's Bike Stolen

Have you seen this bike?

Jared Mills is a Seattle librarian who pedals some 100 books around town in an aluminum trailer as part of the “Books on Bikes” program.

Except he no longer owns a bike.

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911
4:32 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Metro Bus Driver Shot in Seattle, Suspect Fatally Shot by Police

This photo shows the bus aboard which the first shooting occurred.
Gabriel Spitzer

The man accused of shooting a Metro bus driver on Monday has died, according to police. 

The unidentified man was gunned down by police after he allegedly shot the driver of a Route 27 bus on Third and Seneca shortly before 9 a.m. 

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Books
10:43 am
Sun August 11, 2013

'Books On Bikes' Helps Seattle Librarians Pedal To The Masses

Farmers market visitors browse the offerings of Seattle Public Library's "Books on Bikes" program.
Gabriel Spitzer for NPR

Originally published on Wed August 14, 2013 11:09 am

By the loading dock of Seattle's downtown library, librarian Jared Mills checks his tire pressure, secures his iPads and locks down about 100 books to an aluminum trailer the size of a steamer trunk. The scene is reminiscent of something you'd see in an action movie, when the hero is gearing up for a big fight, but Mills is gearing up for something very different.

"If you're not prepared and don't have a lot of experience hauling a trailer, it can be kind of dangerous," Mills says, especially when you're going downhill. "The trailer can hold up to 500 pounds."

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Regulating Marijuana
5:08 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Washington Pot Czar: Cops Should Crush the Black Market

Elaine Thompson Associated Press

Washington’s marijuana consultant says police should act fast to squash the black market once state-sanctioned stores open. But in Seattle, that could conflict with the will of the voters.

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Youth Suicide
3:47 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Alarming Jump in Youth Suicide Prompts Call to Action

King County saw an unexpected spike in youth suicides last year, prompting a group of experts to push for much wider awareness of how to prevent suicide.

Eleven kids took their own lives in King County last year – almost triple the average year, and the highest total since at least 1999.

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Public Health
5:01 am
Wed July 31, 2013

Washington's Tobacco Quitline Cuts Off the Uninsured

Julio Cortez Associated Press

If you’re trying to quit smoking and you don’t have health insurance, it’s going to be harder to find help as of August 1. The state’s free tobacco quitline will be cutting services to the uninsured, due to budget cuts.

Those without insurance can get a little bullet-point advice from the quit counselor, but after that, they’re on their own. State Health Department spokesman Tim Church said the cutbacks will harm some of the most vulnerable.

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Science
10:10 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

UW Team Hunts Tiny Genetic Flaws Linked to Big Problems

A rendering shows how synthetic DNA bonds with real DNA, revealing the presence of a flaw.
Courtesy of University of Washington / Nature Chemistry

Even the tiniest misprint in a person’s genetic code can cause big health problems, but they can be hard to find. Now members of a team at University of Washington say they’ve designed a better way to track down those mutations.

If you think of DNA as a twisted ladder, each rung is made of two little structures called bases, stuck together. If even one of the billions of these rungs gets copied wrong it can have serious consequences, such as which kind of tuberculosis you get.

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Affordable Care Act
5:00 am
Tue July 30, 2013

Choices for Health Coverage under Obamacare Coming into Focus

Governor Jay Inslee spoke at a recent event promoting the state's new health insurance exchange.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Washington consumers will know later this week what insurance plans they’ll have to choose from on the state’s new health exchange. Insurance companies face a Tuesday deadline to submit plans to the state.

Nine have applied so far to offer products on the Washington Healthplan Finder, the online marketplace where consumers can comparison-shop for coverage. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, requires those exchanges to be open for business by Oct. 1.

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Seattle Mayoral Race 2013
5:00 am
Thu July 25, 2013

A Leading Question: Bruce Harrell and Lessons from Family Politics

Bruce Harrell stands in front of his boyhood home in the Central District.
Hayat Norimine KPLU

Editor's note: KPLU has asked all nine candidates in the Seattle mayoral race to tell us about a time when his or her leadership skills were put to the test. One candidate's answer follows.

Bruce Harrell put his campaign headquarters all of three blocks from the house he grew up in, in the Central District. Striding down 23rd Avenue, it's clear his history here is thick. Over and over he gestures toward a house. That's Mr. Buchanan's house, he says, and Mr. Carter's, Mrs. Young's.  

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Traffic Cameras
5:16 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

Through Fines, School-Zone Speeding Cams Will Fund Safety

Get caught on camera speeding through a school zone, and you may find yourself with a $189 ticket in your mailbox. Those fines add up fast: The city has collected more than $3 million as of last month.

So what happens to all that money? The Seattle City Council voted Monday to direct all of it into a special fund, to pay for safety improvements near schools. That could include sidewalk repairs, better lighting and fixing curbs.

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Education
3:55 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

Experts Tell Seattle School Board to Get its Act Together

Awkward family photo: Seattle's school board is confronting internal divisions.
Seattle Public Scools

A group of local and national experts is calling on the Seattle School Board to get its act together.

Specialists in school district governance say the research is clear: School board dysfunction matters. Seattle Pacific University professor Thomas Alsbury said drama in the board room can poison the whole organization, which affects students.

“When boards and central office leaders are viewed as unstable or chaotic, excellent principals and teachers choose to go elsewhere,” he said.

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Gender wage gap
3:43 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Study: In Seattle, Women Paid More in Lower-Paying Jobs

OzinOH Flickr

Women who work for the city of Seattle earn more money than men in some jobs. The reverse is true for other jobs. The problem is the classes of jobs in which women earn more are lower-paying than the ones in which men earn more, according to a new study conducted by the city's own Personnel Department. 

The study compared the wages of workers by gender in 871 job classes. While there was some inequity between women and men within the same job classes, the larger disparity involved men earning more in higher-paying jobs, according to the report first reported by The Stranger.

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A volcano's scream
12:07 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

This Is What an Erupting Volcano’s Primal Scream Sounds Like

Mt. Redoubt erupted violently in 2009, after letting out a primal "scream."
Max Kaufman Alaska Volcano Observatory/University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute

Most volcanoes rumble before they erupt, but not Alaska's Mount Redoubt, which let out a primal scream before it blew its top in 2009. Preceding the big blow were little earthquakes that began to accelerate, one after another, like a drumbeat building to a climax. Here's a 10-second clip of what the volcano's primal scream sounded like, courtesy of the University of Washington:

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