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

Han Shot First / Flickr

When you think healthy eating for kids, you might not picture a Happy Meal. But local McDonald’s franchises and the Washington PTA are teaming up to encourage kids to make healthy diet choices. That’s touched off controversy among some parents.

dblackadder / Flickr

In just a few days, smoking marijuana won’t be much different from drinking a glass of wine, as far as state law is concerned. But in what may be the place most associated with pot-smoking – the dorm room – it will still be banned.

Same-sex couples can start applying for marriage licenses in Washington at midnight on Thursday, and county officials say they’ll be ready.

The King County auditor’s office will open bright and early: Couples will be able to start queuing up at 10:00 the night before. County Executive Dow Constantine will preside over a special licensing ceremony for a handful of couples right after the stroke of midnight, and the office will keep operating right through 6:30 that night.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Many jobs of the future will be in fields that go by the shorthand “STEM”: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. But these are precisely the subjects where many American students are falling short. Educators are responding by creating STEM-focused schools, and in Seattle officials are breaking ground by pushing that emphasis back into younger classes, all the way to kindergarten.

Principal Shannon McKinney is in charge of figuring out how to build one of the first STEM elementary schools in the Northwest. K-5 STEM at Boren, as it’s awkwardly named, is in West Seattle, but any elementary student in the district can apply for a spot here.

As the school wraps up its first semester, McKinney and her team are still working out what a STEM education for Seattle’s youngest learners should look like.

Courtesy of Seattle Marathon Association

About 15,000 runners and walkers will wind through downtown Seattle on Sunday as part of the Amica Insurance Seattle Marathon, and this year’s event will include a special contingent of runners who had expected to be racing on the other side of the country.

Atomic Taco / Flickr

King County Metro is beefing up its new RapidRide bus lines, hoping to get service up to snuff through downtown Seattle and to prevent some of the early heartburn when they add a whole new line next year.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Now that charter school backers have declared victory, opponents are readying possible legal challenges to the new law established by Initiative 1240.

State superintendent Randy Dorn has been warning for some time that he doesn’t believe the charter school law would be constitutional. Dorn’s office is charged with overseeing public schools in Washington, while the new charter schools would largely skirt his authority.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

As voters in Washington continue to mail in their ballots this week, a group of distinctly smaller citizens is weighing in online. Students across the state are voting in a pair of mock elections, giving democracy a dry run.

At Seattle’s Chief Sealth International High School. politics isn’t exactly front and center for a lot of students. Many do have opinions about the presidential race, or whether to legalize marijuana, but what about these guys Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna?

“No one really talks about that stuff at school,” said ninth-grader Janelle Barlow.

Pedro Fp / Flickr

If Initiative 502 passes, walking around with a bag of marijuana (up to an ounce) will be legal just in time for the holidays … so take note, gift-givers (and be aware those of you who might think the law takes effect right away). 

Even though the elaborate state-regulated apparatus for growing, processing and selling marijuana would take more than a year to come online, simple possession would be legal starting December 6.

cdsessums / Flickr

One item on the November ballot might look familiar to Washington voters, an initiative to allow charter schools. The deja vu could be because charter school measures have already gone before voters three times, most recently in 2004. 

But there’s a key difference this time that could have some far-reaching effects, and that’s what parent Steve Nesich wanted to talk about when he testified before the Seattle School Board about Initiative 1240.

tpmartins / Flickr

An East Coast court case could have big impacts on West Coast fish, and farmers too. Chemical manufacturers are suing the federal government to get a rule restricting pesticide use wiped off the books.

In 2008 the National Marine Fisheries Service ruled a certain class of pesticides is a mortal threat to salmon and steelhead populations. Organophosphates are common on farms, and used to be widely used in gardens before regulators phased them out.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Some prominent education officials, including the top dogs in Seattle and in Washington State, want voters to reject a ballot measure that would allow up to 40 charter schools in Washington. Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn is announcing his opposition to Initiative 1240 Thursday morning, the day after Seattle School Board members voted unanimously to oppose the ballot measure. Seattle Superintendent Jose Banda recently reiterated his personal disapproval of the initiative as well.

Auburn Police Departmemt

Vandals targeted eight schools over two nights this week in Auburn. The spree left some 265 windows shattered at elementary, middle and high schools, as well as the district’s pool and several vehicles.

School staff discovered the first wave of damage Monday morning. Vandals apparently armed with pellet guns had shot out windows at schools and district facilities across town. That night, the vandals appear to have struck again, doing even more damage. Auburn High School principal Richard Zimmerman says more than 50 windows were destroyed at his school.

jdnx / Flickr

A record number of cruise ship passengers shoved off from Port of Seattle this year, according to Port officials. Hitting a new height of 933,900 passengers aboard 202 ships. Each of those ships generates $2.1 million for the local economy, according to the consulting firm Martin Associates, including everything from taxes to tourism to stocking the galley.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

If Washington voters approve a ballot measure this fall legalizing marijuana, it would bring big changes – not just in the justice system, but in our communities. In our series “If It’s Legal: Five Ways Legal Pot Could Affect Your Life,” we consider some ways things could change for all of us, even people who never smoke pot. We begin with a basic question: would legal marijuana lead to more danger on the roads?

U. S. Geological Survey

What would you do if you knew a major earthquake was about to strike in 10 seconds? Some scientists say even a few moments’ warning could save lives, and they’re setting up a system that might soon give Washingtonians time to act before the shaking starts.

Ed Troyer / Pierce Co. Sheriff's Department

GRAHAM, Wash. – Dozens of horses were seized Wednesday from a Pierce County property where authorities said they were living in squalid conditions.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department took 39 sick or starving horses from the property in Graham. Among the horses recovered were a dozen Arabians and some stallions.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle Public Schools will ask voters next year to approve more than a billion dollars in taxpayer funding, and this week the public will have two chances to weigh in on the district's proposal and its priorities.

City of West Hollywood / Flickr

Medical cannabis advocates and some local officials say the federal government should leave marijuana businesses alone, even if they sell near Seattle schools. The advocates decried a recent wave of enforcement, framing it as an assault on patients and law-abiding businesses.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The Washington state auditor has uncovered another batch of questionable spending by Seattle Public Schools in recent years, widening a scandal that cost a former superintendent her job. The new investigation found that former district official Silas Potter, Jr. made even more inflated payments than was previously known, spending millions of taxpayer dollars on work that was never done or grossly overpriced.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

After more than 12 years of waiting, the Seattle neighborhood of Belltown is getting a community center. The Belltown Community Center got underway in 1999, when voters approved a Parks levy to pay for it. After years of setbacks and delays, a dead-end partnership and scarce real estate, the city landed on a rental property. It’s an old auto shop on the corner of 5th Avenue and Bell Street, full of exposed beams, big windows and loft aesthetics.

Jonathan Caves / Flickr

King County needs to hit the reset button on how it deals with the use of force by its sheriff’s deputies, according to an independent report presented to County Council members.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

School districts are often encouraged to make sweeping changes in order to lift up low-achieving schools. Shutting a school down and overhauling it or replacing most of the staff are among the solutions favored by federal officials these days. But one struggling school in Tacoma is taking an opposite approach: they’re doubling down on the teachers they already have.


A civil rights group is calling for the FBI to investigate what they say was a hate crime against nine Seattle-area Muslims.

On Sept. 1, Philip Brown and eight other young Muslim friends set out for a jet skiing trip to Lake Chelan, driving a Toyota Prius and a rented BMW 3 series sedan. After an afternoon in the freezing cold water, they say they returned to the parking area to find the BMW covered in racist slogans.

“Doon coons,” and another anti-Muslim slur that includes the “N-word” were scrawled in permanent marker, along with scratches and vulgar images.

USDAgov / Flickr

The recession has brought a major spike in the number of Washington families who experience hunger, according to data from advocates and federal officials. Hunger has gone up all over the country, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that Washington has fared worse than the country overall.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

As students around Puget Sound begin a new school year, administrators are pushing hard to close disparities in student achievement.

Washington students have made some gains on standardized test scores. Math scores ticked up in nearly every grade tested, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Superintendent Randy Dorn says he’s encouraged by the steady improvement, and credits an intense focus on math and science.

Great Beyond / Flickr

Seattle public libraries are closed this week, in an effort to cope with budget cuts. That inspired some locals to take matters into their own hands, establishing a temporary, outdoor “People’s Library.”

This is the fourth year Seattle libraries have taken a furlough week to save money, stranding would-be readers, internet users and stir-crazy parents. Among the exasperated were University of Washington graduate student Yates Coley and her friends.

MMWR / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Fewer Washington parents are opting their children out of vaccinations, giving the state one of the biggest drops in vaccine exemptions in the country. Two years ago Washington had the highest rate of vaccine exemptions in the nation, with 6.2 percent of kindergartners taking a medical, religious or philosophical pass on getting one or more immunizations.

biologycorner / Flockr

Washington students did a bit better last year on one of the major standardized tests measuring college readiness. Just about one in five Washington seniors takes the ACT – the SAT”s slightly less famous cousin – but that group saw modest gains over the previous four years.  Thirty-eight percent of test-takers met the college readiness standard in all four subjects tested: English, reading, math and science, up from 34 percent year before.