Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Sound Effect Host / 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.”

Ways To Connect

zeraien / Flickr

It’s the stuff of bad movies: a masked man snatches a toddler, tucks him under his arm and runs off. And yet the King County Sheriff’s office says that’s exactly what happened Sunday in White Center.

It was one of four attempted kidnappings reported in the area over just a few days. All the kids were returned safely, and the incidents appear to be unconnected. But the rash of seeming abduction attempts have Seattle-area police and parents on edge. But just how much should people worry? 

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

A Seattle investment group has declared the advent of “Big Marijuana,” but big questions remain about just how their multimillion dollar nationwide pot business would work.

Planetary Resoruces

A company devoted to space exploration is planning to make an orbiting telescope available to students, scientists, and space enthusiasts.

Bellevue-based asteroid mining company Planetary Resources hopes to eventually extract rare minerals from asteroids. But first the company must prospect, which will involve a fleet of space-based telescopes. Now the company has announced it will deploy an extra telescope for public use, paid for by a crowdfunding campaign on the website Kickstarter.

Last fall, sixth-graders in Spanaway, Wash. were forced to confront a tragedy no student should have to go through when their beloved teacher Rob Meline died. To make matters worse, Meline's death was the kind that makes the evening news.

pastorbuhro / Flickr

Summer vacation may be fun, but research shows it wipes out about a month’s worth of learning. This weekend, Seattle schools officials will offer strategies to reduce summer learning loss.

Since kids are understandably wary of anything that makes summer break feel like school, the key is to make it fun, said Seattle Public Schools’ Bernardo Ruiz.

Gabriel Spitzer

Seattle public high schools will be able to opt out of the controversial Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP tests, starting next year.

The policy change comes after teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School staged a boycott of the MAP tests in January, blasting the tests for giving unreliable data and for sucking up classroom resources. A half-dozen more Seattle schools have since signed on, and the protest has drawn national and international attention.  

Curtis Cronn / Flickr

Some freshmen engineering students at Washington’s largest universities will get an extra year to find their footing, thanks to a new “academic redshirting” program.  

The idea of redshirting comes from college sports, and here’s how it works: When Huskies quarterback Keith Price joined up as a freshman in 2009, he didn’t take the field. Instead he got a year of practice and workouts to acclimate before starting his four years of eligibility.

Now the University of Washington, along with Washington State University, want to apply that to academics.

With Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson already celebrating his city’s victory in the bid to keep the Kings in town, Chris Hansen and his Seattle-based investment group upped the ante on Friday.

Hansen said his group has raised the proposed purchase price for the franchise by $75 million, bringing the total to $625 million “in an effort to further demonstrate the extent of our commitment to bring basketball back.” The group also guaranteed to the league that the franchise would be a revenue sharing payer, Hansen said.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Prosecutors have charged five May Day protestors with felonies following last week’s confrontation with police in downtown Seattle.

The standoff between anti-capitalist marchers and Seattle police escalated quickly around dusk on May 1, and before long, bottles and rocks were flying toward police, pepper spray and blast balls toward protesters.

Wikimedia Commons

Last week’s tumultuous May Day protests got many of us wondering: What is May 1 all about, anyway?

It’s been a workers’ holiday in Europe for years, but when did it become a big deal in the U.S.?

SUNY Empire State College history professor Jacob Remes says last week’s hubbub—from the union involvement to the spotlight on immigration, to the anarchist presence and police response—all fit right in to May Day’s radical history.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Seattle police said they’re continuing to investigate crimes committed in the course of an unruly May Day demonstration, but that they’re proud of how officers handled themselves.

Capt. Chris Fowler said Seattle police incorporated some important lessons from last year’s May Day protests. They had much longer to plan this year, even treating a small March 15 protest as a “rehearsal.” 

Justin Steyer

A planned rally and march for workers and immigration reform progressed without interruptions by anarchists Wednesday, easing fears of another violent May Day.

Thousands of people gathered at Judkins Park, behind St. Mary's Church, for the Rally for Workers and Immigrant Rights at 1 p.m. Several unions were present, as were some representatives of the Occupy movement. Many people were displaying the flags of U.S. and Mexico, as well as signs urging comprehensive immigration reform. 

Disclosure: Pacific Lutheran University holds the license for KPLU. KPLU’s programming staffers are the university’s only unionized employees.

Pacific Lutheran University is trying to fend off attempts by members of its faculty to unionize, and the outcome could have national implications.

The push is coming from “contingent faculty,” the non-tenure track professors, lecturers and instructors who teach about a third of PLU’s course credits. Those people get paid significantly less than regular faculty, and their employment status is much shakier.

Tom Harpel / Flickr

The court-appointed watch dog monitoring the Seattle Police Department has completed his first report on the department's progress, and the report paints a picture of a police force moving unevenly toward reform.

Merrick Bobb and his team's job is to make sure police follow the plan to end excessive use of force and racially-biased policing.

David Snyder / NPS

Seattle's elected officials are moving to make sure sprawling marijuana farms don’t take over the city’s industrial areas, though it’s not clear whether growers would want to locate in the city at all.

Just who actually gets licensed to grow marijuana will be up to the state. But Seattle City Council members say any Seattle grower will likely end up in one of the industrial areas along the Duwamish corridor or Interbay.

sameerhalai / Flickr

Seattle’s July Fourth Fireworks show won’t be going dark this year after all. Just a few weeks ago the summer display was scuttled for lack of funding. But now the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce says local companies are stepping up to revive the show, and put it on solid footing for the near future.

Chamber leaders say most of the donors have promised to keep the money coming for three years or more, ending what Chamber president Maud Daudon called “the springtime ritual of guessing whether there will be a fireworks show or not.”

ecastro / Flickr

Seattle Public Schools wants to add a half-hour to the school day for elementary students by as early as the next school year. But the district must first align a number of variables, including funding and union support.

Charles Krupa / Associated Press

Two bombs exploded in the packed streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing three people—including an 8-year-old boy—and injuring more than 140 in a bloody scene of shattered glass and severed limbs that raised alarms that terrorists might have struck again in the U.S.

A White House official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still unfolding said the attack was being treated as an act of terrorism.  

A senior U.S. intelligence official said two other bombs were found near the end of the 26.2-mile course.

President Barack Obama said the U.S. does not yet know "who did this or why" but vowed that whoever is responsible "will feel the full weight of justice." 

"We will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable," he said. 

WBZ-TV reported late Monday that law enforcement officers were searching an apartment in the Boston suburb of Revere. Massachusetts State Police confirmed that a search warrant related to the investigation into the explosions was served Monday night in Revere but provided no further details.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

As spring fever sets in, teachers are struggling to keep their students focused on the classroom. That can be a challenge even on the best of days for kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Their brains work differently from the students most schools were designed for, and nearly a third end up dropping out or delaying graduation.

David Hunter

Our story begins in an ordinary suburban middle school with a group of unsuspecting students, and one smart-alecky question to the teacher: “Mr. Hunter, did you hear about the zombie that attacked some guy the other day?”

Of course, the other students dismiss it, all except for one. He’s intrigued enough to dig a little deeper.

The student and Mr. Hunter begin plotting reported attacks on a map, and trying to discern a pattern in the outbreak’s spread.

“They’re getting closer to us,” the student concludes.

sea turtle / Flickr

Two Seattle-based Head Start providers are losing their funding, as part of a wider crackdown within the federal preschool program.

Other agencies will take over the contracts, so the move won’t reduce the number of early education slots available to low-income kids in Seattle. But to the providers who are being cut off, it’s devastating.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

An elite academic program developed at a Swiss private school is coming to a beleaguered Seattle high school where officials hope it will boost enrollment and attract high-achieving students. Now they face the challenge of making the program serve the whole school instead of just a privileged few.

Associated Press

Did Starbucks’ stance on same-sex marriage hurt its bottom line?

A shareholder claimed as much during the company’s annual meeting last month, prompting a heated exchange with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. The shareholder, citing a boycott by the National Organization for Marriage of the company, hinted that Starbucks’ stock price had suffered. 

how3ird / Flickr

Rainier Beach High School will become the third Seattle school to offer the International Baccalaureate program, district officials announced.

IB was originally developed to educate the children of diplomats in Europe, but is gaining popularity as a way to help turn around struggling urban schools. And Rainier Beach is one of those, with chronic under-enrollment and the lowest test scores of any comprehensive high school in the district.

Casey Madison / Tacoma Public Schools

Middle school football teams hit the gridiron this week in Tacoma for the first time since the Reagan administration. It’s been 26 years since the school district transitioned from a junior high system, and canceled almost all middle school athletics.

Now some creative fundraising has allowed both boys and girls to don pads and helmets, and go knock the stuffing out of each other.

Curtis Cronn / Flickr

Washington ferry officials blame budget cuts and new rules for Monday’s cancelations, but workers say that kind of disruption could be avoided.

It didn't take much: A crew member called in sick around midnight. A captain took a vacation but still wound up on the schedule. Those routine staffing hiccups resulted in four canceled ferry runs Monday, stranding hundreds of passengers. 

King County has reached a preliminary agreement to permanently protect a big chunk of forestland in the Cascade foothills.

The stretch of White River Forest spans 42,962 acres — about the size of Bainbridge Island and “the largest swath of unprotected forestland remaining in King County,” according to King County Executive Dow Constantine.

University of Denver / Flickr

The CEO of Starbucks defended his support of same-sex marriage at the company’s annual meeting in Seattle. Starbucks came out in favor last year of Washington’s referendum legalizing same-sex marriage. Opponents of that measure vowed to make Starbucks pay, and the National Organization for Marriage launched a boycott of Starbucks.

At the company’s annual meeting Wednesday, shareholder Tom Strobhar suggested that the boycott had indeed bled the company of value.

Seattle’s school district has frozen hiring and spending in anticipation of a budget shortfall next year. But since officials say the change won't affect actual classroom resources or essential personnel, you might say the district has put hiring and spending in the fridge.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Should students earning in-demand degree pay more?

That's the idea behind behind differential tuition, which would allow colleges to raise the price of earning expensive, sought-after degrees like engineering and computer science.

Some local students are rallying against the idea and urging their schools not to boost tuition to match their majors' demand. 

But the schools say differential tuition could help offset deep cutbacks in state funding.