John Ryan | KUOW News and Information

John Ryan


Year started with KUOW: 2009

Good thing John was a clumsy traveler.

Otherwise his cheap microcassette recorder wouldn't have fallen out of his pocket in an Indonesian taxi, a generous BBC stringer wouldn't have lent him some professional recording gear, and he wouldn't have gotten the radio bug. But after pointing a mic at rare jungle songbirds and gong–playing grandmothers for his first radio story, there was no turning back.

In the past decade, he's freelanced for shows such as All Things Considered, Living on Earth, Marketplace and The World. He also continued his print career by reporting for newspapers including the Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times and Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce.

In 2009, John moved back to Seattle after two exciting years covering avalanches, political intrigue and just about everything in between for KTOO FM, the NPR station in Alaska's capital city.

John has won national awards for KUOW as a freelancer (check out "As the Sound Churns") and now as a staff reporter, including the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi awards for Public Service in Radio Journalism and for Investigative Reporting. He believes democracy only works when journalism holds the powerful accountable for their words and actions. He says he's happy to have one of the few investigative reporting jobs in public radio and to get to explore new ways of telling investigative stories at

John welcomes story ideas and feedback from listeners. Email him at or call him at 206-543-0637. (Pro Tip: Do not "reach out to" him -- he hates that vague cliche!)

In addition to the recent stories below, John's KUOW stories from September 2012 and before are archived here.

Ways to Connect

Data you can dread--and dance to: the Keeling Curve
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Climate change is a gradual process, driven by invisible pollution. So it can be hard to wrap your brain around.

But atmospheric scientists at the University of Washington have made it possible to listen to the planet changing. 

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

In January, registered voters in Seattle will get something in the mail that no American has gotten before.

They’re called democracy vouchers, and the city will mail $100 worth of them to each Seattle voter.

JZ Knight claims to channel a 35,000-year-old warrior-spirit named Ramtha.
Ramtha's School of Enlightenment

Controversial "spirit channeler"JZ Knight of Yelm has channeled another $54,000 into Washington state politics.

Knight claims to channel a 35,000-year-old warrior-spirit named Ramtha and charges believers up to $5,000 to spend a day with "Ramtha the Enlightened One" at her school in Yelm.

Wikimedia Commons

We don’t know how much Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton raised on her fund-raising visit to Seattle on Friday — her campaign doesn’t have to report its haul to the Federal Election Commission until Oct. 27. (Tickets to see her with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at the 2,807-seat Paramount Theater ranged from $250 to $27,000.)

But we do know that presidential campaigns often use Seattle as a sort of campaign ATM, a reliable place to extract cash from high-end donors.

KUOW / John Ryan photo

Wind and heavy rain could make this weekend tough for Puget Sound dwellers.

The storm could be rough on the sound's underwater residents as well.

Sound Transit's Capitol Hill Station, prior to opening, 25 January 2016.
Flickr Photo/Don Wilson (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Money keeps pouring into the battle over the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, with Mass Transit Now, the campaign working to pass the $54 billion transit package, up to nearly $3 million in contributions.

Basler and Smith campaigns

Democrat Adam Smith of Bellevue is running to keep his seat in Congress, but most of his campaign cash comes not from Washington state but from Washington, D.C., and its suburbs.

Flickr user Nick Ares / Creative Commons

Campaign cash, often in six-figure chunks, is sloshing around the Washington elections as November draws near. 

If the figures reported by the Washington Public Disclosure Commission are any indicator, last week was a big one for the makers of oversized novelty checks. Last week saw 11 checks of $100,000 or more—including two of this year's biggest. 

Washington's voter registration system has been targeted by cyber attackers, state elections officials have told KUOW. Secretary of State Kim Wyman said Friday afternoon the attackers appeared to be the same people who targeted Arizona earlier this year.

KUOW Photo / John Ryan

Forty-four people lost their homes on Tuesday when a Seattle Housing Authority apartment building in West Seattle caught fire. Twenty-eight of them, mostly women and children, have been sleeping in a gymnasium at the Delridge Community Center, and wondering where they'll go next.

Grizz, the author's cat. This photo makes sense if you read the story.
KUOW Photo/Abraham Epton

Elections are big business, with consultants, campaign staffers, advertising firms and TV stations raking in big bucks. 

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Sound Transit's newest light rail station opened Saturday at Angle Lake, just south of Sea-Tac International Airport, to live music, dance troupes and protests.

Kitsap Transit

A Seattle-area transit initiative takes in money from real-estate interests who could profit if the initiative passes. Commuters would face higher taxes, but many could also get to work faster.

No, we’re not talking about the $54 billion proposal to expand Sound Transit service (that campaign has been largely funded by $1.1 million from the construction industry, with the real-estate sector coming in second.) 

Credit: Madrona Venture Group.

How to solve traffic problems on I-5? What about banning humans from driving on it? And replacing them with robots?

Screenshot of Mass Transit Now ad on Facebook

Construction firms and other big businesses have pumped more than $2 million into the campaign to pass a Sound Transit ballot measure this fall.

While Microsoft is the biggest single donor, at $300,000, the construction industry has the most invested in the transit measure passing: $1.1 million and counting.