John Ryan

Reporter

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 KUOW.org.

John welcomes story ideas and feedback from listeners.

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

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SR 99 Tunnel Project
9:44 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Tunnel Tolling: Build It, And They Won't Come?

The Alaskan Way Viaduct section of state Route 99 is being replaced by a tunnel under downtown Seattle and will be partially paid for with toll revenues.
Credit Flickr Photo/camknows (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Anyone who's hosted a party has probably had that panicky feeling beforehand: What if you throw a big party and nobody comes?

State transportation officials face a similar worry: What if after they build a $3.1 billion underground highway to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, not enough people use it?

Build It And They Won't Come?

The state Legislature has decreed that tolls have to pay for $200 million of the state Route 99 tunnel's construction cost.

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Stuck In Place
4:51 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Seattle's Tunnel Machine Chokes On Dirt

Seattle Tunnel Partners workers atop a tank of soil conditioner used by tunnel builders
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

State officials said Friday afternoon that the tunneling machine known as Bertha had to stop, not because it hit foreign objects, but because it clogged with dirt.

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2010 Anacortes Explosion
7:35 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Tesoro Refinery Blast Reflects Industry-Wide Problems

The Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash., with Mount Baker in the background.
Credit Flickr Photo/Scott Butner

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included the Washington Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals’ mistaken assertion that Tesoro’s fines had been reduced to $858,500. The correct figure is $658,500.

Safer practices and better steel could have prevented a deadly explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash., in 2010, according to a new report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.  

The blast killed seven workers.

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Transportation
11:38 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Workers To Descend Into Blocked Bertha In A Pressurized Bubble

A Seattle Tunnel Partners crew works on one of the tanks holding soil conditioner being used to seal an underground air bubble.
Credit KUOW Photo/John Ryan

To get Bertha moving again, state officials announced Wednesday that they are sending in human reinforcements – in a giant, pressurized bubble.

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Workplace Safety
4:26 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Year After Cell Tower Climber Fell, Question Remains: Who To Blame?

Mike Rongey, 32, fell to his death last year because the cell phone tower he was climbing was unsafe.
Credit Courtesy of Jon Rogney

Last January, Mike Rongey, a seasoned climber, was assigned to climb a cell phone tower in Mount Vernon, Wash., to replace electronics that are part of the Clearwire wireless network.

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Labor
5:08 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Highest Minimum Wage In US Takes Effect In SeaTac

Small businesses in SeaTac, Wash., are exempt from a new minimum-wage law but owners say they'll be affected anyway.
KUOW/John Ryan

The nation's highest minimum wage goes into effect Wednesday in the city of SeaTac, Wash. For all the national attention the new $15 an hour minimum has received, it affects a small number of businesses.

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Troubled Waters
8:14 am
Tue December 31, 2013

Shell Still Aims For Arctic Oil Drilling Despite Mishaps

Shell's Kulluk oil rig aground on Alaska's Sitkalidak Island in Jan. 2013.
U.S. Coast Guard

Exactly a year ago, an oil rig being towed to Seattle ran aground on a remote island in the Gulf of Alaska. The New Year's Eve accident capped a year of trouble for Shell Oil in Alaska and in Puget Sound.

Shell is still seeking federal approval to drill in the Arctic, and a critical ship in Shell’s Arctic fleet is still sitting idle on the Bellingham, Wash., waterfront.

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Investigations
3:00 am
Thu December 5, 2013

How A Recalled Medical Device Killed A Vet At Seattle's VA Hospital

A screenshot from an Infusomat training video warns of the danger of a "free flow" of drugs pouring from the machine if loaded improperly.
Credit B. Braun training video on YouTube.com

Editor’s note 2/7/2014: This story has been edited to remove references to VA officials’ incorrect claim that a Seattle VA nurse saw the Infusomat recall at the FDA website in March 2012. While manufacturer B. Braun sent the VA and other customers its recall notice in March, FDA did not post information about the manufacturer’s March 23, 2012, recall letter until August 1. The story has also been edited to attribute to medical records the statement that, the night Eddie Creed died, a doctor asked his sister if she wanted an autopsy to be done. Creed's sister claims the VA never asked her about an autopsy. The content in the edited story differs from the audio in the original broadcast.

When Eddie Creed, a Seattle jazz musician, died at the Veterans Affairs hospital on Beacon Hill last year, his death certificate said throat cancer had killed him.

But a KUOW investigation reveals what his doctors knew: A medical device called an Infusomat, which had been recalled the month before, ended his life. Still, nobody knows why.

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Searching For Answers
8:34 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Veterans Affairs Makes Getting Information Even Harder

The Veterans Affairs hospital in Seattle
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

After Army veteran Eddie Creed died at the Seattle VA hospital in April 2012, his loved ones awaited official word: Why had he received a lethal overdose of morphine in his sleep there? The VA still hasn't released the independent investigation it commissioned concerning his accidental overdose.

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Prison
4:30 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Following Snohomish Jail Deaths, Feds Point To Overcrowding

Flickr Photo/Still Burning

A new federal report says overcrowding and under-staffing puts the health of Snohomish County Jail inmates at risk. The report comes after eight deaths at the Everett, Wash., facility in the past three years.

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Financial fraud
9:41 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Fraud Against Washington Nonprofits Exposed

Source: IRS “990” tax filings compiled by the Washington Post.

White-collar crime often occurs in the very profitable realms of Wall Street and big business. But financial fraud also takes place in the nonprofit world. A Washington Post investigation out this week found more than a thousand nonprofit groups have reported their money going missing in recent years.

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Pensions
11:55 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Mayors Argue To Cut Fossil Fuel Stock, But Skeptic Urges Softer Approach

A historic gas pump in Issaquah, Wash. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn wants his city to divest from fossil energy companies.
John Ryan

Investment advisors from across the country met on Friday in Seattle in hopes of cutting fossil fuels from the stock portfolios they manage.

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Elections 2013
5:39 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Kitsap Senate Race Brings In $2M, Breaks State Record

Republican Jan Angel and Democrat Nathan Schlicher are vying for a state senate seat in a race that has brought in a record $2.1 million.
Credit Photo courtesy of Jan Angel and Nathan Schlicher

A California billionaire has pumped $400,000 into the race for a single seat in the Washington state senate. Out-of-state businesses and political groups have poured tens of thousands into the election as well.

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Shots - Health News
2:25 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

To Reduce Patient Falls, Hospitals Try Alarms, More Nurses

Some patients at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center in Washington are given wristbands showing that they have a high risk of falling.
John Ryan KUOW

Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 3:39 pm

A bad fall in the hospital can turn a short visit into a long stay.

Such falls featured in congressional discussions about patient safety, and in a new study in the Journal of Patient Safety about medical errors. Falls are one part of a multistate clash between nurses and hospitals over how to improve the safety of hospitalized patients.

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Mystery Marine Killer
7:30 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Mass Starfish Die-Off May Be Headed For Washington

Disembodied arms of a diseased sea star near Popham Island, 12 miles northwest of Vancouver, B.C.
Courtesy Vancouver Aquarium

Scientists in two nations are on the lookout for an underwater epidemic that is killing starfish. 

In September, divers in Vancouver Harbour and Howe Sound near Vancouver, British Columbia, noticed the pizza-sized starfish known as sunflower stars wasting away and dying in large numbers.

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