Phyllis Fletcher


Phyllis Fletcher's public radio career began in the swimming pool. It occurred to her there that if she were not submerged in water, she'd be listening to KUOW — as she was the other 23 hours of her day.

Her previous career in software had become a casualty of the Seattle dot–com bust. Her days of complimentary high–end sodas and yoga classes at the office were long gone. As she crossed Queen Anne pool doing the crawl stroke, it came to her: why not try to work at KUOW, where she probably wouldn't need free pop to be happy?

A few months later, she volunteered to help at KUOW's membership drive. She came in every day to answer phones. A KUOW news reporter noticed Phyllis, and did what reporters do: "You've been here every day," she said. "What's your deal?" Phyllis confessed her interest, and the reporter gamely took her on as an intern. From there, Phyllis became a freelance reporter, fill–in newscaster, staff reporter, and, ultimately, an editor for KUOW News.

Phyllis' demographic research and reporting have highlighted school districts hit hardest by the recent recession. Her series on the recession and public education was the culminating project for her master's degree at the University of Washington. Phyllis' original investigation of primary sources has also revealed the true identity of a swing musician who passed for white from her childhood through her death, exposed abuse of a government database of unemployed job seekers, and led to the preservation of student press freedom in Seattle. For these reporting opportunities, Phyllis thanks the members of KUOW.

Phyllis has earned academic credentials in demography, computer programming, and accounting fraud detection. Her skills in those areas help her support her colleagues in their reporting. Phyllis' honors include a national Edward R. Murrow Award, a Gracie Award, a UNITY Award, a first prize in beat reporting from the Education Writers Association, and a fellowship on the national desk at NPR. Phyllis talks about herself in the third person and lists her awards only when directed to do so by her employer.

She grew up in Fremont and is a proud graduate of James A. Garfield High School.


Return To Oso
8:31 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

In Oso, We Pulled Everybody Out Of The Mud

Bob DeYoung drives through the remains of the Oso landslide
KCTS Photo/Stacey Jenkins

Bob DeYoung helped recover bodies of friends and neighbors killed in the Oso slide. His wife Julie took care of people who survived. Today they're figuring out how to take care of their own needs.

Read more
Essay On Parenting
12:09 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

What We’re Really Saying When We Call Kids ‘Smart’

When your kid achieves something this year, don't reflexively say it's because she's smart.
Credit jeweledlion / Flickr

So many first day of school pictures today!

In posting one of them, my friend Gwyn revealed that her smiling daughter had actually been more upset than she appeared in the photo.

Not because school had started, but because she wasn’t in the “smart kids” class with her friends. She knew it was for “smart kids” because those kids had said so. They had heard it from their parents.

These are six-year-olds.

Read more
9:01 am
Tue August 5, 2014

Why Drowning Is A 'Cultural Condition'

Alvin Barnes, a swim teacher at Helene Madison Pool in North Seattle. The question children ask the most when they see him: "Can you swim?" (His answer: "No, but I read a book.")
Credit KUOW Photo/Phyllis Fletcher

Public health researchers have struggled with a leading cause of death in young children: drowning.

Black children face the highest risk – even when they're supervised. The most recent data for Washington state shows black children have more than 3.5 times the drowning risk of children of any other race.

Read more
Industry Regulations
2:50 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Can A 'Bigger Hammer' Stop Oil Refinery Accidents?

Ross Reynolds talks with Dave Fehling, energy and environment reporter for StateImpact Texas, an NPR reporting project, about oil refinery accidents and what happens when they're criminally prosecuted.

2:33 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

How Drones Quietly Mapped Oso Landslide Area

Brittany Duncan of Roboticists Without Borders flies a drone to survey the Oso mudslide on April 23, 2014.
Credit Tamara Palmer

As Washington Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a bill in April that would have regulated drone use statewide, a consortium of disaster recovery specialists quietly negotiated the use of drones to make a 3-D model of the Oso mudslide.

Inslee vetoed the Legislature's bill on April 4 citing privacy and transparency concerns that he said were not adequately addressed, but he said he would still let drones fly in emergencies.

Read more
Field Notes From Oso
7:04 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Landslide Recovery Specialist Hopes To Use Drones In Future Rescue Operations

Volunteer Merry Killinger learns from Stacy Noland how to document rescue and recovery efforts in Oso, Wash.
Courtesy of Stacy Noland

Stacy Noland deployed to Oso, Wash., with the Global Disaster Innovation Group Field Innovation Team three days after the fatal landslide there. Noland has worked in rescue and recovery operations following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the 2011 Joplin tornado, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. His role at the debris pile was to figure out how to make rescue and recovery most efficient. We asked what he has learned so far.

Read more
Community Response
8:33 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Mudslide Rescue Volunteers: ‘We’re Going In Whether You Let Us Or Not’

Bob DeYoung has been volunteering in the search efforts at the Oso mudslide. The three people he has found are people he knows, including a child. His wife Julie DeYoung has been cooking at the Darrington community center.
Credit KUOW Photo/Phyllis Fletcher

Bob DeYoung came to a prayer vigil in Darrington wearing thick suspenders that held up jeans covered in mud.

“Sticks to everything,” he explained.

You could see he had been working hard. He had been out all day at the recovery site of the Oso mudslide, a square mile of devastated terrain 50 feet deep.

Read more
Oso Mudflow
3:37 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

'Grateful That I Have My Life:' Resident Recounts Near-Miss On SR 530

Darrington resident Mathalie Meracle spoke to KUOW's Phyllis Fletcher at the Darrington Library on Monday.
Credit Phyllis Fletcher / KUOW

Darrington resident Mathalie Meracle believes she was the last person to drive through state Highway 530 before it was buried in mud and debris. KUOW's Phyllis Fletcher spoke with Meracle at the Darrington Library on Monday.

Oso Landslide
10:21 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Mudslide Witness: There Were 'Belongings All Over The Road'

A house is seen destroyed in the mud on state Route 530 next to mile marker 37 on Sunday, March 23, 2014, the day after a giant landslide occurred near Oso, Washington.
Credit AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Lindsey Wasson, Pool

Search and rescue crews enter their third day after the 1-square-mile mudslide wiped out dozens of homes in Oso — a town of about 200 people between Arlington and Darrington in Snohomish County.

As of Monday morning, officials said they have recovered eight bodies and will continue to search for dozens of people still missing.

Read more
Crime & Courts
10:13 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Investigated For Tampering, Rape Suspect’s Wife Hired As Magistrate

Seattle Municipal Court, where Jennifer Grant, the wife of an accused rapist, works as a magistrate. Grant had been investigated for tampering with her husband's investigation.
Credit City of Seattle Photo

A recently released report commissioned by the Seattle City Attorney’s office has found that one of its supervising prosecutors may have violated criminal law and professional rules for attorneys.

Three months after resigning, that prosecutor, Jennifer Grant, got a temporary job with Seattle Municipal Court as a magistrate.

Read more
International District
9:38 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Fire Burns Historic Seattle Building Where Wah Mee Massacre Took Place

A Seattle Fire truck retracts a ladder from the Hudson Building in the International District where a fire burned the upper floors of a century-old brick building.
Credit KUOW Photo/Phyllis Fletcher

Djin Kwie Liem estimates he lost 20,000 fish.

“Goldfish, koi, tropical fish,” he specified.

Read more
10:00 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Socialist Kshama Sawant Leads Conlin By 1,148 Votes

Seattle city councilmember Richard Conlin, left, is now losing to Kshama Sawant, right.
Credit KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang

UPDATE 11/14/13, 5 p.m. PT: 

Kshama Sawant remains ahead of Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin by 1,148. On Wednesday, Sawant was ahead by 402 votes. If she maintains this lead, the race will not be eligible for a recount, although Conlin could contest the vote count and pay for a recount.  

Read more
High-Tech Turnover
11:50 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Announces Retirement

Retiring Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

One year: That’s how long that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has before he retires as the head of the company. In a news release today, Microsoft announced that the chief executive officer will stay until the company has chosen his successor.

Read more
Juror Discrimination
2:41 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

State Supreme Court Blasts Racism In Jury Selection

Washington state capitol in Olympia.

The Supreme Court of Washington blasted a common trial court practice Thursday that results in black defendants being sent to prison by all-white juries.

The court says racial discrimination in jury selection is rampant.

Read more
Bridge Collapse
6:44 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Alternate Routes Around I-5 Skagit River Bridge

The primary detour around the closed section of I-5 crosses the Skagit River via Riverside Drive. The primary northbound route detours from I-5 at exit 227.
Credit WSDOT

WSDOT is asking drivers to allow ample time for travel through the I-5 Skagit River area. Both directions of I-5 are detoured in Skagit County.

Read more