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

The drilling rig Noble Discoverer is shown in Alaska's Dutch Harbor before it went to the Arctic.
KUCB photo

After sinking eight years and more than $8 billion into the effort, Shell Oil is pulling out of the Arctic Ocean, the company says.

The USS Seawolf in Unalaska Bay on Aug. 14, 2015.
KUCB Photo/John Ryan

A U.S. Navy submarine pulled into Unalaska Bay near the town landfill Friday morning. The sub made no contact with the Port of Dutch Harbor, according to Harbor Master John Days.

It did communicate with the Royal Pacific, a boat hauling wastewater from the Unisea fish-processing plant, as they were crossing paths.

Two teenagers in Kivalina, Alaska, play near a skinned polar bear. Scientists predict Kivalina, an Alaskan village, will be the first casualty of climate change and sea rising in the U.S.
Suzanne Tennant

President Barack Obama is coming to Alaska later this month.

The White House released a video Thursday morning to explain why he will be the first sitting president to visit Alaska’s Arctic. 

The folksy video (it starts with the president saying, “Hi, everybody”) features dripping glaciers, raging wildfires and Alaska Natives hanging salmon to dry.

Mihey Basargin of Wasilla on the docks in Dutch Harbor after being rescued.
KUCB Photo/John Ryan

Lt. Commander Kimberly Hess watched the cliff. 

That kept her steady, she said, as she fought a swirling 30-knot tailwind and lowered the Coast Guard chopper to the sea below, where two stranded fishermen had been waiting for eight hours in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. 

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

One day a year, it's a lot easier for homeless people in Snohomish County to get some basic things that you might take for granted. Things like shoes, backpacks or pet care.  

More than a thousand people lined up outside an elementary school in Everett on Thursday to get a little help.

Scientists and crew prepping the Healy for a voyage to the North Pole
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

The Shell Oil rig that left Elliott Bay last week isn't the only big vessel heading to the Arctic from Seattle. A Coast Guard icebreaker heads to Alaska on Wednesday. The Seattle-based ship will help a multinational team of scientists explore pollution at the North Pole.

Climate change has fueled competition at the top of the world, where shipping and resource extraction are becoming feasible for the first time. With a tiny fleet of icebreakers (the Coast Guard has just two in operation), the U.S. lags behind other nations. At last count, Russia has 41 icebreakers.

KUOW's John Ryan reports.

Shell Oil's Polar Pioneer left the Port of Seattle for Alaska on the morning of June 15, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Brian Gregory

Protesters in kayaks dogged Royal Dutch Shell’s huge oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer as it sailed out of Seattle’s Elliott Bay early Monday on a long voyage to the Arctic Ocean.

Dozens used kayaks to form lines in front of the 300-foot-tall rig as it left under heavy Coast Guard escort.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in the KUOW studios.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is on his way to Israel.

He's scheduled to lead a trade delegation of Seattle-area business leaders next week and to speak at a gay and lesbian conference on June 11 in Tel Aviv. 

The Polar Pioneer and hundreds of kayaking protesters on Seattle's Duwamish Waterway on May 16, 2015.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Shell Oil has rejected state officials' position that parking an Arctic oil rig at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5 violates the state constitution.

Shell's Polar Pioneer rig has been at the port since mid-May. Its arrival in environmentally-minded Seattle has sparked protest and government scrutiny at various levels.

U.S. Coast Guard

A new report from The National Transportation Safety Board says poor planning and risk assessment by Shell Oil led to the wreck of the Kulluk oil rig off the coast of Alaska in December 2012.

A panhandler in Auburn, Washington.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Many cities around Washington state make it a crime to do things that everyone does but that homeless people have to do in public – like sitting down, sleeping, going to the bathroom or asking for help.

No city has more laws against these activities than Auburn, a southern suburb of Seattle.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

State officials said Friday that it's unconstitutional for Shell Oil to store its Arctic drilling rig at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Protesters of Arctic drilling have run afoul of the ocean environment in their own small way.

In addition to assembling a flotilla of kayaks on Seattle's Elliott Bay last weekend, the activists brought in a construction barge. It's a solar-powered platform for protests against Shell Oil's plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean. But the protesters anchored their solar barge over one of Seattle's most popular sites for scuba diving. 

Arctic drilling protesters at the Port of Seattle.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Hundreds of protesters blocked entrance gates to Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle for most of the day Monday.

The climate activists intended not just to gain publicity but to stop work on the Polar Pioneer, an Arctic drilling rig that arrived at Terminal 5 on Thursday.

John Ryan / KUOW

Seattle planning officials say the Arctic drill rig at the Port of Seattle has to leave or get a new permit by June 4. 

The city issued a notice of violation to the Port of Seattle, Shell Oil and Foss Maritime on Monday afternoon.

The notice says the port's permit is only good for cargo ships, not oil rigs like the Polar Pioneer.