Tovia Smith

Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR News National Desk correspondent based in Boston.

For the last 25 years, Smith has been covering news around New England and beyond. She's reported extensively on the debate over gay marriage in Massachusetts and the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church, including breaking the news of the Pope's secret meeting with survivors.

Smith has traveled to New Hampshire to report on seven consecutive Primary elections, to the Gulf Coast after the BP oil spill, and to Ground Zero in New York City after the September 11, 2001 attacks. She covered landmark court cases — from the trials of British au pair Louise Woodward, and abortion clinic gunman John Salvi, to the proceedings against shoe bomber Richard Reid.

Through the years, Smith has brought to air the distinct voices of Boston area residents, whether reacting to the capture of reputed Mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger, or mourning the death of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.

In all of her reporting, Smith aims to tell personal stories that evoke the emotion and issues of the day. She has filed countless stories on legal, social, and political controversies from the biggies like abortion to smaller-scale disputes over whether to require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms.

With reporting that always push past the polemics, Smith advances the debate with more thoughtful, and thought-provoking, nuanced arguments from both –or all— sides. She has produced award-winning broadcasts on everything from race relations in Boston, adoption and juvenile crime, and has filed several documentary-length reports, including an award-winning half-hour special on modern-day orphanages.

Smith took a leave of absence from NPR in 1998, to launch Here and Now, a daily news magazine produced by NPR Member Station WBUR in Boston. As co-host of the program, she conducted live daily interviews on issues ranging from the impeachment of President Bill Clinton to allegations of sexual abuse in Massachusetts prisons, as well as regular features on cooking and movies.

In 1996, Smith worked as a radio consultant and journalism instructor in Africa. She spent several months teaching and reporting in Ethiopia, Guinea, and Tunisia. Smith filed her first on-air stories as a reporter for local affiliate WBUR in Boston in 1987.

Throughout her career, Smith has won more than two dozen national journalism awards including the Casey Medal, the Unity Award, a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award Honorable Mention, Ohio State Award, Radio and Television News Directors Association Award, and numerous honors from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Radio News Directors Association, and the Associated Press.

She is a graduate of Tufts University, with a degree in international relations.

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Law
2:11 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Victims' Relatives To Face Whitey Bulger At Sentencing Hearing

James "Whitey" Bulger was captured in June 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 7:59 am

It's the moment many victims of former Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger have been waiting decades for: In federal court in Boston, relatives of those killed by Bulger will face the former gangster and describe their pain.

Bulger was convicted in August of taking part in 11 murders while running a massive criminal enterprise for decades. There is little suspense around Bulger's sentencing — even the minimum would be enough to send the 84-year-old away for the rest of his life.

To many victims, Wednesday's sentencing hearing is less about Bulger than it is about them.

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Around the Nation
2:59 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Putting Good Deeds In Headlines May Not Be So Good

Glen James holds a special citation while facing reporters with Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis during a news conference at police headquarters on Sept. 16.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 4:19 pm

An online collection has raised more than $145,000 for a man who stumbled onto a pile of money and turned it over to police.

Glen James' story of a good deed is just one of many making headlines. It may not be exactly brand new, but public interest does seem to be piqued these days by ordinary folks making what are seen as extraordinary ethical decisions.

Some, however, question if airing this kind of "good" news is actually good.

A Series Of Good Deeds

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Shots - Health News
2:07 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Boston Hospitals Share Lessons From Marathon Bombing

A Boston police officer wheels an injured boy down Boylston Street as medical workers carry an injured runner after the Boston Marathon bombing in April.
Charles Krupa AP

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 7:10 am

Boston hospitals say that overall they did well in their response to the bombings because, as crazy as it sounds, they got lucky on April 15.

Dr. Richard Wolfe, chief of emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says hospitals were fortunate with both the location and timing of the bombs that stunned the city.

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Education
1:27 am
Wed September 18, 2013

Should It Take 2 Or 3 Years To Earn A Law Degree?

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 1:49 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Law students are looking for some changes to their education. The American Bar Association plans to issue a report in the next few weeks, recommending a major overhaul of how law schools operate. And students are hoping that a recent comment from President Obama, will boost one reform in particular: cutting law schools down to two years, from three.

NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

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NPR Story
1:13 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

'Whitey' Bulger Won't Testify, But He Didn't Finish Quietly

Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 2:19 pm

In Boston Friday, former mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger said he would not take the stand in his criminal trial and that his defense would rest. But before that happened, he railed at the judge and his defense team.

U.S.
1:09 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

Boston Marathon Victims Push Back On Fund Protocol

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 4:11 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Three months after the Boston Marathon bombing, money continues to roll into The One Fund, that's the charity set up for victims of the attack. More than 200 claims have already been paid out, but some victims are questioning the methods used to divvy up the funds. And as NPR's Tovia Smith reports, they're asking the state attorney general to intervene.

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Law
2:58 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Tsarnaev Pleads Not Guilty To Boston Marathon Bombing

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 1:52 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made a brief appearance in federal court yesterday. He pleaded not guilty to 30 counts in connection with the attack. The charges include using a weapon of mass destruction in an attack that killed three people and injured more than 260. The 19-year-old faces the possibility of the death penalty. NPR's Tovia Smith was in the courtroom.

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Around the Nation
7:03 am
Thu July 4, 2013

Stars, Spangles And Lots Of Security At Boston's July 4 Events

Mary Ann Rollings (from left), Gloria Kelley and Linda Lee Stacy were bursting in red, white and blue as they turned out to hear their beloved Boston Pops.
Courtesy of Sammy Stalcup

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 10:43 am

The Fourth of July show will go on as usual tonight in Boston. For the 40th year in a row, the Boston Pops will perform along the banks of the Charles River as fireworks burst overhead.

But the scene and the mood will be different, with heavy security measures in the wake of the recent Boston Marathon bombings. It's in the back of many people's minds that the July 4 celebration was apparently the original target until, police say, the bombers decided to attack the race instead.

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Politics
4:09 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Another Republican Hopes For Upset In Mass. Senate Race

Republican Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez (left) shakes hands with Democrat Ed Markey before a June 5 debate in Brighton, Mass.
Yoon S. Byun AP

Both candidates for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts are finishing a frantic day of campaigning ahead of Tuesday's special election to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Veteran Democratic Rep. Ed Markey is running against Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez. But they are struggling to get voters to the polls in a summer election that has yet to capture much attention.

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Around the Nation
3:04 am
Wed May 15, 2013

1 Month Since The Bombings, Signs Of Progress In Boston

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 4:25 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It has been one month since two bombs rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people. Families of those killed continue to mourn their loved ones; and dozens of the more than 260 people injured continue their rehabilitation, many of them amputees who are now relearning to walk.

Meantime in Boston, all but one business has reopened. But as NPR's Tovia Smith reports, the city continues a slow and painful recovery.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAFFIC)

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It's All Politics
1:06 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Markey, Gomez Vie For John Kerry's Senate Seat

Republican Senate hopeful Gabriel Gomez celebrates with supporters as he makes his way to the stage to deliver a victory speech Tuesday in Cohasset, Mass.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Wed May 1, 2013 7:51 am

Veteran Democratic Rep. Ed Markey, who has been in office for 36 years, and novice Republican Gabriel Gomez will face off in the race to become the next U.S. senator from Massachusetts. They won their party primaries Tuesday in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Officials say voter turnout was light. The race for the open Senate seat has been overshadowed by the deadly Boston Marathon bombings.

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Around the Nation
2:29 am
Tue April 16, 2013

Deadly Blasts Punctuate Boston Marathon's Finish Line

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 11:03 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

The lead agency in yesterday's Boston Marathon explosions is the FBI. Federal investigators say this morning they are doing all they can to get answers, but there is still much they do not know.

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Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
3:20 pm
Fri March 22, 2013

As Support For Gay Marriage Grows, An Opponent Looks Ahead

Maggie Gallagher has been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage for the past decade. She debated the issue at Saddleback College this month with John Corvino (right), a gay-marriage proponent who is also a personal friend.
The Lariat Robert Cody Shoemake

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 4:17 pm

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on gay marriage, Maggie Gallagher, one of the nation's leading voices in opposition to same-sex marriage, is also preparing for what might come next.

Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, likes to call herself an "accidental activist." After graduating from Yale in 1982, she thought she'd become a writer and focus on what she called "important things," like money and war. She never fathomed she'd end up on TV almost daily, smack in the middle of the war zone over gay marriage.

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U.S.
6:34 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Crime Lab Scandal Leaves Mass. Legal System In Turmoil

Annie Dookan, a former Massachusetts crime lab chemist, is accused of falsifying evidence in as many as 34,000 cases. The state's criminal justice system is now reeling as former defendants are challenging their convictions and hundreds have already been released.
Jessica Rinaldi Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 6:26 am

A scandal in a Massachusetts crime lab continues to reverberate throughout the state's legal system. Several months ago, Annie Dookhan, a former chemist in a state crime lab, told police that she messed up big time. Dookhan now stands accused of falsifying test results in as many as 34,000 cases.

As a result, lawyers, prosecutors and judges used to operating in a world of "beyond a reasonable doubt" now have nothing but doubt.

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Shots - Health News
2:47 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Colleges Try To Curtail Flu Risk For Students

Dr. Tom Nary is the director of health services at Boston College.
Tovia Smith/NPR

Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 4:54 pm

As college students return to class from winter break this week, campuses around the nation are bracing for the possibility of a flu outbreak.

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It's All Politics
2:11 am
Sun December 30, 2012

Massachusetts Freshman Brings Kennedys Back To Capitol Hill

Joseph Kennedy III, son of former Rep. Joseph Kennedy II and grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy, delivers his victory speech on Nov. 6 in Newton, Mass.
Bizuayehu Tesfaye AP

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 1:39 pm

Last year marked the first time in more than six decades that there was no Kennedy in elected office in the nation's capital.

But that gap ends this week with the inauguration of Rep.-elect Joseph Kennedy III of Massachusetts. The son of former Rep. Joe Kennedy and the grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy was elected by a 2-1 margin in his first run for office.

There's little denying that Kennedy's election was about more than just him.

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Education
1:25 pm
Tue November 27, 2012

As Colleges Retool Aid, Can Entry Stay Need-Blind?

Cornell University just converted some of its grants into loans.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 2:23 pm

With money coming in more slowly than the financial aid given out, schools say they are nearing the breaking point, and even the most selective elite universities are rethinking their generosity.

"It just became clear that if we continue to give more and more aid, the numbers don't add up," says Raynard Kington, head of Grinnell College. Thanks to longtime former board member Warren Buffett, Grinnell has an endowment bigger than most schools dream of. For years, that's enabled Grinnell to admit students on a need-blind basis — and then give them as much aid as they need.

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Education
1:37 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

Teacher Evaluation Dispute Echoes Beyond Chicago

One of the primary disputes in the Chicago Public Schools teachers' strike is over Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposal to link teacher pay to student performance.
Robert Ray AP

Originally published on Thu September 13, 2012 8:19 pm

One of the primary issues at the heart of the the Chicago teachers' strike is whether student test scores should be used to evaluate teachers and determine their pay. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing that approach, as are other officials around the nation.

But many teachers insist that it's inherently unfair to grade their teaching based on their students' learning.

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Around the Nation
2:18 am
Tue September 11, 2012

In Chicago, Perfect Storm Led To Teachers Strike

Striking Chicago Public School teacher Lanessa Mendoza pickets with fellow teachers Monday as Mayor Rahm Emanuel visits students staying at Maranatha Church in Chicago during the strike.
M. Spencer Green AP

Originally published on Tue September 11, 2012 6:57 am

It was a major accomplishment in Chicago that teachers who used to walk out frequently had, for the past 25 years, managed to avoid a strike. But it's not surprising, many experts say, that things would fall apart now.

"I think it is a perfect storm," says Tim Knowles, head of the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute. He says issues in Chicago — of tying teacher pay to student test scores, job security, longer school days and expanding charter schools, for example — are not unlike issues unions have grappled with in other cities, from New York to Los Angeles.

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Presidential Race
12:38 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Ann Romney Adds Fire, Faith To Husband's Campaign

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, greet supporters during an Illinois primary victory party in March.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 5:52 pm

If you want to see how much Mitt and Ann Romney consider themselves a team, check out his official portrait at the Massachusetts Statehouse. He's the first governor to request that an image of his wife be included in the painting — he's posed beside a framed picture of her.

By all accounts, the Romneys consult each other on everything. So after a bruising campaign in 2008 that left Mrs. Romney openly disgusted by the process and vowing she would never do it again, it looked like that might be it for Mitt.

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