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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Around the Nation
5:03 am
Thu July 4, 2013

After Marathon Bomings, Boston Police Watch July 4 Concert

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 6:59 am

This is the 40th year the Boston Pops will perform along the Charles River with fireworks bursting overhead. But the scene will be different this year following the Boston Marathon bombing in April. Police say there is no specific threat to the celebration but security must be tightened.

Law
5:21 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Lack Of Video Kills Media Buzz At Whitey Bulger Trial

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 9:22 pm

It's emotional, high-stakes and dramatic. But the trial of reputed mobster James Whitey Bulger now ongoing in federal court in Boston, is not being recorded or televised, so the drama is harder to come by for anyone not inside the courtroom.

Politics
7:09 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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Law
5:33 am
Wed June 5, 2013

Jury Selection Begins In Boston Crime Boss Trial

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 9:20 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

He was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list for more than a decade before Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger was captured two years ago. He was found living with his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, in a rented apartment in Santa Monica, Calif.; discovered with the help of this nationwide TV ad.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV AD)

Read more
Politics
5:34 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Political Attacks Ramp Up In U.S. Senate Race In Mass.

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 8:01 am

In Massachusetts, what's been a relatively lackluster campaign to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry is heating up. Veteran Democratic Rep. Ed Markey is running against Republican Gabriel Gomez, a businessman and former Navy SEAL. Gomez is a political newcomer.

Around the Nation
6:04 am
Wed May 15, 2013

1 Month Since The Bombings, Signs Of Progress In Boston

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 7:25 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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Around the Nation
5:11 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Boston Bombing Victims To Receive Fund Money

Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 11:04 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

By the end of next month, nearly $30 million in private contributions may be handed out to hundreds of victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. The administrator of the fund outlined plans last night for who might be eligible and how the money will be divided. But survivors and their families are questioning how a dollar value can be given to their injuries and losses.

NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

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It's All Politics
4:06 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 10:51 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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NPR Story
6:03 am
Wed April 24, 2013

Boston Business Owners Allowed To Return To Bombing Site

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 7:19 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The massive swath of Boston that has been closed for more than a week is getting closer to reopening. City officials yesterday brought victims of the marathon bombings and their relatives in for a private visit and allowed neighborhood residents back home for the first time in over a week. Businesses also began the process of cleaning up and preparing to reopen.

The hardest-hit shops and restaurants remain boarded up. As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, others are hoping to reopen today or tomorrow.

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Explosions At Boston Marathon
5:39 am
Tue April 23, 2013

Public Defender Assigned To Represent Bombing Suspect

The suspect in the the marathon bombings in Boston, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wakes up Tuesday morning in the custody of Federal Marshals — his prosecution officially under way. Federal prosecutors are charging him with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Law
6:00 am
Mon April 22, 2013

Should Marathon Bomber Be Treated As An Enemy Combatant

Originally published on Mon April 22, 2013 10:18 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

On a Monday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Once again, after a terror attack, Americans face a debate over how to treat a suspect. The question has come up again and again since the 9/11 attacks.

GREENE: In the years before those attacks in 2001, accused terrorists were generally treated as criminal defendants. Since those attacks, some officials and advocates have pressed to classify many suspects differently.

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Around the Nation
5:29 am
Tue April 16, 2013

Deadly Blasts Punctuate Boston Marathon's Finish Line

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 2:03 pm

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
6:20 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 7:17 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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Around the Nation
5:26 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 9:26 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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Religion
5:19 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

As Pope Resigns, Clergy Abuse Survivors Remember 2008 Meeting

Bernie McDaid keeps a framed photo of his meeting with Pope Benedict by his front door. "It was a tough moment," McDaid says.
Tovia Smith NPR

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 6:09 pm

Among those watching the papal transition closely are survivors of clergy sexual abuse, including a handful who were selected to meet with Pope Benedict XVI five years ago as the crisis raged.

The group left the meeting hopeful that that Benedict would make significant changes in how the church handled both past and current cases. Among those at the meeting were Olan Horne and Bernie McDaid.

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Around the Nation
5:26 am
Mon February 11, 2013

Mother Nature Unleashes Dangerous Storms

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 11:41 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Monday, it's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Several parts of the country spent time fending off the weather this past weekend. Mississippi residents lived through moments of terror last night. A tornado struck Hattiesburg, home to the University of Southern Mississippi, where Leslie Nash(ph) is a student.

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Politics
5:48 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Kerry's Temporary Senate Replacement Doesn't Plan To Run For The Seat

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 6:18 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Today, many in Massachusetts are asking themselves who is Mo Cowan? That's because he'll soon be the state's newest senator. William Mo Cowan is former chief of staff to Massachusetts Governor Deval, who chose him to take the seat being vacated by Senator John Kerry, the incoming secretary of State.

As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, Cowan will serve on an interim basis until a special election in June.

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Politics
5:27 am
Wed January 30, 2013

Special Election To Fill Kerry's Mass. Senate Seat

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 10:44 am

With John Kerry stepping down from the seat he held for 28 years to become secretary of state, rumors are swirling about who his short-term replacement will be — and who will run in the special election in six months. Gov. Deval Patrick is appointing the replacement Wednesday.

Shots - Health News
5:47 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 7:54 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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Law
6:31 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

'Whitey' Bulger's Lawyers Want Judge Off The Case

In this courtroom sketch, James "Whitey" Bulger and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, are arraigned in a federal courtroom in Los Angeles in 2011.
Bill Robles AP

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 11:07 pm

It's unusual for a federal appeals court to force a judge off a case, but the trial for alleged gangster James "Whitey" Bulger is nothing if not unusual.

Bulger is expected in court this June to face charges in 19 murders committed in the '70s and '80s, but his lawyer argued Tuesday that the judge on the case could not be impartial. Now the federal appeals court in Boston will decide whether the trial will continue with the judge, who used to be a top federal prosecutor.

Oversight And Infamy

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Religion
4:56 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

Clergy Called On To Help With Healing In Newtown

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 3:16 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. In Newtown, Connecticut, religious leaders gathered this afternoon to share strategy on how best to help their hurting community. As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, the town's clergy are being tested in unprecedented ways, following Friday's devastating attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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Around the Nation
5:09 pm
Mon December 17, 2012

First Of Shooting Victims Buried In Newtown, Conn.

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 7:19 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The painful process of burying the victims of Friday's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, began today with the funeral of the youngest victim. Noah Pozner leaves behind a 6-year-old twin sister, as well as his mother, father and three other siblings. He was remembered at a service in nearby Fairfield, and NPR's Tovia Smith was there.

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Education
4:28 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Day To Get Longer At Some Low-Performing Schools

Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 6:08 pm

Around 20,000 kids will be spending more time in school next year. A public-private partnership was announced on Monday to fund longer school days at some low-performing schools in five states.

Education
4:25 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 5:23 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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Politics
5:27 am
Thu November 15, 2012

Republicans: How To Attract The Next Generation?

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's Tovia Smith has more on young voters.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: One commentator called it the demographic cliff. With young voters trending blue, and more and more of them coming of age each election, it doesn't bode well for the GOP.

MEGAN HIGGINBOTHAM: What do y'all feel?

SMITH: Twenty-three-year-old Megan Higginbotham sat in a local restaurant in Georgetown, Texas, this week, commiserating with other members of her Young Republicans Club - like 25-year-old Kristen Smith.

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Around the Nation
5:03 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Maine, Maryland Voters Approve Same-Sex Marriage

Originally published on Wed November 7, 2012 5:50 pm

The number of states where gay marriage is legal will grow by at least two. On Tuesday, Maine and Maryland became the first states to approve same sex marriage by popular referendum. It brings the number of states where such unions are allowed to eight. In the state of Washington, the vote on a similar measure is still too close to call. In Minnesota, voters turned down an amendment to the state constitution that would have banned gay marriage.

Around the Nation
4:40 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Boy Scouts Forced To Show Sex Abuse Allegations

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 8:01 pm

Records of Boy Scout leaders accused of child molestation between the mid-1960s and the 1980s were made public today. The Oregon Supreme court ordered the release of the so-called "perversion files" over the objections of the Boy Scouts of America, who wanted them to remain confidential.

Business
4:47 am
Wed October 17, 2012

Bankruptcy Adds To Criticism Of Obama's Green Policies

Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 8:31 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with echoes of Solyndra.

A Massachusetts manufacturer of electric car batteries has filed for bankruptcy. The company, A123 Systems, had received hundreds of million dollars in federal support, including a $250 million grant.

As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, its failure is reigniting criticism of President Obama's green energy policies.

Read more
Law
5:40 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Crime Lab Scandal Rocks Massachusetts

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 9:57 pm

Massachusetts is reeling from a massive scandal in its state crime lab. Details are still emerging about what officials call a "rogue chemist" who may have mishandled evidence in as many as 40,000 cases over 10 years.

It could mean the unraveling of countless convictions.

Even lawyers prone to hyperbole may not be overstating it when they call the scandal a catastrophic failure and unmitigated disaster.

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Education
4:37 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 11:19 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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