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.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says he's still hopeful for a deal allowing a gay group to march in South Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade. Organizers say talks to include gay groups for the first time in two decades have fallen apart. Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, is still trying to bring the sides together.

NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Gay rights activists called it historic that they were even talking to parade organizers. But now, chances for a deal are slipping.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is due to announce this week whether he'll seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving brother accused in the Boston Marathon bombing. The 20-year-old defendant is accused of killing four and injuring hundreds in the attack and the manhunt that followed.

Ever since she was convicted of a brutal murder in 1992, Michelle Kosilek has known that she'd be stuck in prison for the rest of her life.

That she can live with. The harder part was feeling she was stuck for life in the wrong body, says her attorney, Joseph Sulman.

"It's horrible," Sulman says. "I don't like to use the word 'torture,' but it's, you know, emotional claustrophobia and ... constant anxiety."

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And this latest winter storm and those freezing temperatures are putting a strain on already low supplies of propane in the Northeast and Midwest. Millions of Americans use the liquefied gas to heat their homes. And as NPR's Tovia Smith reports, they're paying more and getting less this winter season, which started early, thanks to the extreme cold of the polar vortex.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Lawmakers are promising new efforts to restore jobless benefits for long-term unemployed, but it may take a while - 1.4 million people who've been out of work long term saw their benefits disappear three weeks ago. Congress failed to agree on funding to renew them. NPR's Tovia Smith visited with a few people who are without work in Boston.

Ross Miner is among those competing for a spot on the U.S. Men's figure skating team Friday night in Boston. He is a hometown favorite who is bringing some local flavor to his performance — he's going to tell the story of last year's Boston Marathon bombing.

As much as Dec. 14 will forever be a day of unfathomable grief for Nelba Márquez-Greene, Dec. 13 will be one of unending gratitude.

"I will never forget that day," she says.

On that day, Márquez-Greene stopped the usual frantic drill: rushing to activities and errands, worrying about the dishes and laundry, even cleaning up the mess on the floor.

The shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December has left families of the 26 victims, most of them children, struggling to heal in different ways.

Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel are one such family. They lost their only child, 6-year-old Avielle, in the shooting. In the year since, they've responded as any parents would: Asking why such a tragedy could have happened.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Victims wept in court today as a federal judge sentenced Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger to two life terms in prison, plus five years, ensuring that the now 84-year-old will never walk free. Bulger was convicted in August of running a massive racketeering operation that spanned decades and included extortion, drug running and at least 11 murders. NPR's Tovia Smith was in court and joins us now. Hi, Tovia.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The sentencing hearing of convicted mobster James Whitey Bulger began in federal court in Boston today. Bulger was convicted in August of taking part in 11 murders while running a massive criminal enterprise going back to the 1970s. Sentencing takes place tomorrow, but no matter what jail time he gets, it's pretty clear that the 84-year-old Bulger will spend the rest of his life in prison.

As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, it is an anti-climactic end to a long, expensive trial that has left many frustrated by what it didn't accomplish.

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.

Boston fans celebrated the World Series win Thursday by the Red Sox over the St. Louis Cardinals. The victory is the first series win for Boston at home in Fenway in 95 years.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Federal employees are making their way through a backlog of emails, voicemails and work now that the government has reopened.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Immigration services are verifying the status of workers.

MONTAGNE: Fishing inspectors are getting the crab season started.

GREENE: And, Renee, here in Washington, the National Zoo's Panda Cam is showing more adorable private moments between mama and cub.

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

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.

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.

A recent string of deaths in the Northeast from a drug known as Molly has authorities looking into whether a bad batch may be to blame.

Police believe the purified form of the drug known as Ecstasy is what killed four young people in just over a week, and sent many more to emergency rooms. Incidents involving the drug have stretched from Boston to New York and Washington, D.C.

Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys gave their closing arguments on Monday. One side calling Bulger vicious and violent — the other calling the government systematically corrupt. The former south Boston mob boss is accused of a rash of crimes including 19 murders.

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.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For the first time, a state has been forced by a federal court to recognize a gay marriage from another state. The ruling comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, and as NPR's Tovia Smith reports, that's opened up a new front in the fight for gay marriage.

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.

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.

Suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev was arraigned on Wednesday. Tsarnaev has been indicted on more than 30 charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction in the attack, which killed three people and injured more than 260. He is also charged with the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier. Wednesday's court proceeding were Tsarnaev's first public appearance since he was captured four days after the bombings.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

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)

Pages