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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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.

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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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Around the Nation
5:18 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 9:57 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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Law
5:46 am
Thu September 6, 2012

Mass. Prison Reviews Court's Transgender Ruling

Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 10:17 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Prison officials in Massachusetts say they are still reviewing a federal court decision in Boston ordering them to provide sex-change surgery for a prison inmate. Critics are urging officials to appeal what they call an outrageous abuse of taxpayer funds. But as NPR's Tovia Smith reports, the decision this week reflects national trends of prisons treating gender identity disorder as a legitimate medical condition deserving treatment like any other.

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Presidential Race
3:38 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 8:52 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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Law
3:39 am
Wed August 15, 2012

The Law — And Reality — Of Gun Access

Federal law bars gun sales to the mentally ill only if they've ever been deemed by a judge to be mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed. States reporting of such things to the federal database is spotty, and very often, it doesn't show up when a gun seller does a background check.
Gabriel Bouys AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 15, 2012 6:44 am

Timothy Courtois' family had been worried about him for weeks. They repeatedly told police in Biddeford, Maine, that the 49-year-old was off his meds for bipolar disorder. And police were also told he had guns. But still, because he wasn't doing anything that rose to the legal definition of imminent threat, police said their hands were tied.

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News
4:16 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

To Prevent A Tragedy, How Much Can A School Do?

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 6:15 pm

A Colorado judge on Thursday will consider whether to lift the gag order in the case of James Holmes, 24, who's accused of killing 12 and wounding dozens more at a movie theater last month.

NPR and other news organizations want access to case files, including a notebook that Holmes reportedly sent to a university psychiatrist before withdrawing from the school that may have described an attack.

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Around the Nation
5:46 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

When Hyphen Boy Meets Hyphen Girl, Names Pile Up

Sasha Harris-Cronin and her partner struggled with their daughter Shannon's last name. They finally decided on two middle names and a hybrid hyphenated last name: Shannon Bayard Cronin Harris-Taylor.
Courtesy of Sasha Harris-Cronin

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 8:43 pm

Those born at the height of the name-hyphenating craze will be the first to tell you — having two last names can be more trouble than it's worth. There's the perennial confusion at school and at the doctor's office, and the challenge of squeezing your name onto forms.

And now that the hyphenated generation is marrying and parenting, a whole host of new tricky situations has emerged.

Take Leila and Brendan. Their story is one of those fairy tale stories of love at first sight. She was in the lobby of her apartment building when this cute guy started moving in.

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Politics
6:23 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

As Deadline Nears, Students Worry About Loan Hike

President Barack Obama shakes hands with students after urging Congress to pass legislation that would keep federal student loan rates from doubling in the East Room of the White House June 21 in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 15, 2012 3:26 pm

Congress has a matter of days left to work out a compromise or interest rates on some federal student loans will double. Five years ago, lawmakers offered students a reprieve — by cutting Stafford loan interest rates in half — but that ends July 1.

That's left many students worried that their heavy debt burden is about to get heavier.

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Law
5:25 pm
Thu June 7, 2012

Texting And Driving Bans May Make Roads Less Safe

Originally published on Thu June 7, 2012 5:54 pm

A Massachusetts judge imposed the maximum sentence on a teen driver who was texting when they caused an accident that killed a pedestrian. It's part of a growing effort in a few states to bring tougher charges and impose harsher sentences for texting while driving.

Economy
5:02 pm
Wed June 6, 2012

Young Adults Without Degrees Struggle To Find Work

Columbia High School graduates walk to their commencement ceremony in Nampa, Idaho. A new Rutgers University study says nearly half of recent high school graduates are still looking for full-time work.
Charlie Litchfield AP

Originally published on Mon June 11, 2012 4:41 pm

The job market is still bleak for young people with only high school diplomas. Nearly half of high school graduates are still looking for full-time work, according to a new report by Rutgers University's John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.

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