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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2:27am

Wed September 18, 2013
Education

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

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 2:49 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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2:09pm

Wed July 17, 2013
NPR Story

Boston Marathon Victims Push Back On Fund Protocol

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 5:11 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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3:58am

Thu July 11, 2013
Law

Tsarnaev Pleads Not Guilty To Boston Marathon Bombing

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 2:52 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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6:53am

Thu July 4, 2013
Around the Nation

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

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 11:43 am

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

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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4:25pm

Mon June 24, 2013
Politics

Another Republican Hopes For Upset In Mass. Senate Race

Originally published on Mon June 24, 2013 5:09 pm

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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4:19am

Wed May 15, 2013
Around the Nation

1 Month Since The Bombings, Signs Of Progress In Boston

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 5:25 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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2:06am

Wed May 1, 2013
It's All Politics

Markey, Gomez Vie For John Kerry's Senate Seat

Originally published on Wed May 1, 2013 8:51 am

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

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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4:20pm

Fri March 22, 2013
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court

As Support For Gay Marriage Grows, An Opponent Looks Ahead

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 5:17 pm

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

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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7:34am

Thu March 14, 2013
U.S.

Crime Lab Scandal Leaves Mass. Legal System In Turmoil

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 7:26 am

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

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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3:30pm

Tue January 15, 2013
Shots - Health News

Colleges Try To Curtail Flu Risk For Students

Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 5:54 pm

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

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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3:11am

Sun December 30, 2012
It's All Politics

Massachusetts Freshman Brings Kennedys Back To Capitol Hill

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 2:39 pm

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

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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2:25pm

Tue November 27, 2012
Education

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

Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 3:23 pm

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

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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3:33am

Tue October 30, 2012
Business

Travel At A Near Standstill Along The East Coast

Originally published on Tue October 30, 2012 11:20 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The transportation industry is also taking a hard hit. Travel is at a virtual standstill along the East Coast because of Sandy. Up to 15,000 flights have been canceled. Amtrak service in the Northeast is shut down again today. And crews are just beginning to assess the extensive cleanup work needed to clear tracks and roads.

NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Travelers across the Northeast have been going nowhere fast. Some who thought they were getting lucky, got half way home before hitting the end of the road.

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2:37pm

Thu September 13, 2012
Education

Teacher Evaluation Dispute Echoes Beyond Chicago

Originally published on Thu September 13, 2012 9:19 pm

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

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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5:17am

Tue September 11, 2012
Around the Nation

In Chicago, 'Perfect Storm' Led To Teachers' Strike

Originally published on Tue September 11, 2012 7:57 am

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

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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4:04am

Thu September 6, 2012
Law

Mass. Prison Reviews Court's Transgender Ruling

Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 8:17 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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1:38pm

Mon August 20, 2012
Presidential Race

Ann Romney Adds Fire, Faith To Husband's Campaign

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 6:52 pm

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

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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1:39am

Wed August 15, 2012
Law

The Law — And Reality — Of Gun Access

Originally published on Wed August 15, 2012 4:44 am

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

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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2:42pm

Wed August 8, 2012
News

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

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 4:15 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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3:25pm

Thu July 19, 2012
Around the Nation

When Hyphen Boy Meets Hyphen Girl, Names Pile Up

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 6:43 pm

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

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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