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
4:28 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Boston Bombing Suspect's Friend Is Convicted On Obstruction Charges

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 11:10 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Boston today, a friend of the Marathon Bombing suspect was found guilty. He was charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The man is 20 years-old, a college friend of Jahar Tsarnaev. The friend was accused of helping to remove incriminating evidence from his dorm room following the bombings. And Pete Tovia Smith has our story.

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Law
4:19 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

After Abortion Ruling, Mass. Pushes To Replace Buffer Zone Law

Anti-abortion protester Eleanor McCullen stands at the painted edge of a 35-foot buffer zone outside a Planned Parenthood location in Boston in December. She says she'll fight Massachusetts' new bill just like she did the last one.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 7:54 pm

Just three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around clinics that perform abortions, lawmakers there are rushing through a replacement. The new bill, which they hope to pass before the legislative session ends in two weeks, would give police more power to disperse unruly protesters.

The bill has broad support, but opponents say it still goes too far.

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NPR Ed
4:15 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

For Most Kids, Nice Finishes Last

Teens say their parents are teaching them that success smells sweeter than kindness.
Flickr

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 6:24 pm

A new study holds up a mirror to America's parents. A researcher at Harvard surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students in 33 different schools around the nation about what they thought their folks cared about most: that they achieve at a high level, that they are happy (defined as "feeling good most of the time"), or that they care for others. Almost 80 percent of youth picked high achievement or happiness as their top choice, while about 20 percent selected caring for others.

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Law
5:01 am
Tue July 8, 2014

First Trial Begins For A Friend Of Marathon Bombing Suspect

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 9:51 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The first trial connected to the Boston Marathon bombing is underway. The defendant is not the surviving suspected bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It's Tsarnaev's friend - a 20-year-old from Kazakhstan who is accused of obstruction of justice. NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

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Law
4:44 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

High Court Ruling Sends Abortion Clinics Scrambling To Adjust

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 7:10 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Let's go now to Massachusetts where staffs at abortion clinics are scrambling to adjust their plans after that ruling. From Boston, NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: The rules of the game have changed, as one abortion-rights activist put it, and protesters agree on that point. Ray Neery, who's been demonstrating outside Boston-area clinics for years, says he can do a better job now inside the 35 foot buffer zone than he could from the outside.

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Education
4:32 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

A Campus Dilemma: Sure, 'No' Means 'No,' But Exactly What Means 'Yes'?

Many colleges are grappling with how to define consensual sexual activity between students. Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, mandates that students get verbal permission before making any sexual advance.
Peggy Turbett The Plain Dealer/Landov

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 6:23 pm

As the federal government presses colleges to improve the way they handle cases of sexual assault, schools are turning their focus to defining "consent" — how to distinguish between activity that's consensual and activity that's not.

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Law
7:01 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Already Tough On Gun Control, Massachusetts Aims To Get Tougher

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo addresses a crowd during a Democratic Party convention last year. DeLeo unveiled a comprehensive gun bill Tuesday.
Aram Boghosian Boston Globe via Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 8:10 pm

The rampage that left six dead in California last week has once again revived the debate over gun control around the nation. In Massachusetts — a state that is already one of the toughest on guns — lawmakers are considering sweeping new legislation that includes some of the nation's tightest restrictions on sales of shotguns and rifles, and more focus on the mentally ill.

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Around the Nation
5:01 am
Fri May 23, 2014

Jacqueline Kennedy's Letters No Longer On Auction Block

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 7:52 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A college in Ireland is working with the family of Jacqueline Kennedy to decide what to do with a collection of her letters. The former first lady wrote them to an Irish priest. The college planned to auction the letters, but reconsidered. NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

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Around the Nation
5:12 am
Thu May 15, 2014

Lawyer Reflects On Nation's First Gay Marriages: 'The Cage Had Been Lifted'

Bonauto celebrates on May 17, 2005, the one-year anniversary of legal same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. Bonauto argued the case that benefited couples like Hillary and Julie Goodridge (at right), here with their daughter Annie.
Darren McCollester Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 7:20 am

Ten years ago this week, attorney Mary Bonauto woke up with more than just your average case of pre-wedding jitters. It had been six months since her arguments had persuaded Massachusetts' highest court to allow the nation's first legal gay marriages, but opponents were still trying to stop the weddings before they started.

"I had been so scared, so many times, during really what had been really a ferocious onslaught to try to keep marriages from ever happening, so I continued to worry," Bonauto recalls.

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Politics
8:32 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

When College Sexual Assault Panels Fall Short, And When They Help

Dartmouth College is one of 55 colleges and universities on the Education Department's list of institutions being investigated for how they've handled sexual assault cases.
Jim Cole AP

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 10:45 am

Thursday, the federal government sent a message that it's taking sexual harassment on college campuses seriously. Education officials released the names of 55 schools facing investigation for their handling of sexual abuse allegations.

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Around the Nation
3:37 am
Wed April 16, 2014

After Losing A Leg, Woman Walks On Her Own — In 4-Inch Heels

Heather Abbott of Newport, R.I., shows off her "high-definition" prosthetic leg, which allows her to wear high heels and skirts.
Stephan Savoia AP

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 4:33 pm

Returning to watch the Boston Marathon was never a question for Heather Abbott. After losing her leg in the bombing last year, watching the race is just one item on a long list of things she did before and intends to do again. Also on that list: wearing 4-inch heels.

"Sometimes, I think: Why am I doing this to myself? Because I could just wear regular flat shoes," Abbott says. "I don't want to give things up that I love to do, so I'm going to get used to it and figure it out."

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Around the Nation
4:08 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard

The phrase Boston Strong sprang up after last year's marathon bombings and is now ubiquitous around town. But some wonder if the commercialization of the slogan also trivializes the tragedy.
Tovia Smith NPR

Originally published on Thu April 10, 2014 8:12 pm

The phrase Boston Strong emerged almost immediately after last year's marathon bombings as an unofficial motto of a city responding to tragedy. But now some are wondering whether the slogan is being overused.

The words are everywhere: Boston Strong is plastered on cars, cut into the grass at Fenway, tattooed on arms, bedazzled on sweatshirts and printed on T-shirts (and everything else).

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Education
4:09 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

On The Syllabus: Lessons In Grit

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 2:54 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Got grit? That's the new it-thing in education. New research suggests that perseverance and resilience are key to a student's success. The science is still out on how or if grit can be taught, but schools around the nation are trying. One program in particular called Brainology is showing some promise.

NPR's Tovia Smith checked it out at a public school in Brooklyn.

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Around the Nation
5:07 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Does Teaching Kids To Get 'Gritty' Help Them Get Ahead?

At the Lenox Academy in Brooklyn, N.Y., educators try to teach kids to see struggle as a normal part of learning.
Tovia Smith/NPR

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 10:17 am

It's become the new buzz phrase in education: "Got grit?"

Around the nation, schools are beginning to see grit as key to students' success — and just as important to teach as reading and math.

Experts define grit as persistence, determination and resilience; it's that je ne sais quoi that drives one kid to practice trumpet or study Spanish for hours — or years — on end, while another quits after the first setback.

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Race
4:06 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

'I, Too, Am Harvard': A Mantra For Recognition Becomes An Anthem

Originally published on Sat March 15, 2014 6:05 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

You might expect students at one of the world's top universities to have occasional moments of doubt about their studies. But at Harvard, some minority students say they feel discomfort that has nothing to do with academics. It has to do with being black on an overwhelmingly white campus. A new photo montage about being black at Harvard has gone viral. NPR's Tovia Smith reports it is giving new momentum to an old issue.

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Around the Nation
4:05 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

In Boston, Gay Groups Remain Closed Out Of St. Patrick's Day Parade

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 6:31 pm

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.

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Law
6:32 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

The U.S. Will Seek The Death Penalty for Boston Bombing Suspect

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 8:00 pm

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Around the Nation
4:48 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Holder To Decide Soon On Death Penalty For Tsarnaev

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 7:27 am

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.

Around the Nation
6:22 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

After 20 Years, Transgender Inmate Is A Step Closer To Surgery

Michelle Kosilek in a New Bedford, Mass., court in 1993. When Kosilek was known as Robert, he was convicted of the 1990 murder of his wife.
Lisa Bul AP

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 5:32 pm

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."

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Around the Nation
5:23 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Punishing Winter Temperatures Drain Propane Supplies

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 8:12 am

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.

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