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.

Pages

Law
5:49 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Tsarnaev Pleads Not Guilty To Boston Marathon Bombing

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 4:52 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.

Read more
Around the Nation
8:49 am
Thu July 4, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 1:43 pm

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.

Read more
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.

Read more
Around the Nation
6:19 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)

Read more
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.

Read more
Around the Nation
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.

Read more
Around the Nation
5:50 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.

Read more
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.

Read more
U.S.
9:34 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.

Read more
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.

Read more
It's All Politics
5:11 am
Sun December 30, 2012

Massachusetts Freshman Brings Kennedys Back To Capitol Hill

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

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 4:39 pm

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.

Read more
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.

Read more
Business
6:36 am
Tue October 30, 2012

Travel At A Near Standstill Along The East Coast

Originally published on Tue October 30, 2012 1:20 pm

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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
Education
5:00 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

Online Classes Cut Costs, But Do They Dilute Brands?

Recently reinstated University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan came under fire for failing to move fast enough into online education.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 8:15 am

The University of Virginia may have settled its most urgent controversy by reinstating President Teresa Sullivan after initially forcing her out. But still unresolved is one issue underlying her ouster: whether the university was too slow to join the stampede of schools into the world of online education.

Many other schools share the concern and wonder if the technology will live up to its hype.

Read more
Mitt Romney
6:30 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

Romney's Views On Gay Marriage: Also Evolving?

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters at a campaign stop in Omaha, Neb.,on Thursday.
Jae C. Hong AP

Originally published on Fri May 11, 2012 2:39 pm

A day after President Obama announced his support for gay marriage, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney avoided the issue at a campaign appearance Thursday in Nebraska.

But in an interview with Fox News, he reiterated his belief that same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry.

Obama has said his position on gay marriage "evolved" over time, and a case can be made that Romney's views on gay rights have changed as well.

Read more
Election 2012
5:57 am
Sun May 6, 2012

Pledge Holds Attack Ads At Bay In Mass. Senate Race

Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren holds up a poster of herself as Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., looks on during the annual St. Patrick's Day Breakfast in Boston on March 18. A civility pledge between the candidates has kept attack ads largely on the sidelines in their race.
Michael Dwyer AP

Originally published on Sun May 6, 2012 11:38 am

It was no big surprise when outside groups started spending millions of dollars on attack ads in the high-stakes U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts between Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

Republican strategist Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS superPAC aired spots highlighting Warren's ties to the Occupy Wall Street movement, saying she "sides with extreme left protests who support radical redistribution of wealth and violence."

Read more
Education
3:31 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Economy Puts Value Of Liberal Arts Under Scrutiny

Wellesley College English professor Yoon Lee teaches a class on the rise of the novel.
Tovia Smith NPR

Originally published on Tue May 1, 2012 6:47 am

As high school seniors wrestle with big decisions before Tuesday's deadline about which college they want to go to, some of the nation's top liberal arts colleges are dealing with big decisions of their own. Many of the most elite private schools are trying to figure out how they may have to adapt at a time when they're seen as a more expensive — and less direct — path to landing a job.

Read more
Sports
6:34 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

A Century Of Joy And Heartbreak At Fenway Park

The flag covers the Green Monster as the national anthem is played before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays on April 16 at Fenway Park in Boston.
Elsa Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 20, 2012 12:09 pm

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about Fenway Park. A century after it was built, fans still gush about this "lyric little bandbox," as John Updike called it. To guys like Ed Carpenter, Fenway is history and home, magic and mystique.

"I love this place," he says, tearing up. "I mean, it's not mortar and bricks and seats."

Carpenter first started coming to Fenway with his dad in 1949, when he was 6.

"We walked up this ramp right behind this home plate," he recalls. "I can still see everything was green, emerald green. It was love at first sight."

Read more

Pages