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
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
5:12 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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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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Around the Nation
4:18 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
5:21 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.

Economy
5:46 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

In The Long Wait For Aid From Washington, Job Hunters Despair

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 6:20 pm

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.

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Sports
5:09 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

A Story Of The Boston Marathon Bombing, As Told On Skates

Ross Miner skates during the men's short program at the 2013 Skate Canada International last year. He hopes to qualify for the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Dave Sandford Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 7:48 pm

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.

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Shootings In Newtown, Conn.
5:11 am
Sat December 14, 2013

A Grieving Newtown Mother's Motto: 'Love Wins'

Jimmy Greene holds a picture of his daughter, Ana, as he kisses his wife Nelba Márquez-Greene, at a January news conference in Newtown, Conn. They try to remember the good days with their daughter. "It is what brings me great comfort and great joy," Márquez-Greene says.
Jessica Hill AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:31 am

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.

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Around the Nation
5:22 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Newtown Parents Seek A Clearer Window Into Violent Behavior

Avielle's artwork hangs on the walls and windows of Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel's home.
Craig Ruttle AP

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 11:22 am

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.

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