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

News
2:16 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

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.

Read more
Around the Nation
3:23 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 6:43 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
3:00 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 6:15 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
Politics
4:11 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 1:26 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.

Read more
Mitt Romney
4:30 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 12:39 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
3:57 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 9:38 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
1:31 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 4:47 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
4:34 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 10:09 am

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
Sports
3:06 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

Fenway Park Celebrates 100 Years Of Baseball

Originally published on Fri April 20, 2012 1:30 pm

The nation's oldest ball park is turning 100. Boston's Fenway Park has been home to the Red Sox through some of baseball's greatest highs and most heartbreaking lows. The park also narrowly escaped the fate of similar old stadiums that were torn down.

Education
1:53 am
Fri March 30, 2012

In Bullying Programs, A Call For Bystanders To Act

Alyssa Rodemeyer, 16, talks about her younger brother Jamey at an anti-bullying rally in San Francisco. Jamey committed suicide in September 2011 after being bullied. More schools are looking for ways to combat bullying among students.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

The documentary Bully opens in theaters Thursday, and the heated controversy over the appropriate rating for the film has frustrated many schools hoping to use it as a teaching tool.

Administrators have struggled to find effective ways to help curb bullying in their schools in recent years, and a growing number of bullying prevention programs have emerged to meet the demand.

Read more
History
10:01 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

Girl Scouts: 100 Years Of Blazing New Trails

Brownies from Troop 65343 in Brookline, Mass. recite the Girl Scout pledge. Enrollment in the organization has declined since the 1980s, but a modernizing makeover and new focus on minority and immigrant communities have helped some.
Tovia Smith NPR

Originally published on Mon March 12, 2012 9:09 am

It's hard to imagine Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and Lucille Ball as part of the same club. But they were all, at one time, Girl Scouts. Founded 100 years ago in Savannah, Ga., the Girl Scouts now count 3.2 million members.

Girl Scout cookies have become as much of an American tradition as apple pie. At a busy intersection in Brookline, Mass., a gaggle of Girl Scouts stand behind a folding table piled high with boxes of Thin Mints, Samoas and Shortbreads.

"They are really, really good," the troop collectively assures a prospective buyer.

Read more
Education
12:02 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Schools Get Tough With Third-Graders: Read Or Flunk

A student reads at a public elementary charter school in New York City. Educators like to say third grade is when students go from learning to read, to reading to learn.
Chris Hondros Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 5, 2012 4:36 pm

There's little dispute among educators that kids are not reading as well as they should be, but there's endless debate over what to do about it. Now, a growing number of states are taking a hard-line approach through mandatory retentions — meaning third-graders who can't read at grade level will automatically get held back.

To those pushing the idea, it's equal doses of tough and love: You are not doing kids any favors, they say, by waiving them on to fourth grade if they aren't up to snuff on their reading.

Read more
U.S.
10:01 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

Should Valets Be Responsible For Drunk Drivers Too?

Bars and restaurants are already legally on the hook for stopping would-be drunken drivers. Some in Boston say valet parking attendants should be, too.
Getty Images

That old public service announcement is pretty well ingrained these days: "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." But who else should be responsible for stopping would-be drunken drivers? Bars and restaurants are already legally on the hook. Some in Boston say valet parking attendants should be, too.

City Councilor Rob Consalvo says he decided something needed to be done after a 23-year-old on a scooter was mowed down by a drunken driver in Boston. The driver later said he was "blackout drunk" and couldn't believe that a valet guy actually handed him his car keys.

Read more
Law
2:12 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage May Hinge On Supreme Court

In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 8, making same-sex marriage in the state illegal. Now, legal challenges to that initiative mean it could soon get a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Max Whittaker Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 24, 2012 5:27 pm

With New York's legalization of same-sex marriage effectively doubling the number of Americans living in states where gays can marry, gay advocates like to say 2011 was a big year.

It's hard to imagine another doubling this year, but proponents are still hoping to build on last year's success. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in six states plus Washington, D.C., and it may come up for a vote in six more. All the while, legal challenges are pushing the issue closer to getting an opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read more
Business
2:09 am
Wed December 28, 2011

New England Fishermen Brace For Cod Restrictions

Originally published on Wed December 28, 2011 11:20 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

In New England, fishermen are bracing for what may be unprecedented restrictions, or even a shutdown, of cod fishing in the Gulf of Maine. Federal regulators say new data show cod as dangerously overfished. But fishermen say they don't believe that, and say drastic restrictions would be catastrophic. NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

Read more
Politics
12:11 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Mass. Senate Race A Battle Over Who's More Populist

Elizabeth Warren speaks in October during a debate for the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts held by Republican Scott Brown. The race has become a contest of who is the "real" populist.
Elise Amendola AP

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 3:35 pm

Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts made a point of calling Ted Kennedy's old U.S. Senate seat the "people's seat," and he won it in large part by casting himself as the opposite of that glamorous and privileged dynasty.

Brown won in a special election in 2010. Now, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law professor and Wall Street watchdog, is raising Democrats' hopes they can win the seat back. Just months after announcing her first-ever candidacy, polls show Warren pulling out ahead of Brown.

Read more
Hard Times: A Journey Across America
2:39 am
Tue December 6, 2011

For Mill Town's Youth, 'It Can't Get Any Worse'

High school senior Jared Lyons (center), shown here with his parents, Kim and Bob, worries how he'll afford to achieve his dream of becoming a doctor. The economy, he says, "can't get any worse than it is now."
Courtesy of Kim Lyons

Originally published on Tue December 6, 2011 10:25 am

Part of a monthlong series

Coming after Gen X and Gen Y, the next generation of young people have been called "Gen Wrong Place, Wrong Time." With unemployment and college costs both sky-high and the housing market in collapse, young people today are facing extraordinary economic uncertainty.

Perhaps nowhere is that more clear than in a small town like East Millinocket, Maine.

Read more
Law
3:48 am
Thu October 6, 2011

Boston Mob Victims' Families Press On In Court Fight

" href="/post/boston-mob-victims-families-press-court-fight" class="noexit lightbox">

James "Whitey" Bulger, shown here in a June 2011 file booking photo, was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., with his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig.

AP

Originally published on Thu October 6, 2011 11:17 am

Families of alleged victims of reputed Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger on Thursday take another step down what they say has been a long, frustrated quest for justice.

They waited 16 years before Bulger — who was finally captured this past June in Santa Monica, Calif. — was even charged in a string of alleged murders. And they've also spent the past decade trying to make the FBI pay for letting those murders happen.

Read more
Business
10:01 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Is Nostalgia Enough To Save Friendly's?

Ever since two brothers opened the first Friendly's ice cream shop in Massachusetts 75 years ago, the company has been serving up as much "family and feel good" as it has french fries and frappes.

"My grandma would take me and my brother out and we would always get the watermelon slice," says 23-year-old Lisa Lane. "Ah! The watermelon slice!"

Fans like Lane helped Friendly's expand to more than 600 locations by the 1980s.

Read more
Education
2:05 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Parents Fight Over Pledging Allegiance In Schools

Martin Rosenthal, a parent in Brookline, Mass., says he willingly pledges allegiance to the flag but has filed a measure that he says would protect public school students from being pressured into saying the pledge in their classrooms.
Tovia Smith NPR

Originally published on Mon September 19, 2011 4:01 pm

Residents are waving the flag in Brookline, Mass., both for — and against — the Pledge of Allegiance.

Courts have ruled that public schools cannot compel students to recite the pledge, so in Brookline, as elsewhere, the pledge is voluntary.

But critics say there's still pressure on students to conform, and they want the pledge out of the classroom altogether.

A Concern About Peer Pressure

Read more
Reflecting On Sept. 11, 2001
1:57 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Unlikely Star: A Woman Turns 9/11 Grief Into Action

Carie Lemack, pictured in May, lost her mother Judy Laroque in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Ten years later, Lemack is on a first-name basis with Sen. John Kerry as part of her mission to raise awareness so that another Sept. 11 doesn't happen.
The Washington Post Getty Images

Carie Lemack, 36, gave up a long time ago trying to make sense of the Sept. 11 attacks that killed her mother, Judy Larocque.

"That's not possible," Lemack says.

But she says she will never quit trying to prevent that kind of tragedy from ever happening again.

Ten years after her mother's unfathomable death, Lemack is on a mission that's taken her down a road she also never could have imagined.

Read more
National Security
10:01 pm
Mon August 15, 2011

Next In Line For The TSA? A Thorough 'Chat-Down'

Boston's Logan Airport will become the first in the nation this week to require every single traveler to go through a quick interview with security officials trying to spot suspicious behavior.

Until now, the so-called behavioral profiling — used successfully in Israel — has been used only sporadically in U.S. airports. As the system expands, so are questions about how behavioral profiling works, and how effective it might be in the U.S.

Unlike the usual security pat-down, the profiling process is what you might call a "chat-down."

Read more

Pages