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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Around the Nation
3:07 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Critics Say Mob Boss's Trial Has Been A Disappointment

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 6:01 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The sentencing hearing of convicted mobster James Whitey Bulger began in federal court in Boston today. Bulger was convicted in August of taking part in 11 murders while running a massive criminal enterprise going back to the 1970s. Sentencing takes place tomorrow, but no matter what jail time he gets, it's pretty clear that the 84-year-old Bulger will spend the rest of his life in prison.

As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, it is an anti-climactic end to a long, expensive trial that has left many frustrated by what it didn't accomplish.

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Law
3:11 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Victims' Relatives To Face Whitey Bulger At Sentencing Hearing

James "Whitey" Bulger was captured in June 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 8:59 am

It's the moment many victims of former Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger have been waiting decades for: In federal court in Boston, relatives of those killed by Bulger will face the former gangster and describe their pain.

Bulger was convicted in August of taking part in 11 murders while running a massive criminal enterprise for decades. There is little suspense around Bulger's sentencing — even the minimum would be enough to send the 84-year-old away for the rest of his life.

To many victims, Wednesday's sentencing hearing is less about Bulger than it is about them.

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Sports
2:48 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

Boston Celebrates First World Series Win At Home In 95 Years

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 4:01 pm

Boston fans celebrated the World Series win Thursday by the Red Sox over the St. Louis Cardinals. The victory is the first series win for Boston at home in Fenway in 95 years.

Around the Nation
2:38 am
Fri October 18, 2013

Students At Harvard's Kennedy School Weigh In On Shutdown

Originally published on Fri October 18, 2013 10:23 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Federal employees are making their way through a backlog of emails, voicemails and work now that the government has reopened.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Immigration services are verifying the status of workers.

MONTAGNE: Fishing inspectors are getting the crab season started.

GREENE: And, Renee, here in Washington, the National Zoo's Panda Cam is showing more adorable private moments between mama and cub.

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Around the Nation
3:51 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Putting Good Deeds In Headlines May Not Be So Good

Glen James holds a special citation while facing reporters with Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis during a news conference at police headquarters on Sept. 16.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 5:19 pm

An online collection has raised more than $145,000 for a man who stumbled onto a pile of money and turned it over to police.

Glen James' story of a good deed is just one of many making headlines. It may not be exactly brand new, but public interest does seem to be piqued these days by ordinary folks making what are seen as extraordinary ethical decisions.

Some, however, question if airing this kind of "good" news is actually good.

A Series Of Good Deeds

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Shots - Health News
3:07 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Boston Hospitals Share Lessons From Marathon Bombing

A Boston police officer wheels an injured boy down Boylston Street as medical workers carry an injured runner after the Boston Marathon bombing in April.
Charles Krupa AP

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 8:10 am

Boston hospitals say that overall they did well in their response to the bombings because, as crazy as it sounds, they got lucky on April 15.

Dr. Richard Wolfe, chief of emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says hospitals were fortunate with both the location and timing of the bombs that stunned the city.

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Education
2:27 am
Wed September 18, 2013

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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Law
3:19 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

'Whitey' Bulger Won't Testify, But He Didn't Finish Quietly

In Boston Friday, former mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger said he would not take the stand in his criminal trial and that his defense would rest. But before that happened, he railed at the judge and his defense team.

U.S.
3:25 am
Tue July 30, 2013

Will Whitey Bulger Testify? It's Still Unclear

Originally published on Tue July 30, 2013 5:46 am

The defense in the Whitey Bulger trial began Monday. Still unanswered is the big question: Will the reputed mob boss testify?

U.S.
2:09 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

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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Law
3:58 am
Thu July 11, 2013

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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Law
2:52 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Tsarnaev Pleads Not Guilty To Boston Marathon Bombing

Originally published on Wed July 10, 2013 3:29 pm

Suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev was arraigned on Wednesday. Tsarnaev has been indicted on more than 30 charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction in the attack, which killed three people and injured more than 260. He is also charged with the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier. Wednesday's court proceeding were Tsarnaev's first public appearance since he was captured four days after the bombings.

Around the Nation
8:03 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 11:43 am

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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Around the Nation
3:03 am
Thu July 4, 2013

After Marathon Bomings, Boston Police Watch July 4 Concert

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 4:59 am

This is the 40th year the Boston Pops will perform along the Charles River with fireworks bursting overhead. But the scene will be different this year following the Boston Marathon bombing in April. Police say there is no specific threat to the celebration but security must be tightened.

Law
2:17 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Lack Of Video Kills Media Buzz At Whitey Bulger Trial

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 7:22 pm

It's emotional, high-stakes and dramatic. But the trial of reputed mobster James Whitey Bulger now ongoing in federal court in Boston, is not being recorded or televised, so the drama is harder to come by for anyone not inside the courtroom.

Politics
5:09 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.

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Politics
3:34 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Political Attacks Ramp Up In U.S. Senate Race In Mass.

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 6:01 am

In Massachusetts, what's been a relatively lackluster campaign to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry is heating up. Veteran Democratic Rep. Ed Markey is running against Republican Gabriel Gomez, a businessman and former Navy SEAL. Gomez is a political newcomer.

NPR Story
4:04 am
Wed May 15, 2013

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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Around the Nation
3:11 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Boston Bombing Victims To Receive Fund Money

Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 9:04 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

By the end of next month, nearly $30 million in private contributions may be handed out to hundreds of victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. The administrator of the fund outlined plans last night for who might be eligible and how the money will be divided. But survivors and their families are questioning how a dollar value can be given to their injuries and losses.

NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

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It's All Politics
2:06 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 8:51 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.

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Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
4:20 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 5:17 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.

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Around the Nation
3:26 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 7:26 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.

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Religion
3:19 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

As Pope Resigns, Clergy Abuse Survivors Remember 2008 Meeting

Bernie McDaid keeps a framed photo of his meeting with Pope Benedict by his front door. "It was a tough moment," McDaid says.
Tovia Smith NPR

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 4:09 pm

Among those watching the papal transition closely are survivors of clergy sexual abuse, including a handful who were selected to meet with Pope Benedict XVI five years ago as the crisis raged.

The group left the meeting hopeful that that Benedict would make significant changes in how the church handled both past and current cases. Among those at the meeting were Olan Horne and Bernie McDaid.

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Around the Nation
3:26 am
Mon February 11, 2013

Mother Nature Unleashes Dangerous Storms

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 9:41 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Monday, it's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Several parts of the country spent time fending off the weather this past weekend. Mississippi residents lived through moments of terror last night. A tornado struck Hattiesburg, home to the University of Southern Mississippi, where Leslie Nash(ph) is a student.

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U.S.
3:06 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

Northeast Storm Likely To End Up In The Record Books

Originally published on Fri February 8, 2013 5:09 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The Northeast is now enveloped in a blizzard that is likely bound for the record books. That means snow falling at two to three inches an hour and wind gusts as high as 70 miles an hour. One more number for you: Some places could see as much as three feet of snow. NPR's Tovia Smith reports even the most seasoned New Englanders are hunkering down.

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Politics
3:48 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Kerry's Temporary Senate Replacement Doesn't Plan To Run For The Seat

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 4:18 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Today, many in Massachusetts are asking themselves who is Mo Cowan? That's because he'll soon be the state's newest senator. William Mo Cowan is former chief of staff to Massachusetts Governor Deval, who chose him to take the seat being vacated by Senator John Kerry, the incoming secretary of State.

As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, Cowan will serve on an interim basis until a special election in June.

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Politics
3:27 am
Wed January 30, 2013

Special Election To Fill Kerry's Mass. Senate Seat

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 8:44 am

With John Kerry stepping down from the seat he held for 28 years to become secretary of state, rumors are swirling about who his short-term replacement will be — and who will run in the special election in six months. Gov. Deval Patrick is appointing the replacement Wednesday.

Shots - Health News
3:45 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 5:54 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.

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It's All Politics
3:11 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 2:39 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.

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Religion
2:56 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

Clergy Called On To Help With Healing In Newtown

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 1:16 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. In Newtown, Connecticut, religious leaders gathered this afternoon to share strategy on how best to help their hurting community. As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, the town's clergy are being tested in unprecedented ways, following Friday's devastating attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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