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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U.S.
6:08 am
Wed July 1, 2015

After Supreme Court Decision, What's Next For Gay Rights Groups?

Carlos McKnight waves a flag in support of same-sex marriage outside the Supreme Court.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Thu July 2, 2015 3:42 pm

Having clinched the long-sought prize of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, some long-time advocates are now waking up to the realization that they need to find a new job. At least one major same-sex marriage advocacy group is preparing to close down and other LGBT organizations are retooling.

They have grown from a ragtag group with a radical idea into a massive multi-million dollar industry of slick and sophisticated sellers of a dream. Today, their very success has made their old jobs obsolete.

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Law
5:41 pm
Mon May 4, 2015

Boston Marathon Bomber Gets Emotional During Relatives' Testimony

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 2:02 am

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Law
4:25 pm
Mon April 27, 2015

Tsarnaev Defense Urges Jury To Spare His Life

Originally published on Mon April 27, 2015 8:14 pm

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The Two-Way
1:46 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Live Tweets: Day 3 Of Boston Marathon Bombing Trial's Penalty Phase

NPR's Tovia Smith is covering the sentencing phase of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial in Boston. A jury is weighing whether the 21-year-old convicted in the bombings that killed three people and left 264 others wounded should be put to death for his crimes. Tovia will be tweeting developments as they happen.

Law
4:42 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Sentencing Phase In Boston Marathon Bombing Trial Begins

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 6:25 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Prosecutors began to make their case today for why convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be sentenced to death. The same jury that convicted him will decide Tsarnaev's fate. NPR's Tovia Smith was in court and she joins us now.

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Around the Nation
4:19 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

Bostonians Mark 2nd Anniversary Of Marathon Bombing

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 7:49 pm

Bostonians marked the second anniversary of the marathon bombing Wednesday, all while awaiting the sentencing phase of convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to begin. The jury must decide on death or life in prison — a fact that hung over the day's events.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Law
4:36 pm
Mon April 6, 2015

In Closing Argument, Prosecutor Says Tsarnaev Wanted To 'Punish America'

Originally published on Mon April 6, 2015 7:48 pm

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The Two-Way
3:32 am
Wed April 1, 2015

Closing Arguments To Begin Monday In Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

The defense rested its case on Tuesday for admitted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after just a few hours of testimony. The defense called four people to testify compared to the 92 called by prosecutors.

Tsarnaev's lawyers have admitted he did what he's accused of doing. Their single aim is to try to cast Tsarnaev as less in charge than his brother Tamerlan — who died while they were running from authorities — and therefore less deserving of the death penalty if it gets to that.

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Law
5:14 pm
Mon March 30, 2015

Prosecution Rests Case Against Admitted Boston Marathon Bomber

Originally published on Mon March 30, 2015 6:23 pm

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Energy
5:07 pm
Tue March 10, 2015

Boston Bombing Jury Sees Tsarnaev's Writings

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Law
5:22 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Many Question Lack Of Plea Deal In Boston Bombing Case

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 6:55 pm

The dramatic admission of guilt by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense team in its opening statement Wednesday has generated questions about the trial now underway. Many are wondering why the government wouldn't accept a plea deal in exchange for life in prison, or why Tsarnaev wouldn't want to plead guilty to avoid graphic and disturbing testimony that he's not even contesting.

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Law
5:33 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Boston Marathon Bombing Trial Opens With Admission Of Guilt

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 8:29 pm

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Law
4:53 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Opening Statements To Begin Nearly 2 Years After Boston Bombing

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 7:52 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

U.S.
4:41 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

Accused Bomber's Lawyers Say Boston Jury Pool Is Too Biased

A memorial at the site of the first explosion in the Boston Marathon bombing. Defense attorneys say too many people in the potential jury pool have some kind of personal connection to the case.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 29, 2015 9:58 pm

The search for jurors in the case of accused Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is taking longer than expected.

Defense attorneys say it's nearly impossible to find open-minded, unbiased jurors around Boston. They're asking yet again for the judge to move the trial somewhere else.

From the beginning, defense attorneys have argued the entire jury pool has been poisoned by what they call "a narrative of guilt" from a "tidal wave" of media coverage. Now, Tsarnaev's lawyers say jurors' own comments on a court questionnaire prove widespread bias.

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Law
5:08 pm
Mon January 5, 2015

Potential Jurors Screened For Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

Originally published on Mon January 5, 2015 6:31 pm

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Law
3:35 am
Mon January 5, 2015

Jury Selection To Begin Monday In Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 4:51 pm

The search begins Monday for the jurors who will decide the fate of the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It was the deadliest act of terrorism in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 attacks, and the trial is one that many have been waiting for.

A couple of dozen survivors are expected in court for at least part of the trial — including Heather Abbott, who lost a leg in the attack. She's hoping for answers to both why and how the bombing was carried out.

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Law
4:53 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Makes Court Appearance In Pretrial Hearing

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 6:32 pm

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Secret Lives Of Teachers
3:46 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Skating Out Classroom Stress As A 'Derby Dame'

Nina Park, also known as Elle L. Cool Jam, is a member of the Cosmonaughties roller derby team in the Boston Derby Dames league.
Kayana Szymczak for NPR

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:46 pm

The NPR Ed team is discovering what teachers do when they're not teaching. Pilot? Artist? Bartender? Explore our Secret Lives of Teachers series.

Every fall, on the first day of school, Nina Park greets her new honors English class with a game called "two truths and a lie." Her students, 10th-graders at TechBoston Academy in Dorchester, Mass. have to guess which is which.

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A Closer Look At Sexual Assaults On Campus
4:17 am
Fri November 21, 2014

Colleges Straddle Line Between Assault Prevention And Victim-Blaming

Agent Illustrateur Getty Images/Ikon Images

Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 1:34 pm

As efforts increase around the nation to combat campus sexual assault, one aspect of prevention seems to confound schools the most: how to warn students about staying safe — without sounding like they're blaming the victim.

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A Closer Look At Sexual Assaults On Campus
6:02 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

To Tackle Sexual Assault Cases, Colleges Enlist Investigators-For-Hire

Djuna Perkins, a former prosecutor, now conducts sexual assault investigations for colleges and universities. She's had to hire three more staff members this year to keep up with all the work.
Tovia Smith NPR

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 8:44 pm

As colleges continue to scramble under federal pressure to overhaul how they handle cases of sexual assault, the list of schools under investigation for botching cases continues to grow.

That's left some wondering if campuses will ever get it right, or if they might be better off leaving the job to others.

A growing number of campuses already have made the choice to do just that: Rather than try to train their provosts and professors to act like prosecutors, they're outsourcing the job to real ones instead.

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A Closer Look At Sexual Assaults On Campus
6:54 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

Harvard Law Professors Say New Sexual Assault Policy Is One-Sided

A group of professors at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass., has slammed the school's new sexual assault policy, saying it gives victims an unfair advantage.
Darren McCollester Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 16, 2014 10:32 am

Just a few months after Harvard University announced a new, tougher policy against campus sexual assault, a group of Harvard law professors is blasting the rules as unfair.

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A Closer Look At Sexual Assaults On Campus
6:02 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

How Campus Sexual Assaults Came To Command New Attention

President Obama signs a memorandum establishing the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in January.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 11:27 am

Call it a sign of the times that right along with required writing core courses, incoming freshmen at most schools this fall will also face a mandatory crash course on the subject of sexual assault.

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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
4:42 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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Education
4:20 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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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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