Tovia Smith

An award-winning correspondent based in Boston, Tovia Smith covers breaking news, as well as a wide range of feature stories on legal issues, politics, and social concerns. Most recently she has reported on the advent of gay marriage in Massachusetts, the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic church, the ongoing battles around the 9/11 victims' compensation fund, the case against "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid, and the Rhode Island nightclub fire. She has also covered the New Hampshire and Yankee primaries, the trial of British au pair Louise Woodward, the crashes of Egypt Air, John Kennedy, Jr., and TWA flight 800, and the trial of women's clinic gunman John Salvi.

Smith specializes in in-depth features on a variety of social issues. She has produced award-winning reports on mothers raising their babies in prison, race relations in Boston, and juvenile crime. Her coverage of families and the law includes stories about adoption, custody disputes, and same-sex civil unions. She has also filed several documentary-length reports, including an award-winning half-hour special on modern-day orphanages.

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.

In 1998, Smith took a leave of absence to launch Here and Now, a daily news magazine produced by public radio 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.

She is a graduate of Tufts University, where she earned her degree in international relations. She lives with her family near Boston.

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6:54pm

Wed October 15, 2014
A Closer Look At Sexual Assaults On Campus

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

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

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

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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3:31am

Wed September 3, 2014
A Closer Look At Sexual Assaults On Campus

Some Accused Of Sexual Assault On Campus Say System Works Against Them

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 1:12 pm

iStockphoto

After years of criticism for being too lax on campus sexual assault, some colleges and universities are coming under fire from students who say the current crackdown on perpetrators has gone too far.

Dozens of students who've been punished for sexual assault are suing their schools, saying that they didn't get a fair hearing and that their rights to due process were violated. The accused students say schools simply are overcorrecting.

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6:02pm

Tue August 12, 2014
A Closer Look At Sexual Assaults On Campus

How Campus Sexual Assaults Came To Command New Attention

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

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

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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5:07am

Thu July 31, 2014
NPR Story

New Bill Aims To Hold Colleges Accountable For Campus Sex Crimes

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 8:12 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

4:28pm

Mon July 21, 2014
Law

Boston Bombing Suspect's Friend Is Convicted On Obstruction Charges

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 11:10 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Boston today, a friend of the Marathon Bombing suspect was found guilty. He was charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The man is 20 years-old, a college friend of Jahar Tsarnaev. The friend was accused of helping to remove incriminating evidence from his dorm room following the bombings. And Pete Tovia Smith has our story.

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4:19pm

Fri July 18, 2014
Law

After Abortion Ruling, Mass. Pushes To Replace Buffer Zone Law

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 7:54 pm

Anti-abortion protester Eleanor McCullen stands at the painted edge of a 35-foot buffer zone outside a Planned Parenthood location in Boston in December. She says she'll fight Massachusetts' new bill just like she did the last one.
Steven Senne AP

Just three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around clinics that perform abortions, lawmakers there are rushing through a replacement. The new bill, which they hope to pass before the legislative session ends in two weeks, would give police more power to disperse unruly protesters.

The bill has broad support, but opponents say it still goes too far.

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4:15pm

Mon July 14, 2014
NPR Ed

For Most Kids, Nice Finishes Last

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 6:24 pm

Teens say their parents are teaching them that success smells sweeter than kindness.
Flickr

A new study holds up a mirror to America's parents. A researcher at Harvard surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students in 33 different schools around the nation about what they thought their folks cared about most: that they achieve at a high level, that they are happy (defined as "feeling good most of the time"), or that they care for others. Almost 80 percent of youth picked high achievement or happiness as their top choice, while about 20 percent selected caring for others.

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5:01am

Tue July 8, 2014
Law

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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4:44pm

Thu June 26, 2014
Law

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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4:32pm

Fri June 13, 2014
Education

A Campus Dilemma: Sure, 'No' Means 'No,' But Exactly What Means 'Yes'?

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 6:23 pm

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

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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7:01pm

Wed May 28, 2014
Law

Already Tough On Gun Control, Massachusetts Aims To Get Tougher

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 8:10 pm

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

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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5:12am

Thu May 15, 2014
Around the Nation

Lawyer Reflects On Nation's First Gay Marriages: 'The Cage Had Been Lifted'

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 7:20 am

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

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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8:32pm

Thu May 1, 2014
Politics

When College Sexual Assault Panels Fall Short, And When They Help

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 10:45 am

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

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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3:37am

Wed April 16, 2014
Around the Nation

After Losing A Leg, Woman Walks On Her Own — In 4-Inch Heels

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 4:33 pm

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

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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4:08pm

Thu April 10, 2014
Around the Nation

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard

Originally published on Thu April 10, 2014 8:12 pm

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

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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4:20pm

Mon March 17, 2014
Education

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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5:07am

Mon March 17, 2014
Around the Nation

Does Teaching Kids To Get 'Gritty' Help Them Get Ahead?

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 10:17 am

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

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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4:05pm

Tue March 4, 2014
Around the Nation

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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5:09pm

Thu January 30, 2014
Law

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.

5:46pm

Fri January 17, 2014
Economy

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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5:09pm

Fri January 10, 2014
Sports

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

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

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

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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5:11am

Sat December 14, 2013
Shootings In Newtown, Conn.

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

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

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

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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5:22am

Thu December 12, 2013
Around the Nation

Newtown Parents Seek A Clearer Window Into Violent Behavior

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

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

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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4:26pm

Thu November 14, 2013
NPR Story

Mobster 'Whitey' Bulger Gets Two Life Terms And Then Some

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 10:22 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Victims wept in court today as a federal judge sentenced Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger to two life terms in prison, plus five years, ensuring that the now 84-year-old will never walk free. Bulger was convicted in August of running a massive racketeering operation that spanned decades and included extortion, drug running and at least 11 murders. NPR's Tovia Smith was in court and joins us now. Hi, Tovia.

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5:11am

Wed November 13, 2013
Law

Victims' Relatives To Face Whitey Bulger At Sentencing Hearing

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 10:59 am

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

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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5:59pm

Thu September 26, 2013
Around the Nation

Putting Good Deeds In Headlines May Not Be So Good

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 7:19 pm

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

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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4:25pm

Thu September 19, 2013
Shots - Health News

Boston Hospitals Share Lessons From Marathon Bombing

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

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

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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4:49am

Wed September 18, 2013
Education

Should It Take 2 Or 3 Years To Earn A Law Degree?

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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4:13pm

Fri August 2, 2013
NPR Story

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

Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 5:19 pm

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.

4:09pm

Wed July 17, 2013
U.S.

Boston Marathon Victims Push Back On Fund Protocol

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 7:11 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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