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.

In federal courts around the nation, the wheels of justice may soon be grinding to a halt.

The government shutdown has already caused delays and disruptions throughout the federal court system, and officials are bracing for things to get a lot worse next week.

Gillette's new ad seeks to channel the #MeToo movement with a new image of masculinity.
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Giant razor-maker Gillette got itself into a bit of a tough scrape wi

With many federal workers now losing hope that they'll get a paycheck this week, stress is mounting. But so are some efforts to help the hundreds of thousands affected by the ongoing shutdown — including about 8,000 in Massachusetts.

In Boston this week, a pop-up food pantry opened for men and women of the Coast Guard, the only branch of the armed services working without pay.

Six years after 26 children and educators were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut by a troubled 20 year old, a group of parents is stepping up its efforts to make sure it doesn't happen again.

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced sweeping rules on how colleges handle cases of sexual assault and harassment that she says will fix a "failed" and "shameful" system that has been unfair to accused students.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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One year after the #MeToo movement took off, new NPR-Ipsos polls show the nation deeply divided on sexual assault and harassment, with fissures running more along party lines than gender.

Most — 69 percent — of more than 1,000 Americans surveyed, say the movement has created a climate in which offenders will now be held accountable. But more than 40 percent feel the movement has gone too far.

As the opioid epidemic has escalated around the nation, colleges and universities have been spared the brunt of it. Opioid addiction and overdoses are more rare on campuses than among young adults in the general population. But schools are not immune to the problem, and they're growing increasingly concerned about how to keep students safe.

Editor's note: This story contains language some may find offensive.

The allegations of drinking and sexual misconduct swirling around Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have prompted a new round of soul-searching at elite prep schools like the one he attended three decades ago. Schools are taking a hard look at how they may have permitted a culture of drinking and sexual misconduct.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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For all the #MeToo allegations that have come pouring out in the past year, sexual assaults and harassment are still underreported. The vast majority of survivors never report what happened to them. But now "there's an app for that." Actually several.

While much of the focus to date has been on college campuses, developers are now bringing their high tech tools to the work place, hoping to encourage more reporting, and to hasten the identification of repeat offenders.

Here's a little pop quiz.

Multiple-choice tests are useful because:

A: They're cheap to score.

B: They can be scored quickly.

C: They score without human bias.

D: All of the above.

It would take a computer about a nano-second to mark "D" as the correct answer. That's easy.

But now, machines are also grading students' essays. Computers are scoring long form answers on anything from the fall of the Roman Empire, to the pros and cons of government regulations.

They're used to rushing, tackling, and taking hits in front of 65,000 screaming spectators. But it was a whole different ball game when three New England Patriots came to a much smaller stage at a middle school in Boston's inner city this week to challenge five candidates vying to be district attorney on how they'd make the criminal justice system more fair.

"[My] nervous level is pretty high right now," conceded player Matthew Slater, as the auditorium began to fill up. Each clutching a wad of notes, his teammates Jason and Devin McCourty, seemed to feel the same way.

Updated at 11:40 a.m. ET

Boston's "Yawkey Way" will be renamed "Jersey Street."

The Boston Red Sox have won their bid to change the name of the tiny, two-block street outside Fenway Park. Team owners say the change is needed to distance themselves from a history marred by racism under the late, former owner Tom Yawkey, who was known for his philanthropy, but also for his historically racist ball club.

The Boston Public Improvement Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve the name change.

Updated at 10:23 p.m. ET

Former first lady Barbara Bush died Tuesday at the age of 92, according to a family spokesman.

A statement issued on Sunday by the office of former President George H.W. Bush said that Bush had elected to receive "comfort care" over additional medical treatment after a series of hospitalizations.

After last month's mass shooting a Florida high school, students around the nation have staged walk-outs, rallies and other demonstrations to advocate for stricter gun measures. In response, some school administrators have threatened to suspend students who protest, and are being criticized for cracking down too hard. At the same time, many colleges are sending the opposite message, encouraging and congratulating students' activism.

In Boston, New Mission High School junior Ariyana Jones says many students at her school have been scared off from participating.

As the nation's dairy farmers struggle through their fourth year of depressed milk prices, concerns are rising that many are becoming depressed themselves. The outlook for the next year is so bleak, it's heightening worries — especially in the Northeast — about farmer suicides.

Agri-Mark Inc., a dairy cooperative with about 1,000 members, saw three farmers take their own lives in the past three years. The most recent was last month. It's a very small sample, but very sharp and disturbing increase.

The New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, are hoping to once again do the unheard of in this Sunday's Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles. If they win it'll be their sixth championship in 16 years.

When the cardinal's residence was built in the 1920s atop a hill in the leafy, most western outpost of Boston, it was modeled after an Italian palazzo. The grand mansion, replete with ornate mahogany and marble appointments, stood as a testament to the Boston Archdiocese's stature in the very Catholic city of Boston. Political candidates — local and national — would come calling, and even the pope came to visit.

Updated at 8:30 a.m. ET

Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston — once widely seen as America's most influential prelate before resigning in disgrace amid the growing clergy sexual abuse scandal — has died in Rome.

The Holy See's press office confirmed Law's death "after a long illness." He was 86.

As more executives accused of sexual harassment are being ousted from companies around the nation, including NPR, many are rethinking whether human resources departments are willing or able to handle the job of fielding and investigating complaints. Many have grown skeptical, after recent news stories suggesting some HR departments knew of issues, but failed to adequately respond. Many others have lost faith in HR through experiences of their own.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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New federal guidelines for handling allegations of sexual assault are prompting a range of reactions from school administrators. While many are expressing concerns and vowing to maintain current policy, others are breathing a sigh of relief or scratching their heads in confusion.

The Trump administration is expected to address Obama-era policies cracking down on campus sexual assault. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has signaled she wants to make significant changes to how schools handle allegations, to ensure the process is fair to accused students.

Signs are everywhere these days urging Americans "If you see something, say something." Now, in Boston, new posters are going up that urge residents to go a step further and intervene if they see Islamophobic harassment. From a distance, it looks like a cute cartoon, until you read the bold black headline – "What to do if you are witnessing Islamophobic harassment." Below is a giant comic strip showing a young woman watching as a burly guy grimaces at a woman in a long dress and hijab.

There's been an unprecedented spike in white supremacist activity on campuses across the U.S. since the election and college students and administrators are struggling to figure out how to respond.

Posters at the University of Texas at Arlington last month implored students to "report any and all illegal aliens. America is a white nation." Also last month, at the University of Pennsylvania flyers blared "Imagine a Muslim-free America."

Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

Hate incidents can happen anywhere: the mall, the church, the office. But, in the wake of the 2016 election, hate's been showing up a lot in school.

The Department of Homeland Security is stepping up its support for Jewish institutions across the nation who've received more than 120 bomb threats in the past two months. Jewish Community Centers have been pressing for help as they've been targeted by waves of threatening calls as well as vandalism.

Since January, the calls coming in to JCCs have been both vivid and unnerving. Betzy Lynch, executive director of the JCC in Birmingham, Ala., got three of the threatening calls, all very similar.

Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

Harassment, threats and intimidation of minorities and immigrants spiked nationwide after President Trump's election in November. Comprehensive statistics are hard to come by, but officials and watch groups say hate-motivated incidents remain higher than usual more than three months after Election Day.

Massachusetts is among the many states that have seen such a spike.

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