Robert Smith

Robert Smith is NPR's New York Correspondent. Before moving into his current position, Smith was NPR's education reporter and covered public schools and universities on the West Coast. He reported on a variety of issues facing the education system, including the challenges of over-crowding, tight budgets, teacher retention, and new technology.

Smith's reports have been heard on NPR since 1994, first as a freelance reporter based in the Northwest, then during a short stint for NPR in Los Angeles. Specializing in the offbeat, Smith has taken his microphone into some strange worlds. He traveled into the backcountry with Gearheads to talk about their obsession with camping technology; he snuck into a all-night rave in the California desert; he has dressed up as Santa Claus for an undercover look at the wild night of Santarchy; and he has trained for the oft-mocked Olympic sport of curling. He is particularly fascinated by clowns and turkeys.

Born in London, Ontario, Canada, Smith emigrated to the United States with his family. He grew up in the ski-resort town of Park City, Utah, where he started in radio by hosting a music show while in high school. Smith graduated from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, in 1989, and began reporting for community radio station KBOO. He followed with reporting jobs at KUER in Salt Lake City and KUOW in Seattle, where he was also news director.

Smith now lives in New York with his wife, Robbyn. When he's not reporting, Smith enjoys barbecuing and model rocketry.



Fri July 1, 2011
Planet Money

Breakfast At Libertarian Summer Camp

nealaus Flickr

Last weekend, a group of libertarians and anarchists gathered in the woods of northern New Hampshire for the annual Porcupine Freedom Festival, aka PorcFest.

I went up for breakfast.

Lucky for me, George Mandrik has brought along 150 lbs. of bacon, which he's selling out of a tent to finance his trip to the festival. He does this thing where he weaves 10 pieces of bacon into what he calls "a little blanket," and cooks the whole thing up.

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Sun June 26, 2011
The Record

In Through The Out Door: Turning Abandoned Buildings Into Recording Studios

The Mason Jar team conducts a recording session with a chamber orchestra and The Wood Brothers (sitting on the desk, Chris on the left and Olive on the right) in a classroom at St. Cecilia's Church in Brooklyn.
Sasha Arutyunova Courtesy of Mason Jar Music

For a hundred years, there was singing in the classrooms of St. Cecilia's School in Brooklyn. But since the parish closed it down a couple of years ago, the space has been pretty quiet. The empty rooms are rented by artists or for the occasional film shoot.

This spring, musician Dan Knobler got the keys to the five-story school building from the church, and when he opened the door, he says he knew it could work.

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Mon June 6, 2011
Planet Money

The Failure Tour Of New York

Originally published on Mon May 7, 2012 10:36 am

Mary Altaffer AP

"I'm sure New York does failure better than anyone else because it does success better than anywhere else," Tim Harford says.

Harford, an economist and author, isn't just being kind. He argues in his new book, "Adapt," that success always starts with failure.

And so we've set out across Manhattan to look for some of those big ideas that didn't work out.

Out first stop is the main library. In the lobby is a classic example of how even things we consider successful were flops at the time: a 15th-century Bible printed by Johannes Gutenberg himself.

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Fri June 3, 2011

Romney Tries Again To Be GOP Presidential Nominee

Originally published on Wed August 24, 2011 9:39 am



This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

Four years is a long time in politics. Just ask Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor first announced a run for president in 2007. Yesterday, Romney had a chance at a do-over, formally declaring, again, that he will seek the Republican nomination. Everyone knew it was coming. But it's a chance for Romney to redefine what he stands for, as NPR's Robert Smith reports.

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Mon May 16, 2011
Planet Money

The History Of The Debt Ceiling

The U.S. government hit the debt ceiling today. This makes life very complicated for the Treasury Department, which now needs to shuffle money around to pay the bills.

But originally, as it turns out, the debt ceiling was supposed to make things easier. A hundred years ago, it seemed so straightforward.

When Congress wanted to spend, it spent. And if it needed to borrow, it approved the sale of a bunch of Treasury bonds. Congress would consider each new bond individually.

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