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.

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1:07am

Fri March 29, 2013
Planet Money

The Trick To Selling Fancy Wine From New Jersey: Don't Say It's From New Jersey

Originally published on Fri March 29, 2013 9:14 am

A sign outside Lou Caracciolo's winery, Amalthea Cellars
Courtesy Amalthea Cellars

Halfway between the New Jersey Turnpike and the Atlantic City casinos is a little slice of France: Amalthea Cellars. There's an old farmhouse, and a field full of grapevines.

Lou Caracciolo, who founded Amalthea, is walking through the field. "Here's something I put in the ground in 1976," he says. "You have to have a feel for it, and after 30 years I have a pretty good feel for it."

Caracciolo calls himself a hopeless romantic. And, really, you have to be a romantic to try to make a $33 bottle of cabernet sauvignon blend in New Jersey.

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11:39am

Mon February 25, 2013
Planet Money

A Computer Fit For The Amish

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 9:56 am

Adam Davidson NPR

Last week, I had a story on an Amish trade show. It was mostly about power tools, but there was another other thing that we didn't mention in the online version: The booth selling computers to the Amish.

The key selling point, perhaps not surprisingly, is all the things the computer doesn't do. Like the sign says: No Internet, no video, no music.

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1:46am

Fri February 22, 2013
Planet Money

At A Trade Show, Power Tools Fit For The Amish

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 7:59 pm

Robert Smith / NPR

The Buckeye Tool Expo in Dalton, Ohio, is held in a massive hall filled with bearded men in black hats and women in white bonnets. A few horses and buggies are tied up outside.

The Amish have chosen to forgo many of the delights of the modern world, but they still need to drill, sand and cut wood. This trade expo shows off all the loopholes that let the Amish get their hands on power tools.

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1:18pm

Fri February 15, 2013
Planet Money

Should The U.S. Import More Doctors?

Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 2:52 pm

iStockphoto.com

People around the world want the same thing from their doctors. First, do no harm. Second, take a look at this weird bump and tell me if I should get worried.

The job is basically the same in many countries around the world. But the pay is wildly different. The median salary for U.S. doctors is about $250,000 a year. In Western Europe, it's less than half that. In developing countries, the salaries are even lower.

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8:52am

Mon February 4, 2013
Planet Money

A Union Vote For Chinese Workers Who Assemble iPhones

Originally published on Mon February 4, 2013 10:12 am

Workers at a Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, China, in 2010.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

The Chinese workers who assemble iPhones, iPads and tons of other electronic devices may soon be able to elect their own union representatives, the FT reports.

Labor unions technically do exist in Chinese factories, but they're typically controlled by management and the government. So a union run by democratic vote of the workers would be a huge shift.

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