Robert Smith

Robert Smith is a correspondent for NPR's Planet Money where he reports on how the global economy is affecting our lives.

If that sounds a little dry, then you've never heard Planet Money. The team specializes in making economic reporting funny, engaging and understandable. Planet Money has been known to set economic indicators to music, use superheroes to explain central banks, and even buy a toxic asset just to figure it out.

Smith admits that he has no special background in finance or math, just a curiosity about how money works. That kind of curiosity has driven Smith for his 20 years in radio.

Before joining Planet Money, Smith was the New York correspondent for NPR. He was responsible for covering all the mayhem and beauty that makes it the greatest city on Earth. Smith reported on the rebuilding of Ground Zero, the stunning landing of US Air flight 1549 in the Hudson River and the dysfunctional world of New York politics. He specialized in features about the overlooked joys of urban living: puddles, billboards, ice cream trucks, street musicians, drunks and obsessives.

When New York was strangely quiet, Smith pitched in covering the big national stories. He traveled with presidential campaigns, tracked the recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and reported from the BP oil spill.

Before his New York City gig, Smith worked for public radio stations in Seattle (KUOW), Salt Lake City (KUER) and Portland (KBOO). He's been an editor, a host, a news director and just about any other job you can think of in broadcasting. Smith also lectures on the dark arts of radio at universities and conferences. He trains fellow reporters how to sneak humor and action into even the dullest stories on tight deadlines.

Smith started in broadcasting playing music at KPCW in his hometown of Park City, Utah. Although the low-power radio station at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, likes to claim him as its own.

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7:40pm

Mon February 10, 2014
The Edge

The Norwegian Athlete Who's One Medal Away From History

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 3:55 pm

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway practices in Sochi on Monday.
Harry How Getty Images

On Monday, Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen came a ski-length away from winning a 13th Olympic medal and becoming the most decorated athlete ever at the Winter Games.

The biathlon pursuit Olympic event — cross-country skiing with rifle shooting — is a pretty devious race. The fastest man goes first, and then everyone else in the race tries to catch him before the finish line. And in Monday's competition, Bjoerndalen went first.

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5:05pm

Fri February 7, 2014
Sports

Glory And Glitches At Sochi Opening Ceremonies

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 9:04 pm

The 2014 Winter Olympics officially opened Friday with a ceremony celebrating Russian culture and introducing Olympic athletes from around the world. NPR's Robert Smith was at the ceremony in Sochi and joins us to recount the pomp and pitfalls on display.

5:18pm

Thu February 6, 2014
Sports

Trains May Be Slow In Sochi, But The Snowboarders Are Flying High

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 7:55 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.

Enough talk about whether or not Russia is ready to host the Olympics, it's time. The competitions have begun. Snowboarders and figure skaters took to the snow and ice today, even though the Opening Ceremony doesn't happen until tomorrow.

NPR's Robert Smith traveled with Russian fans to the first event to see if years of planning have paid off.

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5:17am

Thu February 6, 2014
Sports

Ready Or Not, Olympic Events Begin In Sochi

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 7:59 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And at last, we can say this morning, let the games begin. The Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics will be held tomorrow in Sochi, Russia. But there were just too many sports to fit in, so a few got an early start, including a new Olympic event: slopestyle snowboarding. It debuted on a clear, beautiful day on the mountain of Rosa Khutor.

NPR's Robert Smith has been taking in the scene, and joins us now. Good morning. This is pretty exciting.

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7:04am

Wed February 5, 2014
Sports

Snowboarder Shaun White Withdraws From Slopestyle Event

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 6:35 pm

Shaun White practiced at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Sochi on Monday. On Wednesday, he withdrew from the event, saying the slopestyle course is too risky for him.
Ryan Pierse Getty Images

Snowboarder Shaun White has announced that he is dropping out of the slopestyle event at the Sochi Olympics.

The event is scheduled to start Thursday. White will still compete in halfpipe, his usual sport, but he says Sochi's slopestyle course, with its larger-than-usual jumps, is too risky for him.

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7:56pm

Mon January 27, 2014
The Edge

X Games Show The Olympics What The Kids Want

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 1:17 pm

Nick Goepper competed in the ski slopestyle qualification for the European Winter X Games last March.
Jean-Pierre Clatot AFP/Getty Images

Nick Goepper is headed off to the Olympics in a couple of days, but he's not taking it easy: He spent the weekend hurtling through the air on ESPN at the X Games.

The sport is slopestyle. If you've watched any extreme skiing on television, you'll know it well: Skiers hit rails and walls and massive jumps; they seem to spend more time in the air than on the snow.

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6:26pm

Tue January 21, 2014
Sports

Aerial Skiing Is A Game Of Skill — And Strategy

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 8:08 pm

Emily Cook trains in aerials for the Visa Freestyle International in Park City, Utah, last February.
Matthew Stockman Getty Images

During the Winter Olympics, seeing an aerial skier perform is unforgettable.

It's like gymnastics in the air. And, like gymnasts, aerial skiers get points for doing a harder routine and for sticking the landing. But there's a crucial difference between the two sports.

In the final few rounds of aerials, you can't use the same trick twice. Sometimes, after seeing what the athletes before you have done, you have to change which moves you'll use in the very last seconds.

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3:25am

Thu January 16, 2014
Sports

For A Better Bobsled, Team USA Turns To Race Cars

Originally published on Thu January 16, 2014 3:07 pm

U.S. bobsledders Nick Cunningham and Abraham Morlu compete in a BMW-designed sled at the World Cup in January in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The U.S. team paired up with a BMW race car designer several years ago to boost its chances at the 2014 Winter Games.
Alex Livesey Getty Images

When you meet bobsled driver Steve Holcomb, he doesn't talk about his Olympic gold medal — the one he won with the four-man team at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Instead, he talks about the one that got away.

Four years ago, his two-man bobsled started the Olympic run with a great push. "I was actually winning the race in Vancouver," Holcomb says. But then he "made a driving mistake, and we went from first place to sixth place in two turns."

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3:43am

Mon December 23, 2013
Planet Money

A Locked Door, A Secret Meeting And The Birth Of The Fed

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 12:01 pm

J.P. Morgan: Not a pussycat.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

In 1907, the U.S. economy was in the grip of a financial crisis. Unemployment was up. The stock market was down.

People started panicking. They were lining up overnight to pull their money out of healthy banks. This can be deadly for an economy: Healthy banks have to shut down, businesses can't get credit, they lay people off, and the economy gets worse.

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7:52am

Fri December 13, 2013
World

In A City With Terrible Traffic, A Gridlock Economy Emerges

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 12:08 pm

For a price, this Jakarta mother will get into your car so you can drive in the carpool lane.
Robert Smith NPR

Jakarta, Indonesia, has some of the worst traffic on the planet. For some local entrepreneurs, all those people stuck in their cars are potential customers.

In a middle of one Jakarta traffic jam, a guy pushes his chicken cart through the cars, clanging his pots. Men walk down the center lane selling nuts, crackers as big as your head and other treats. They're all trying to make eye contact with the drivers.

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