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.



Snowboarders have a new set of heroes who are not American. Last night, at the snowboard halfpipe event in Sochi, not a single member of Team USA was on the podium. The winners were Swiss and Japanese. Maybe the biggest disappointment was the fourth place finish by Shaun White. He's the American who, for years, has been the focal point of snowboarding's rise in popularity.

NPR's Robert Smith was there and tells us what it means for the sport.



Now to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where American snowboarder Shaun White attempted a three-peat today. He was trying to be the first three-time gold medal winner in the half-pipe competition, actually the first American man to win three consecutive golds in any Winter Olympic event. And NPR's Robert Smith watched the action today and joins us now from outside the half-pipe venue. Robert, how did things turn out for Shaun White?

It's hard to tell on TV, but in person, the Olympics are loud.

Every competition has its own DJ, and for the snowboarding, Russia has brought in a little help from the USA: Mike Nakagawa, better known as DJ Naka G.

The men's snowboarding team is hitting the halfpipe Tuesday in Sochi, and it's Naka G's job to pick the song for each rider.

"We're really providing the soundtrack for a story," he says. "We're making it dramatic. We're making it exciting. We're making it just pure fun."

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.

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.



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


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.



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.

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.

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.

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.