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Robert Smith, NPR

Robert Smith

Robert Smith is a host for NPR's Planet Money where he tells stories about 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.

  • "We should think of doctors the same way we think of shirts," an economist says. "If we can get doctors at a lower cost from elsewhere in the world then we could save enormous amounts of money."
  • The Fed has the power to create money. But it has another, critical power: The power of words.
  • Warren Buffett, billionaire investor and founder of Berkshire Hathaway, has announced he is donating much of his fortune to charity. Over time, most of Buffett's $44 billion in stock holdings will be given to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • New York state's highest court heard arguments Wednesday in several gay marriage cases. It will be at least a month before the New York Court of Appeals decides whether gays and lesbians have the right to marry same-sex partners.
  • Beverage makers and the William Clinton Foundation announce a plan to stop the sale of full-calorie sodas at public schools nationwide by 2010. Under the deal, only water, unsweetened juice and low-fat milk will be sold in lower grades and only diet sodas will be sold in high schools.
  • New York plans to offer $14,600 in housing subsidies to lure math, science and special-education teachers to the city. It's the latest tool that several public school districts -- in this case the nation's largest -- hope will attract good teachers to expensive housing markets.
  • Four men are indicted in New York City for allegedly stealing body parts from a Brooklyn funeral home and selling them for transplants. Prosecutors allege that they made millions of dollars by selling tissue samples without permission from the families.
  • U.S. authorities say the release of a new audiotape from Osama bin Laden, threatening new attacks in the United States, will not prompt an increase in the terror-threat level. The al Qaeda leader also makes a vague reference to a truce offer on the tape, which Vice President Cheney and other officials dismissed.
  • New York City is increasing security on its subways after receiving what Mayor Mike Bloomberg calls a specific threat to mass transit in the coming days. At a press conference Thursday, he made note of an unusual "level of specificity" and said the threat originated overseas.
  • The head of New Orleans' police department, Eddie Compass, has resigned. This weekend, he announced that 249 officers, or about 15 percent of the force, are absent without leave after the hurricanes. A special tribunal will determine who has deserted and who has legitimate absences from work.