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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2:25am

Thu January 16, 2014
Sports

For A Better Bobsled, Team USA Turns To Race Cars

Originally published on Thu January 16, 2014 2:07 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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2:43am

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 11:01 am

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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2:34am

Fri June 7, 2013
Planet Money

How To Sell Coke To People Who Have Never Had A Sip

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 2:05 pm

Lam Thuy Vo NPR

For years, there were only three countries in the world that didn't officially sell Coca-Cola: Cuba, North Korea and Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Now, after 60 years, Coke is back in Myanmar. Sanctions were lifted last year on the country. Just this week, Coca-Cola opened its new bottling plant outside of Yangon. Now all the company has to do is figure out a way to sell all that Coke to people who may not remember what it tastes like.

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1:54am

Fri May 24, 2013
Planet Money

Can This Man Bring Silicon Valley To Yangon?

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 8:29 am

Lam Thuy Vo NPR

Like a proud father, Nay Aung opens up his MacBook Air to show me the Myanmar travel website he has built. But we wait 30 seconds for the site to load, and nothing happens.

"Today is a particularly bad day for Internet," he says. This is life in Myanmar today: Even an Internet entrepreneur can't always get online.

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2:12am

Fri May 10, 2013
Planet Money

Why (Almost) No One In Myanmar Wanted My Money

Originally published on Fri May 10, 2013 6:50 pm

Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

When you arrive in Myanmar, you can see how eager the people are to do business. At the airport in Yangon, new signs in English welcome tourists. A guy in a booth offers to rent me a local cellphone — and he's glad to take U.S. dollars. But when I pull out my money, he shakes his head.

"I'm sorry," he says.

He points to the crease mark in the middle of the $20 bill. No creases allowed.

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2:07am

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 10:14 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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2:46am

Fri February 22, 2013
Planet Money

At A Trade Show, Power Tools Fit For The Amish

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 8:59 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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2:18pm

Fri February 15, 2013
Planet Money

Should The U.S. Import More Doctors?

Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 3:52 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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10:43am

Mon February 4, 2013
Planet Money

A Union Vote For Chinese Workers Who Assemble iPhones

Originally published on Mon February 4, 2013 11:12 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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8:43pm

Fri December 14, 2012
Shootings In Newtown, Conn.

Shooter's Family Connections Begin To Emerge

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 9:27 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

We begin this hour with the tragedy in Connecticut. This morning, around nine o'clock, a young man walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and began shooting. Federal law enforcement officials now tell NPR the gunman was 20-year-old Adam Lanza of Newtown.

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2:28am

Thu December 13, 2012
Planet Money

Will A $1.9 Billion Settlement Change Banks' Behavior?

Originally published on Thu December 13, 2012 10:55 am

Ben Stansall AFP/Getty Images

If a kid does something bad and you want to discipline him — give him a timeout, say, or take away a toy — there are some basic principles that seem to work.

The punishment needs to happen quickly after the bad behavior. And it needs to be significant enough to get noticed. Those rules aren't just for kids; they need to hold true for any type of punishment to be effective.

But if you're a federal regulator punishing a bank, it can be tough to be swift enough and to levee a penalty that's severe enough to make a difference.

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6:44pm

Tue November 6, 2012
Election 2012

Some New York City Polling Sites Run On Generators

Originally published on Tue November 6, 2012 7:08 pm

The aftermath of Superstorm Sandy has complicated voting in the New York City area. Robert Siegel talks with Robert Smith.

4:35pm

Thu November 1, 2012
Around the Nation

New Yorkers Struggle With Limited Transit Options

Originally published on Thu November 1, 2012 5:42 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

New Yorkers were ready to get back to work today. Unfortunately, the region's transportation system was not. Commuters to Manhattan overwhelmed the barely operating bus and train system. From Brooklyn, NPR's Robert Smith reports on the resulting long lines and frustration.

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11:50am

Fri October 19, 2012
Planet Money

Watch Our Fake Presidential Candidate's First Real Ad

Originally published on Fri October 19, 2012 6:12 pm

The fake candidate.
Lam Vo NPR

1:53am

Fri October 19, 2012
Planet Money

The Candidate Is Fake; The Consultants Are Real

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 11:31 am

One consultant's vision for our political ad: "I see a horse."
iStockphoto.com

When our series began yesterday, we brought together five economists from across the political spectrum and had them create a platform for their dream presidential candidate. It's a platform — Get rid of a tax deduction for homeowners!

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