Virginia Prescott

Host, Word of Mouth

Prior to joining NHPR, Virginia Prescott was editor and producer for the nationally syndicated programs On Point and Here & Now, produced at WBUR in Boston. Virginia grew up in New Hampshire, but began her radio career at WWOZ Radio in New Orleans. She moved to New York City and worked for the team behind NPR’s Peabody Award-winning Jazz from Lincoln Center series with Ed Bradley. Virginia then joined WNYC to launch the station’s website and oversee all its interactive media sites. Throughout her radio career, Virginia helped set up independent radio stations in developing regions in southern and West Africa. She has also trained journalists in post-conflict zones from Sierra Leone to the former Yugoslavia. She was awarded a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University where she studied how broadcast media could spark dialogue and build community across terrestrial borders.

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Word of Mouth
9:48 am
Wed August 7, 2013

The Real Life Walter White?

Credit via buzzfeed.com

Breaking Bad follows a high school science teacher who cooks up meth with a former student, kicking off a fast slide into murder, extortion and unsavory partnerships as a bona fide drug lord. Too crazy to be true…right? Well, maybe not. In 2011, police in California arrested Stephen Kinzey; professor by day, outlaw biker and meth distributor by night. Kinzey has been out on bail since his initial arrest. The preliminary hearing to determine whether or not the case against him is strong enough to go to trial was scheduled for June, it’s since been delayed.

Natasha Vargas-Cooper wrote about the real-life Walter White for BuzzFeed, and took the time to talk with us. She’s also a frequent contributor to The Atlantic, and The New York Times among others.

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Word of Mouth
12:04 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Salt Smarts: How Iodine Has Increased American I.Q.s

Credit Joe Mud via Flickr Creative Commons

Iodized salt is so common today that you may never have considered the two as separate elements. This wasn’t always the case -- in 1924 iodized salt was first sold commercially in the U.S. to reduce the incidence of goiter – or swelling of the thyroid gland. Within a decade the average I.Q. in the United States had risen three and a half points. In areas that had been iodine deficient, I.Q. levels rose an average of fifteen points. A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research traces this leap in I.Q. back to iodized salt.  We spoke with Max Nisen, war room reporter for Business Insider, where he wrote about I.Q. increases as a result of iodized salt.

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Word of Mouth
11:56 am
Tue August 6, 2013

Of Dice And Men: Dungeons & Dragons And The People Who Play It

Credit via ofdiceandmen.com

Recounting his relationship with Dungeons and Dragons, David Ewalt writes, “I don’t know if I played D&D because other kids my age thought I was a nerd, or if they thought I was a nerd because I played D&D.”  The progenitor of many of today’s role-playing games has gained a reputation for attracting social outcasts and misfits and as a gateway for teenage boys to consider Satan and suicide. Like millions of kids who played twenty-side die in basements and game rooms across the country, Ewalt grew up…and had less time for a game that could suck up the idle hours of youth. He’s among those picking up the old dice bag for a D&D revival. David Ewalt is now an editor for Forbes, and author of the new book Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons and Dragons and the People Who Play It. It hits stores August 20th.

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Word of Mouth
11:39 am
Tue August 6, 2013

An Inside Account of L.A. Gang Culture

kevindean via Flickr Creative Commons

Jorja Leap is a small person with a long shadow on the streets of Los Angeles. She’s a professor of social welfare at UCLA, and an anthropologist who, for the past seven years has traced the kinship ties, rites, turf wars, and intervention programs operating in the bloodiest trenches of LA. Her book, “Jumped In” is part memoir and part ethnographic narrative of gang culture from a woman who’s earned street cred among gang members, respect from academics and props from law enforcement. We spoke to Jorja last year when the book was first released; it is now out in paperback.

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Word of Mouth
11:14 am
Mon August 5, 2013

Greenwashing The New York City Skyline

The Bank of America Tower in mid-town Manhattan.
Credit Wall Gobetz via flickr Creative Commons

Some big players turned out for the Bank of America tower ribbon cutting ceremony in 2010. Al Gore was there. His investment management company is a tenant of the 55-story building advertised as the most sustainable building in the country. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was there too. Along with developer Douglas Durst, whose company got almost $950,000 in incentives from a state agency for the structure’s innovative, energy saving design. The B.O.A. tower received a platinum LEED rating – the highest score for building energy and efficiency.

New York-based journalist Sam Roudman found data published last fall by the city showing that the B.O.A. tower uses more energy and produces more greenhouse gases than some of the city’s historic buildings. The discrepancy between green ideals and reality raises new questions for more than fifty-thousand LEED certified buildings in the U.S.. Sam’s article “Bank of America’s Toxic Tower” is in the New Republic.

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Word of Mouth
11:12 am
Mon August 5, 2013

Arctic Methane Belch Could Prove Costly

Credit NASA/Kathryn Hansen via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's flickr

Methane is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon – and scientists have discovered there is a potentially disastrous amount of methane trapped under relatively thin ice in the east Siberian arctic shelf. New research measures the global impact the gas could have on global warming… and it’s not very optimistic.  Fred Pearce is environmental consultant for New Scientist.

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Word of Mouth
11:11 am
Mon August 5, 2013

Drugs, Murder, And Music: The Narco-Corrido

Chris Valdes and Ted Griswold
Credit Chris Valdes and Ted Griswold via Kickstarter

Los Tigres del Norte’s 1972 breakthrough hit, “Contrabando y Traicion” – is a song which, despite its cheery tone and instrumentation, tells the dark tale of two lovers trafficking marijuana in the tires of their car…a story that ends in betrayal and murder.   The song is what is called a “narco-corrido”, or drug ballad.  After returning from a two-year stint teaching grade-school in one of the most dangerous parts of Honduras, Ted Griswold and Chris Valdes find themselves wanting to return… they’re raising funds on Kickstarter for a documentary film about Honduras’ most famous underground drug-ballad band, Los Plebes de Olancho.

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Word of Mouth
3:40 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Scott Simon's Twitter Vigil

Scott Simon's parents on their wedding day
Credit Courtesy of Scott Simon, via NPR

A few years ago, NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon interviewed his mother, Patricia Lyons Simon Newman, for StoryCorps. She talked about what a great companion he was; when he broke down, in response, his mother told him to "stop crying."

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Word of Mouth
9:17 am
Thu August 1, 2013

Making Ourselves Happier

Credit happier.com

What makes you happier? This simple question lies at the heart of a new app called “Happier” – a social media community and iPhone app which collects and shares the little actions, moments and gesture that brighten their day. The app was developed with the idea that the key to happiness is focusing on the positive and plenty of people have joined so far. We wanted to know – are they any better off? Nataly Kogan is co-founder of the Boston-based Happier Inc. and she spoke with us about the app.

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Word of Mouth
8:55 am
Thu August 1, 2013

Space Weather Could Be Coming To A Forecast Near You

Credit Eddiedog2012

It’s summer storm season, and before heading out of the house it’s not a bad idea to take a quick glance at your local Doppler Radar to avoid getting caught in a downpour.  The breadth and scope of weather forecasting has advanced rapidly in the past few decades – now, the United Kingdom’s National Weather Service is partnering with NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to begin providing forecasts of space weather in near real-time. We wanted to get a better idea of what a space forecast might sound like, so we called Joe Hanson - host and writer of the PBS digital studio’s It’s Okay To Be Smart.

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Word of Mouth
8:53 am
Thu August 1, 2013

The Lack Of Diversity In Children's Books

Credit rbrucemontgomery via Flickr Creative Commons

Children’s books are delightful, colorful, and whimsical ways to introduce children to reading. Although parents may find it a wee bit annoying to repeat the same stories night after night, reading to kids is crucial to healthy childhood development and helps form their vision of a world outside of their own. A study released last year found that children’s books are woefully under-representative of cultural diversityJason Boog is editor of the publishing website GalleyCat – he’s working on a book about reading to kids, and has been keeping an eye on content for kids.

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Word of Mouth - Segment
10:02 am
Wed July 31, 2013

Urban Farming: A Bright Spot In The Collapse Of A Once Great City

Photo courtesy By Gerbriel Kamener and Sown Together

Detroit’s declaration of bankruptcy this summer opened up the floodgates for stories of its decline. Documentary films, photo essays, and articles reveal a once-proud American city, home to world’s highest-paid workers and a strong middle class, as a shell of its former self. Some residents are finding hope among the abandoned neighborhoods, crumbling municipal buildings, and rusting car factories that made the motor city hum.

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Word of Mouth
9:23 am
Wed July 31, 2013

Learning To Live Without A.C.

Credit Istvanski via Flickr Creative Commons

The heat wave that blanketed the east coast in mid-July was the longest to hit New York City in a decade. Not surprisingly, the Big Apple broke records for energy usage, as sweltering city-dwellers turned up the AC.  The US leads the world in climate control – but at a significant financial and environmental cost.  Leon Neyfakh is a reporter for the Ideas section of the Boston Globe – and author of the article “How to Live Without Air Conditioning”.

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Word of Mouth
12:29 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

The Pope 'Didn't Say Anything New.' Blogger Behind 'Joe. My. God.' Weighs In

Credit © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

Yesterday, Pope Francis gave a spontaneous and startling frank press conference on a plane ride following his week-long trip to Brazil. In response to a question about gay priests, he said: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

This stands in stark contrast to the views of his predecessor, Pope Benedict, who publicly and repeatedly stated that gay relationships were “evil” and “contrary to natural order.”

Here to talk about what might some are saying is a monumental shift for the LGBT community and the Catholic Church is Joe Jervis, the blogger behind “Joe. My. God.”, which covers LGBT issues, the media, and politics.

Word of Mouth
11:52 am
Tue July 30, 2013

Turning Data Into Art

Credit Brian House via Wired.com

IBM calculates that the human race creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day, with information ranging from scientific research to consumer tracking to social media output. As businesses, governments and researchers continue to search for new ways to parse through this vast amount of information, one man is searching for the bridge between data collection and everyday life. In his project “The Quotidian Record,” Brian House interprets a year’s worth of his own location and movement data into an 11 minute musical track, morphing binary code into warm vinyl rhythm. House is a doctoral student at Brown University in the Music and the Modern Culture and Media Departments; he also teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design. He created the quotidian record while he was a member of The New York Times Research and Development Lab.

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