Virginia Prescott

Host, Word of Mouth

Virginia Prescott invites listeners to take a break from breaking news and explore a world of under-reported stories on New Hampshire Public Radio as the host of Word of Mouth, a daily radio program and podcast. Prior to joining NHPR, she was editor, producer, and director for NPR programs On Point and Here & Now, and directed interactive media for New York Public Radio.

Throughout her radio career, Virginia has worked to build sustainable independent radio in the developing world and has trained journalists in post-conflict zones from Sierra Leone to the Balkans. She has been honored for her contributions with a Gracie award for her work on Word of Mouth, a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University, and was a member of the Peabody Award-winning production team for Jazz from Lincoln Center with Ed Bradley. Virginia loves working in public radio, but regrets that so many good outfits go unnoticed.

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via Wikipedia Commons

  Fifty years after his death, the presidency, and character and memory of John F. Kennedy has been covered and re-covered and burnished in television specials, articles and at least one extraordinary radio special that you’ll be hearing tomorrow on NHPR. With each retrospective comes the revival of the Kennedy myths…pictures of the sprawling family with their giant smiles, privilege…and no holds barred ambition.

via adweek.com

In 1978, a message about a new word processing system went out to about 400 users of Arpa-net…that’s the U.S. Government sponsored progenitor of the World Wide Web.  It was the first example of what we now know too well as internet spam. In 1978, the mad men era was snuffing out its last cigarette, the seeds of celebrity endorsements were bursting open, and dawn was about to break on digital. That same year, Ad Week launched.  The publication is marking its 35th anniversary with a look at some pivotal, shocking and subtle moments in the advertising industry.  

David Griner is a contributing editor at AdWeek.

Courtesy Emily Wienberg

On September 15th, 2008, the financial services firm Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11.  The subprime mortgage crisis had been percolating for months by then, as had a global economic decline – but the bankruptcy of the nation’s fourth largest investment bank panicked Wall Street, evaporating liquidity markets, sending the economy sharply downward, and sparking the worst global recession since World War II – a crisis from which the world’s economy is still recovering.

As part of NHPR’s station-wide series “How We Work: Five Years Later,” Word of Mouth presents “The Class of 2008,” conversations with people who graduated from high school or college around the time of the global economic meltdown.

dantegeek via Flickr Creative Commons

Do employees work harder when they are paid more?

A new study out of Harvard set out to answer that question and came away with some interesting conclusions. One, that employers should consider not just what they pay workers, but how. Offering cash bonuses increases employee productivity more than raises in  salaries, even if the amount of bump is exactly the same.   

Duncan Gilchrist is Ph.D. student studying business economics at Harvard, and one of the authors of the study. 

Children’s book writer and illustrator David Wiesner is a three-time winner of the Caldecott Medal for most distinguished children’s picture book. His newest work is about a group of tiny extra-terrestial explorers, whose wee spaceship unwittingly becomes a plaything for a house cat named Mr. Wuffles. 

As with all of Wiesner’s books, Mr.Wuffles is nearly wordless, with dramatic visuals that propel readers from the plausible and everyday into the fantastical world of what could happen… 

Venturist via Flickr Creative Commons

It’s estimated that one in ten Americans show signs of depression, but in a society where mental illness is simultaneously taboo and overexposed, it’s easy to stick to a black-and-white label to describe mental health.

As part of the 'Almost Effect'  series from Harvard Health Publications, two instructors at Harvard teamed up to write a book on that uncomfortable gray area between well-being and chronic depression. It's called Almost Depressed. 

In 2010, then- New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed an executive order creating the Joint Task Force on Employee Misclassification Enforcement.  While it doesn’t sound like the most urgent unit, misclassification is a serious issue, costing employers, business owners and putting un-covered workers at risk. 

As part of NHPR’s week-long series 'How We Work: Five Years Later,' we’re digging into attitudes and policy towards work. Joining us to explain this issue is New Hampshire labor commissioner, Jim Craig, and Martin Jenkins, legal counsel for the D.O.L.

Via Business NH Magazine

This week, we’re talking about work…what we do…and how our attitudes and expectations concerning work have fared under the long shadow of the 2008 financial crisis. Today, we’re taking advantage of some good timing. New Hampshire-based tech company Dyn is holding its third annual 'Culture-Con' tomorrow in its Manchester headquarters.

We talked with two participants in the gathering to talk how companies create workplace cultures that attract and engage and retain workers in meaningful and lasting ways, Dyn's COO, Gray Chynoweth, and Amanda Osmer of Grappone Automotive Group.

Note of disclosure: Grappone is an NHPR underwriter, and Gray Chynoweth serves on NHPR's Community Advisory Board.

MacMillan Publishers

Is there an adult out there who has not, in a moment of fatigue, insomnia, or on a particularly hard day at work, looked around at their life and asked, “Is this it? Is this what I want my life to be?”  Even people who have plenty of money and status and work in their industry of choice may find themselves fantasizing about a job that engages their spirit. A new book from the School of Life series sets out a practical guide to negotiating the myriad choices, overcoming the fear of change, and finding a career that has meaning. Roman Krznaric is a founding member of the school of life. He advises organizations from Oxfam to the UN on using empathy and conversation to create social change. He spoke to us from Oxford, England to talk about his new book How to Find Fulfilling Work.

via shanghaiscrap.com

Chances are you came in contact with something made from recycled material today. A can of soda…the carpeting in your office building, or the smart phone that’s an arms length or less away. . They’re part of a swirling cycle of good made from old items and fed back into the production of new stuff. And the more we buy…the more we need to recycle. But where does all of that recycled material ultimately end up? Adam Minter is Shanghai correspondent for Bloomberg World View and a frequent contributor to The Atlantic and other publications. He’s followed the trail of trash and found that most of it ends up in China and India. He’s author of Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion Dollar Trash Trade.

dearmrwatterson.com

Twenty-eight years ago today, artist Bill Watterson’s only syndicated comic strip hit newspapers for the first time, introducing readers to a rowdy  six-year old named Calvin, and his often hungry and always kindhearted companion, a stuffed tiger named Hobbes.  The strip quickly grew to become arguably the most popular comic of its era – but after ten years in print, the reclusive Watterson retired his pens and brushes, and retreated from the public eye. Now, almost thirty years later, adoring fans carry a nostalgic torch for the quiet subversion, unbridled joy, and beautifully rendered drawings of Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes.

Dear Mr. Watterson” is a new documentary film by director Joel Allen Schroeder that explores the enduring influence Calvin and Hobbes had on a generation of fans and artists. The movie is now out in select theaters and available on demand.

We also spoke with Tim Hulsizer, creator of the Calvin and Hobbes Fan Website.

Courtesy Jessica O'Hare

On September 15th, 2008, the financial services firm Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11.  The subprime mortgage crisis had been percolating for months by then, as had a global economic decline – but the bankruptcy of the nation’s fourth largest investment bank panicked Wall Street, evaporating liquidity markets, sending the economy sharply downward, and sparking the worst global recession since World War II – a crisis from which the world’s economy is still recovering.

As part of NHPR’s station-wide series “How We Work: Five Years Later,” Word of Mouth presents “The Class of 2008,” conversations with people who graduated from high school or college around the time of the global economic meltdown.

For our contribution to the station wide Work Series next week, we have a few segments in store for you. Including an interview with the co-author of a study that looked at what was more likely to increase worker motivation: cash bonuses or salary raises.

We want to know what you think. Which would you prefer? A cash bonus or an equivalent bump in your annual salary? Would a lump sum light your fire more than an increase in your paycheck. Weigh in on the Word of Mouth Listener Line: 603.223.2448

Remember, we reserve the right to use your message on the air. Thanks for listening!

Logan Shannon / NHPR

Not sure how you're going to muster the energy to rake another pile of leaves this weekend? Let us make the chore a little easier by distracting you with a solid hour of public radio encouragement. The Word of Mouth Saturday show is carefully designed to take you on a sound odyssey that's perfect even if you decide to forgo the leaf raking for another day.

On this week's show:

  • Please don't send shoes: Jessica Alexander makes the case for sending money instead of food or clothing when disaster strikes.
  • Why is Sweden so good at pop music? Nolan Feeney outlines the many reasons Sweden is a country of hit makers. We dare you to not get "The Sign" stuck in your head.
  • Talking about death: It's not an easy subject, but a new Showtime series, "Time of Death" approaches the taboo with unflinching realism. Jaweed Kaleem from the Huffington Post, and Miggi Hood, co-executive producer of the series join us to talk about death.
  • The Warren Commission 50 years later. Justice Richard Mosk was a 23-year-old attorney when he became the youngest member of the commission established by President Johnson to investigate the murder of JFK and his assassin. He tells us about the commission and why conspiracy theories can be harmful.

Mike Lavoie, copyright 2013

Here’s a topic guaranteed to get a big laugh…the Constitution.

The national tour of comedian Colin Quinn Unconstitutional, is stopping at The Colonial Theater in Keene this Friday. Quinn, after all, made the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal funny as anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, and has now condensed the Constitution’s history into a witty 75-minute one-man play. His new show finds the humor in how the right and the left argue over the meanings and interpretations of the Constitution.

Copyright 2013 JMA/EUMETSAT

Nearly a week has passed since Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines.  Aid organizations are reporting more than 10,000 dead, though Filipino President Aquino says that number is far overblown. Whatever the number, many more will likely succumb to disease or dehydration as relief slowly pours in to the hardest hit areas. Security is a major concern among officials in areas now teetering towards anarchy. Yesterday, Reuters reported that nearly 30,000 bags of rice were stolen from a government warehouse and rampant looting has turned deadly.   

Americans spring into action after such disasters, emptying their cupboards of old canned goods, medicines and clothing. Jessica Alexander urges you not to. She’s the  author of Chasing Chaos: My Decade In And Out Of Humanitarian Aid. We read her article “Please Don’t Send Your Old Shoes To The Philippines” on slate.com and reached her this morning at the UN.

Image Credit: Bettmann/Corbis via TLC.com

Fifty-years ago, on November 22nd, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot while traveling in his motorcade through Dallas. Kennedy was pronounced dead at 12:30 pm central time that day. By Monday, 45,000 letters of condolence had arrived at the White House. Two months later, nearly 800,000 had arrived -- addressed mostly to Jackie Kennedy and her family. Over the next two years, that number doubled. Handwritten, typed, and cabled, those letters captured the collective grief of the nation and the world and were then filed away for nearly forty six years.

Letters to Jackie, released in 2010, was a compilation of hundreds of those letters by history scholar, UNH professor, author and our guest Ellen Fitzpatrick.

Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy” is a new documentary based on her book and features a selection from those letters read by movie and theater actors. The special makes its television premiere on TLC this coming Sunday, November 17th.

via The Land of Abba

Two decades have passed since Swedish quartet Ace of Base picked up Abba's mantle. Their single, 'The Sign,' topped U.S. charts and cemented a permanent place on pop playlists for decades to come.

Ace of Base also ushered in the so-called 'Swedish Miracle,' an era between 1990 and 2003 when music royalties earned by Sweden from foreign markets were twice as much per capita as royalties paid to songwriters and performers in the U.S. Today, Sweden is the world’s number three music exporter.

Nolan Feeney writes and produces for The Atlantic's entertainment channel, where he asked “Why Is Sweden So Good at Pop Music?”

Fragile Oasis via Flickr Creative Commons

The opening of the U.N.'s climate change summit this past weekend in Poland was overshadowed by Typhoon Haiyan. A Filipino envoy broke down in tears when describing the devastation, and received a standing ovation when he announced that he would fast until a "meaningful outcome is in sight."

An increase in weather-related disasters, fluctuating temperatures and rising sea levels are among the discouraging issues being discussed at the 2-week summit in Warsaw. But, there is some encouraging news…a new report by a Dutch agency found that global greenhouse gas emissions showed signs of slowing in 2012. The slackened pace is not attributed to recession, and has, in fact, occurred as wealth continues to climb among the world’s top CO2 emitters. Fred Pearce is environmental consultant for New Scientist, and breaks down the optimistic report for us. 

via KinanAzmeh.com

Clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh was born in Damascus, but now lives in New York, where he wakes up to bad news each day. One of his compositions, “A Sad Morning, Every Morning,” is dedicated to the victims of the Syrian conflict, now in its third year.

Kinan will be performing at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth tonight along with Sally Pinkas, and the Apple Hill String Quartet in a program called “Playing for Peace.”

Also featured tonight will be works by Joseph Haydn and Mieczyslaw Weinberg and the world premiere of two compositions by the composer Kareem Roustom-- also born in Damascus. Roustom has not been back to Syria since 2008; Azmeh since July 2012 , but the people who are suffering in their war-torn homeland are never far from their hearts or their music. We spoke to Kinan Azmeh and Kareem Routsom from Dartmouth’s studio about homeland.

Rachel via flickr Creative Commons

If you’ve ever avoided a conversation about death, you are not alone. While death scenes are plentiful in movies and on television, witnessing the real, degenerative, disorienting process of death and dying is avoided…unmentionable…a taboo.  A new Showtime series faces that taboo head-on. “Time of Death” follows eight terminally ill people ranging in age from nineteen to seventy-seven over the course of nine months to their final hours and even moments of life.

Reviews and conversations cropping up around the series praise its raw, sometimes agonizing realism and wonder if anyone will watch; if our death denying culture can take such an unflinching look at death? The Huffington Post’s religion reporter Jaweed Kaleem wrote about the series. He’s covers one of HuffPo’s most unusual beats: death.

Also joining us is Miggi Hood co-executive producer for the Showtime series, “Time of Death.”

The Art of Procrastination by John Perry

Feeling guilty about putting off something important?  Can’t seem to finish that daunting task at the top of the to-do-list?  Here’s a philosophy book for you: “The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing John Perry is an emeritus professor of philosophy at Stanford University, and an admitted chronic procrastinator.  He wrote the book as a way of avoiding doing something else – a principle he calls “structured procrastination".

Jesse757 via flickr Creative Commons

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy fifty years ago this month, left a country in shock and disbelief and as the years went on, awash in conspiracy theories.  Nearly a thousand books have disputed the central finding of the Warren Commission: that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot the president.  Today, almost two-thirds of the American public doubt believe that Oswald, and his assassin, Jack Ruby, were part of a larger conspiracy.  

Richard Mosk was a 23-year-old attorney when he became the youngest member of the commission established by President Johnson to investigate the murder of JFK and his assassin. He’s now associate justice on the California court of appeals. In an article for Stanford magazine, Mosk wrote that he is “apprehensive” about the upcoming anniversary – which will again stir up the conspiracy theories that have shadowed the Warren Commission’s findings for half a century.

Adam Fagen via flickr Creative Commons

Enjoying the Saturday edition of Word of Mouth is like sipping a hot cup of cocoa on a crisp fall day. Rest assured, this is an indulgent cup of public radio goodness, topped with the whipped cream and sprinkles you've come to expect from the WoM team. So why not take a break from raking those leaves for an hour and curl up with us. On this week's show:

  • Schottenfreude: Need a word to describe your feelings? Perhaps the German language can lend a hand. Ben Schott  joins us to share a few new words that borrow from German to add to your lexicon.
  • Are You Cool? Dan Kois talks about Slate's month long series that investigates what cool is and where the term comes from.
  • WEB BONUS: Virginia's cool quiz with Dan Kois.

Don Hankins via flickr Creative Commons

If you’ve been keeping up on the scope of NSA data harvesting and reports of corporations selling – or losing – your personal data, you may well be:

a) scared out of your wits

b) changing your passwords, securing your routers taking steps to protect your data or 

c) throwing your hands up in the air and surrendering to the new insecurity state. There is also the option of throwing out your smart phone, pulling down the shades, and curling up in a ball.

Adam Penenberg is an editor for PandoDaily, a technology news site and a professor of journalism at New York University. He wrote about hiring hackers to test his own security – and found himself  to be more vulnerable than he thought. 

via indiebound.org

Richard Pryor changed stand-up. He created comedy with no jokes. Instead, he unleashed a parade of street characters rarely glimpsed by white people and mortifying to middle class African Americans. Pryor wrote that the neighbors, whores and winos he saw growing up around his family’s bars and brothels inspired a lifetime of comedic material.

Pryor’s stand-up was outrageously blunt, fearlessly black and openly angry. His talent ran in tandem with episodes of self-destructive, violent, behavior -- often triggered by drug use – which jeopardized his career and endangered his life. Yet, in movies, Grammy-winning albums, and even a short-lived TV special, Richard Pryor’s unapologetically irreverent comedy crossed over to capture a huge American audience; Brothers Dave and Joe Henry among them. Dave is a screenwriter, Joe is a singer and songwriter and together they’ve written Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him.

Jean KOULEV via flickr Creative Commons

In 2007, researchers from the University of Texas categorized 237 motivations for humans to have sex. Recently, researchers at the University of Toronto divided the most common into two broad categories: approach motives pursue a positive outcome, like increasing intimacy; avoidance motives aim to avoid conflict or guilt. The Canadian team found that adding the fairly un-sexy drives of duty, resignation and guilt which significantly affect the health of a relationship, and could spell the difference between a happy marriage and a rocky one. Elizabeth Bernstein is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, where she wrote about the studies published by University of Toronto in October.

The sensation of tickling has baffled great thinkers  since the days of Aristotle, who used human ticklishness to distinguish people from animals. Later, Freud puzzled over the strange mix of pleasure and pain caused by tickling.  

Indeed, we tickle kids or siblings, sometimes affectionately, sometimes edging towards cruelty.  Still unknown is why people laugh when tickled, and why you can’t tickle yourself? Why do some people enjoy tickling and others not? And what is tickling, after all? Contemporary philosopher Aaron Schuster picks up those questions. He’s on the faculty at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam and wrote “A Philosophy of Tickling” for Cabinet Magazine.

squirelaraptor via Flickr Creative Commons

Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Prince of Darkness…whatever he's called, some seventy percent of Americans believe in the existence of the Devil. That’s according to a 2007 Gallup Poll, and that number has increased steadily since 1990, when only fifty-five percent believed in evil personified in the form of Satan.

Now, researchers are looking at the implications of belief in “pure evil” on psychological and social behaviors.  Piercarlo Valdesolo is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Claremont Mckenna College and contributor to Scientific American’s “Mind Matters” blog, where we found his article, “The Psychological Power of Satan.” 

Rebecca Lavoie for NHPR

In German, there's an expression for kicking through piles of leaves, and for the conviction that all large houses must have secret passages. In other words, Germans have expressions for things we don't, and they're pretty great. Just think about the ones we've adopted without thought, like 'Wanderlust.' 

Author Ben Schott’s Miscellanies  and annual almanacs have sold millions and been translated into more than a dozen languages. Now, he’s completed a compendium of compounds to describe the inexpressible. It’s called Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition.

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