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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Christopher Hermelin via The Awl

When Christopher Hermelin moved to New York, he lived like countless other jobless 20-somethings: no prospects, no money, and rent due at the first of the month. But instead of kicking around in a café, he hit the streets with a ten dollar typewriter and a sign printed: “Stories while you wait. Sliding scale, donate what you can.” And…it worked! Passersby paid him to write one-of-a-kind stories on the spot. While he isn’t the only person to make a living like this, on the streets of New York, he might be the one person whose photograph showed up on the internet. We’ll let him pick up the story from there. Christopher Hermelin is “The Roving Typist.”

via sciblogs

The internet provides a forum for public conversation, debate and interaction. At times, it may seem more less public square and more like the Roman forum…where sniping, shaming and mean-spirited insults can devour conversations and proclaim judgments by like an unruly mob.

Media outlets have long-debated how best to moderate online comments, where some of the worst internet trolling takes place…last month, Popular Science shut down comments on its website, citing, in part, a study from the University of Wisconsin measuring the influence negative comments have on other readers. (We spoke with study co-author Dietram Scheufele back in March about the phenomenon he calls “the Nasty Effect.")

Jake Ward is Editor-in-Chief of Popular Science, he’s with us to talk more about the decision and response so far. 

via justkhaotic

Gang violence is nothing new, but the rise of social media has catapulted even local gangs into the spotlight...for the police, and for each other.

Ben Austen is magazine writer based in Chicago. He wrote in Wired magazine about how hundreds of youth gangs of Chicago are using social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

IAEA Action Team

Only a few days after international weapons inspectors arrived in Syria, they’ve begun destroying Syria’sstockpile of chemical weapons along with the equipment used to make it. The team is reportedly using blow torches and heavy trucks to crush weaponry, working as an active war rages on around them.

For a better sense of what weapons inspectors do, we spoke to Tim Trevan. He worked as a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq in the early 90’s and is currently Executive Director of the International Council for the Life Sciences.

Andre Rosa

New Hampshire is known for its White Mountains and maple syrup. But one local artist would like to add another pair of regional highlights to that list: covered bridges and drag queens.

Andre Rosa is an artist and software engineer working out of Manchester. He’s just recently funded a photo calendar through Kickstarter and joins us to talk about the project.

iphonebookstore via Flickr Creative Commons

We turn now to that exemplary literary magazine, Playboy.  Hugh Hefner’s magazine has always been about the centerfold and male fantasy and an air-brushed version of female sexuality…but it's also a great read. Really.

In 2005, writer Amy Grace Loyd was hired to revive Playboy’s traditions of stories from the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and short fiction from Margaret Atwood, or that scandalous interview with Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter.  Amy was Playboy’s Fiction and Literary Editor for seven years, and she recently wrote in Salon about some of the ribbing she took for a job she loved. She also recently published her first novel, called “The Affairs of Others."

Revulsion kept early humans from eating spoiled meat, or snuggling up to people covered with oozing sores. Today, some cultures prize cheeses writhing with maggots, or drink liquor made from fermented saliva. This is not a trick to get you to “eeewww” but a way to evoke the visceral nature of disgust, which as Rachel Herz found, is powerful enough to convict suspects, incite genocide, and make us writhe and wretch within seconds. 

Rachel is an instructor at Brown University and expert on the psychology of smell and emotion and the author of “That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion.”

 A conversation with historian and biographer A. Scott Berg about his new book, Wilson, recorded live at The Music Hall in Portsmouth.

Writers on a New England Stage is a co-production of NHPR and The Music Hall. 

via The Poetry Foundation

The Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac is horrifying, unforgettable and open to interpretation. Faithful Jews, Christians and Muslims regard God’s demand that Abraham sacrifice his beloved son as a lesson about the demands of faith, the rewards for obedience, or for some, evidence of God’s cruelty.  

Others see the essence of the story not in the command not to sacrifice, but the command to stop. The parable is alluded to throughout “The Exchange” by Sophie Cabot Black, one of the poems about the exchange of love and money and sex and time which anchors her third collection of poems. Black is among the many writers who will be sharing her work with audiences at the Brattleboro Literary Festival this weekend. 

mollybob via Flickr Creative Commons

People living with dementia can appear to live in their own world, a complicated, non-linear inner world not so easily communicated to, or understood by others. The London-based writer Susanna Howard is attempting to give people with dementia a voice by visiting with them and recording their words as poetry. 

Susanna is artistic director of Living Words, an arts and literature program helping people with dementia feel understood and heard even when communication seems lost. 

Check out the Living Words website here.

While many Americans struggle to trim sugar and fat from their diets, a far more dangerous ingredient may be seeping in…from the ground. Arsenic is an odorless, tasteless poison that exists in the earth’s crust. Last winter, the U.S. Geological Survey found that low levels of arsenic were present in forty percent of New Hampshire’s groundwater, for example,  with one in five wells measuring above ten parts-per-billion.

Independent researchers have also identified excessive levels of arsenic in water-intensive crops, including rice grown in the U.S. and abroad. Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist, columnist and blogger for Wired and The New York Times. She was given access to a U.S.G.S. map showing arsenic concentration across the U.S. ahead of its release to the public, and is joining us to share some of the findings. 

Texas to Mexico via Flickr Creative Commons

The number of  shocking events over the past year is overwhelming … the Newtown school massacre; the Boston Marathon bombings; devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Although the specifics of each catastrophe varies, media coverage adheres to a similar script involving communal resilience, collective support, and predictions of post-traumatic stress among victims and witnesses – even those thousands of miles away. In recent years, a small branch of positive psychology has been exploring the possibility that adversity can be a source of strength and wisdom.  Mark Obbie recently wrote about post-traumatic growth for Pacific Standard magazine.

Ryann Ford

For the past fifty-three years, rest areas have offered weary travelers a place to pull off and pause and maybe even learn a little local history. Traditional rest areas are disappearing across the country… Louisiana for example, has already closed twenty-four of its thirty-four stops. Ryann Ford is a photographer whose work has been featured in the New York Times and Texas Monthly. She’s been trying to capture these doomed rest areas with her camera… before they disappear. Her project is called “Rest Stops: Vanishing Relics of the American Roadside.”

starleigh via Flickr Creative Commons

On July 1st, the Chinese government enacted a new law called the “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People”.  It is, in effect, a state-sponsored guilt trip for the adult children of older parents…stipulating the need for frequent visits, phone calls, etc.

Retired teacher and computer consultant Barry Davis read about the new law in the New York Times... then wrote an op-ed suggesting America follow suit with its own “Bubbe’s Law”, as he calls it.  We tracked Barry down at his home in Connecticut for more.

Lidor via flickr Creative Commons

With enrollment for healthcare plans under “Obamacare” set to begin tomorrow, NHPR’s health reporter, Todd Bookman, has kept a steady eye on the rollout of the affordable care act. He put together an easy-to-follow guide to what the new healthcare law means for New Hampshire residents, and joins us in the studio to run through some of those points.

Jonathon Kambouris

For his last meal, John Wayne Gacy requested 12 fried shrimp, a bucket of original recipe KFC, french fries, and 1lb of strawberries. Gary Gilmore was served steak, potatoes, milk and coffee. Timothy McVeigh asked for two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Victor Feguer asked only for a single pitted olive. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were not given a choice.

Brent Cunningham is deputy editor of the Columbia Journalism Review and he wrote about the history of prisoner’s last meals for Lapham’s Quarterly.

In his book, My Heart is an Idiot, Davy Rothbart chronicles his shocking and sometimes disturbing real life stories about traveling around America, looking for love, and meeting strangers who take strange to a whole new level. He’s also the creator of Found Magazine and a regular contributor to This American Life.

edebell via Flickr Creative Commons

 A lot of kids go through a “dinosaur phase,” begging  parents to buy every book with a Tyrannosaurus on the cover. While the T-Rex, Velociraptor and Tricerotops have a kind of celebrity status among dino-crazed kids, the truth is not so static. For nearly three centuries, an ever-growing fossil record and scientific progress reveals the importance of a number of unsung species that may have far more to tell us about ancient biology than our popular paleo-crushes.

Brian Switek is author of My Beloved Brontosaurus, a book about the history of paleontology and the transformation of dinosaurs in the popular imagination. 

Brandon Burris via flickr Creative Commons

We like to think of the Word of Mouth Saturday show as a convenient, one-hour public radio field trip. So pack a special picnic lunch and grab a buddy, here's what's on the itinerary this week:

  • Bill Maher Love him or hate him, it really doesn't matter, Bill Maher is a great interview.
  • Field Trips Jay Phillip Greene explains his recent study on the power of the school field trip. Turns out they have real and powerful educational value.

Margaret Atwood

Sep 26, 2013
Courtesy the Lavin Agency

Margaret Atwood’s novels are imaginative and  satirical, and her post-apocalyptic predictions eerily accurate. Atwood has just finished her Maddaddam trilogy, set after a bio-engineered plague has wiped out a wantonly consumerist America governed by corporations.

Atwood talks about her latest novel, and then sits down for a conversation and questions from the audience for this edition of Writers On A New England Stage, a co-production of NHPR and The Music Hall in Portsmouth.

via Capital Center for the Arts

Long before he was pushing the boundaries on television’s Politically Incorrect or hosting Real Time on HBO, Bill Maher was a stand-up comedian. He still does about 50 shows a year, in venues all over the country, and he’s coming to the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord next Saturday, October 5th. Some love him, some hate him, but his biting wit has made him one of the leading satirists in America today.

summerbl4ck via flickr Creative Commons

America’s got talent! So does Britain…Pakistan, Nigeria, Greece, Vietnam, Sweden, Slovakia and a number of other countries in on the “Got Talent”, “Idol” or “X-Factor” franchises of reality TV talent shows. As Meg Wolitzer put it in an essay for Financial Times: “Regardless of your locale, at some point you will be confronted with a fetching, trembling little girl with a voice that’s powerful enough to shatter your eardrums, while still tender enough to break your frozen heart."

Wolitzer is the author of many books, most recently of The Interestings. Her essay, “In Search of the Real Thing” is a meditation on how our culture has come to equate talent with success.

via motherboard.vice.com

Pop culture has made the sniper out to be the lone wolf of warfare.  The truth is that long-distance shooting is a two man-job.  The sniper may hold, aim and fire the rifle, but it’s the other half of the team – the spotter – who does the ballistics calculations of distance, drop, the slant of the earth, along with wind and other atmospheric factors. They’re typically equipped with a scope and a notepad, sometimes even a laptop.  So, what if there was a weapon that could do all the arithmetic for you, transforming even amateur fire-arm users into deadly sharp-shooters?  Well…now there is.

Derek Mead is host of the short film called “Long Shot” – covering his investigation and field test of the so-called “smart-rifle”, created by the Texas-based company Tracking Point  Solutions. “Long Shot” was produced by Vice magazine’s tech-based video channel Motherboard, and  Derek is also editor-in-chief of Motherboard.

ATOMIC Hot Links via flickr Creative Commons

Grand Theft Auto V, was released last week to rave reviews and record sales. The video game sold over 13 million copies in the first 24 hours and is projected to gross well over a billion dollars. Rockstar’s satirical crime series has regularly topped video game charts, but it’s just as often been presented as “exhibit a” in the debate over violent video games and whether they have a real-life influence on players. Grand Theft Auto III, the first mainstream success in the series, was at the center of one such debate in the early 2000’s, but a decade later the franchise is more popular than ever.

Joining us to talk a little bit about the history of how Grand Theft Auto became a household name and its legacy on the video game industry at large is Dr. Jeremy Saucier, the assistant director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games. Also with us is Jamin Warren, founder of video-game arts and culture company, Killscreen.

Dan Pancamo via flickr Creative Commons

Those of us who went to public school in New Hampshire will likely recall hopping on the school bus for a visit to the Museum of Science in Boston or Sturbridge Village. For decades, schools have embraced field trips as positive and popular learning experiences.  Today, museums, cultural institutions and the American Association of School Administrators report a steep drop in the number of field trips, and more than half of American schools did away with learning excursions altogether in 2010.

But what are kids losing with the cutting of field trips? Jay Phillip Greene is endowed chair and head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

James Lee via flickr Creative Commons

Fall is a good time for beer lovers. With the crisp air, light-bodied lagers and shandies are swept off the shelves to make way for dark and amber ales along with multiple versions of October-fest brews... For beer lovers wishing to combine a fall foliage tour with sampling the wares at one of the state’s many breweries, New Hampshire Magazine is here to help.  “The Beer Lovers’ Guide to the Granite State”, a comprehensive guide to enjoying New Hampshire’s local beer industry is now online.  Erica Thoits is assistant editor for New Hampshire Magazine.

smithsonianmag.com

Everybody can benefit from taking a field trip. And here’s your chance… this Saturday is Smithsonian magazine’s annual Museum Day Live. Follow this link: Smithsonian's Museum Day Live to download a free ticket that will get you and a guest into any participating Smithsonian museum, including the McCauliffe-Shepard Discovery Museum in Concord, the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire in Manchester, and the Strawberry Banke museum…where you can learn – among other things – about Portsmouth’s long love affair with beer.  And while brewing may not be the focus of 7th grade class trip, there is plenty more to learn at Strawberry Banke.

NASA HQ PHOTO via flickr Creative Commons

Chalk up another casualty to the economic crisis of 2008…The American Orchestra. Throughout the 1990s, major orchestras grew inside of an economic bubble of their own -- with donors and corporations funding generous contracts for musicians, and underwriting new concert halls and designing ambitious programs to court bigger audiences.  That bubble has since burst, exposing some of the nation’s premiere institutions to bankruptcies, foreclosures, lockouts and strikes. Philip Kennicot art and architecture critic for the Washington Post and he wrote about the current crisis facing America’s orchestras for New Republic.

Anthony Kelly via flickr Creative Commons

Adopting a child is for many people the culmination of a dream. But it takes work, and money – international adoptions can run from $15,000 to $40,000, and involve years of vetting and paperwork. Still, things don’t always work out.  A network of internet groups has become an underground market for advertising and discarding unwanted children – most of them adopted from abroad.  The process is called “private re-homing,” and it involves little or no government oversight. It’s the topic of an 18-month investigation by Reuters. Megan Twohey is investigative reporter at Thomson Reuters, and among those who worked on the 5-part series and multimedia presentation called, “The Child Exchange.”

Worklife Siemens via flickr Creative Commons

Of all the features on Apple’s newest iPhone, the one generating the most buzz by far is the finger print scanner.  The iPhone 5s allows people access to their phones without entering a passcode or even a swipe. So, is this the latest gimmick to sell phones or the beginning of the end of the password? David Ewalt writes about technology, games, space, and other geeky stuff as senior editor at Forbes…which is where you can find his blog, “Spacewar.”

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