The Rise of Boomer Broadcasting
You might have if you listen to the 2BoomerBabes Radio Hour hosted by Kathy Bernard and Barbara Kline (left). Their guest one Saturday morning was Susan Weaver, president of The American Association for Nude Recreation, discussing how boomers, more than any other segment of the population, like to bare all on vacations.
Though the idea of radio shows and television channels aimed at a specific age group may call to mind Sesame Street and Nickelodeon -- even The Golden Girls -- boomer broadcasting has been gathering steam.
There are no hard-and-fast numbers, but it's obvious to even a casual viewer that there's a groundswell of grass-roots programming on the airwaves geared to the curiosity and concerns of the growing 50-plus population. And it's not nostalgic flashbacks from the Beatles and Jackson Browne, or reruns of M*A*S*H. It's smart, forward-thinking, news-you-can-use programming.
When fiftysomethings Bernard and Kline, for example, launched their radio show in the spring of 2009 on a commercial station in Easton, Md., they tapped into a need they were encountering first-hand. "There was a hungering for this conversation," Bernard says. "We were talking with our girlfriends about menopause, empty-nesting, second relationships, and knew there were plenty of others out there, like us, doing the same."
It clicked. Their on-air casual banter has a snap and authenticity to it. A year after the show's initial broadcast, NPR affiliates picked up 2BoomerBabes. From the get-go, the University of Maryland Health System and AARP (Maryland and Delaware) signed on as corporate underwriters.
"It really is such a life-changing time to embrace opportunity, and we want to talk about it," Bernard says. "We're looking at second and third acts. We're asking...how we can be valuable to our community and to ourselves, or do a whole new venture."
SecondAct tuned in to some of the most talked-about offerings in the boomer media scene. Here are five top choices:
Program: The 2BoomerBabes Radio Hour (radio)
Hosts: Kathy Bernard and Barbara Kline
Launched: March 2009
Find It: 11 a.m. EST Saturdays on National Public Radio affiliates WSCL 89.5 FM and WSDL 90.7 FM. Reach covers Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and parts of southern New Jersey. The podcast is available for download at the show's website and on iTunes.
Why Listen: Conversational talk that flows like you're talking to a pal over coffee. It's fun, irreverent and edifying.
Program: Experience Talks (radio)
Hosts: Tim Carpenter, Bobbee Zeno and Dr. Connie Corley
Find It: 8-8:30 a.m. PST Saturday on KPFK, 90.7 FM in Los Angeles; 98.7 FM in Santa Barbara; streaming live at kpfk.org; distributed by Sprouts and syndicated on up to 100 Pacifica network stations nationwide. Past shows are available on the website.
Why Listen: When the show wraps, you're wiser and often reflective. This is educational radio. Guests range from musicians to authors to social entrepreneurs and have included The Big Shift author and Civic Ventures founder Marc Freedman; jazz vocalist Barbara Morrison; novelist Russell Banks, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard; and actor Ed Asner.
Program: My Generation (television)
Host: Leeza Gibbons
Find It: Airs weekly on more than 300 public TV stations covering more than 70 percent of the country. Times vary. Produced by AARP.
Why Watch: It's got pizzazz. On one hand, it's spot-on, timely coverage of sober issues, with expert advice on serious topics such as health care and personal finance. On the other, it taps into our insatiable celebrity-hawking culture. You'll find features with Jane Fonda, Elton John, Sugar Ray Leonard and Gregg Allman. You'll watch Joan Rivers don a hairnet and make ham sandwiches for AIDS patients. Learn how Latino actor Jimmy Smits, of The West Wing, is opening doors for the next generation of Hispanic artists through a foundation he started. The show favors upbeat, inspirational stories of volunteering, giving back, reinvention or following a passion.
Program: Your Life Calling (television)
Host: Jane Pauley
Find It: once-a-month segment on NBC's The Today Show sponsored by AARP, plus call-in AARP internet radio show
Why Watch: The series profiles people like you. These are noncelebs over 50 who reinvent themselves, their lives and their careers. Aside from Pauley, nary a headliner cracks the line-up. "Baby boomers are going to be healthy and vital people for 30 and 40 more years, and I want them to be inspired to make powerful, positive and realistic changes," Pauley says. Segments have included a geologist who launched a successful second career as an interpretive guide in a national park and a Broadway dancer-turned-acupuncturist. (SecondAct's recent interview with Pauley is here.)
Program: Cable Network RLTV (television)
Hosts: Celebrities, including Florence Henderson, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Joan Lunden, Deborah Norville, Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson.
Launched: September 2006
Find It: National cable network aimed at 50-plus viewers airs 24 hours a day on Verizon Fios and Comcast.
Why Watch: The full-fledged cable network runs a broad range of shows from entertainment to news to reality and game shows. Topics include dating after 50, second careers, empty-nesting and caregiving. The featured hosts are boomers themselves or personalities who will evoke a twinge of nostalgia. Current selections include: one-time Today host Deborah Norville, 53, on the program Making Medicare Work for You; The Brady Bunch's Henderson and nutritionist Joy Bauer hold forth on Good Food, Good Deeds, a half-hour cooking show where easy, nutritious dishes are prepared in combo with a segment featuring meals served by celebrities, in conjunction with Meals on Wheels. Taking Care is a current four-part series featuring Good Morning, America icon Joan Lunden exploring caregiving options.
SecondAct contributor Kerry Hannon is a contributing editor for U.S. News & World Report and the author of What's Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job (Chronicle Books).