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Images of Aging - Hopeful Signs

age social age york beat media

There are, however, hopeful signs for a more representative presentation of older people in the U.S. media. For example, Lawrence K. Grossman describes the emergence of the age beat in journalism in many parts of the United States. Unlike other single-focus assignments in newsrooms, he writes, the agebeat is "not a special interest beat, or what in current media jargon is called a 'niche' beat, but one of the most important general interest beats of the coming century."

The age beat began to emerge in earnest in the United States in the early 1990s. In 1993, a half-dozen reporters among those covering the American Society on Aging (ASA) Annual Meeting in Chicago met to form the Journalists Exchange on Aging (JEoA), a group that has since then produced the Age Beat newsletter and has developed and cosponsored educational programs for journalists with a range of organizations, including the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Communication, the Freedom Forum, the AARP Andrus Foundation, and the International Longevity Center. Based at ASA in San Francisco, it has provided networking opportunities for journalists and an informal information exchange for background and sources on the complexities of covering issues in aging. By summer 2001, the group listed almost seven hundred media journalists who follow the concerns of the aging population enough to want to receive the group's information.

Results from the Third National Survey of Journalists on Aging, cited in Aging Today (March-April 2001), showed that the 149 respondents are "seasoned and sensitized" to issues of growing older. The typical reporter covering aging is a woman (61 percent of respondents) who has been a professional journalist for 22.4 years and has produced stories on aging during the past 8.5 years for at least part of her editorial work. The study, conducted by JEoA, found that 95.5 percent of participants had "experienced aspects of issues in aging" themselves or through their families. More strikingly, 98.4 percent of those who have been touched personally by facets of aging agreed that their experience had affected their "journalistic perspective." This affirmed that their personal experience informed their perspective, rather than compromised their objectivity. Of 115 respondents to the question, "Do you feel most other reporting you see/hear on issues (such as Social Security and Medicaid) is accurate and balanced," 40 percent said no.

These respondents represented a growing corps of veterans of the age beat that has developed at such news organizations as Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Orange County Register, The Oregonian, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Arizona Republic, Consumer Reports, Consumer Digest, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Oklahoman, and numerous dailies in Florida.

In Life in an Older American Grossman observed, "It can only be hoped that with more journalism training, education and experience, coverage of generational issues will become more practiced and therefore more intelligent and sophisticated. As older people lead younger lifestyles, society will have little choice but to adopt patterns of relationships that reflect not generational battles but integrated living among generations. Generational separation and segregation should give way to community models in which vigorous older people serve as valuable resources for the young. . ."



CUMBERBATCH, G.; GAUNTLETT, S.; LITTLEJOHNS, V.; WOODS, S.; and STEPHENSON, C. Too Old for TV? A Portrayal of Older People on Television: A Report for Age Concern England. Birmingham, England: The Communications Research Group, 1999.

EDMONDSON, B. "Do the Math." American Demographics. October, 1999.

FREEDMAN, M. Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America. New York: Perseus Books/Public Affairs, 1999.

"Going for Youth, CBS Attracts Attention." New York Times. October 1, 2000.

GOOMBRIDGE, B.; SEYMOUR, E.; and CASS, B. Older Generations in Print: A Report from Media Age Network. London, U.K.: Secretariate for the International Year of Older Persons, 2000.

GROSSMAN, L. K. "Aging Viewers: The Best Is Yet to Come." Columbia Journalism Review. 36 no. 5 (January/February, 1998): 68.

GROSSMAN, L. K., and BUTLER, R. N "The Media's Role." In Life in Older America. New York: The Century Foundation Press, 1999. Pages 231–238.

KLEYMAN, P. "The Media's Role: Beyond the Medical Model of Reporting on Aging." In Health Aging: Challenges and Solutions. Edited by K. Dychtwald. Gaithersburg, Md.: Aspen Publishers, 1999. Pages 303–314.

LEE, R. A. Ageism in Advertising: A Study of Advertising Agency Attitudes Toward Maturing and Mature Consumers. High Yield Marketing: 1995.

LOCKHEAD, C. San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Bureau, September 10, 2000.

MAYNARD, N. H. Megamedia: How Market Forces Are Transforming the News. New York: Maynard Partners, 2000.

Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America. New York: Perseus Books/Public Affairs, 1999.

RAHMAN, A. N., and SALEND, E. Aging Today. January/February, 1995.

"Senior Spending." American Advertising. New York: American Advertising Federation (Winter 1999–2000).

SILVERSTEIN, M., and COOK, F. L. "Solidarity and Tension Between Age-Groups in the United States." International Journal of Social Welfare 9 no. 4 (2000): 270–284.

SMITH, J. The Impact of Globalization on the Images of Older Women: Report of International Symposium. October 13–15, 1999. Edited by Jeanne Smith. New York: AARP International Activities Office, 2000.

SULLIVAN, A. "TRB from Washington: Old Guard." The New Republic (October 9, 2000): 6.

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about 11 years ago

I'm building a couple websites that will support everyones efforts in regards to the boomers and reporting on them. I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be supporting your efforts very soon and I hope you will come aboard once the ship leaves dry dock. Keep up the good work. Dan Auito