Inside J-Lab's Grant to Fund Baby Boomer Journalists

Journalists are an intrepid, restless bunch. For some reason, we don't picture them retiring to spend their golden years on some beach in Boca Raton sipping Mai Tais. There's too much energy, too much inquisitiveness there.

But the fact remains that many Baby Boomer journalists don't have a choice in the matter. Thanks to corporate downsizing or forced retirements, accomplished journalists now find themselves starting over. Worse yet, while we don't like to admit it, these individuals may inevitably face age discrimination in their job searches, competing against dozens, if not hundreds, of younger, more wide-eyed applicants.

Fortunately, Baby Boomers aren't feeling sorry for themselves. In fact, they've proved astonishingly successful at channeling this energy and experience for good. A recent study from the MetLife Foundation found that adults in the 55-64 age group have the "highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S." (Did you hear that millennial guy who's developing an app that delivers organic, gluten-free dog food to San Francisco doorsteps within one hour?)

In fact, trend spotters decided that this productive demographic deserves its own, slightly patronizing name—the "encore entrepreneurs." And now these folks are getting even more help.

J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism, launched a new grant program, Masters Mediapreneurs Initiative, which will award $12,000 to four Baby Boomers who have a sustainable idea for a news venture.

The idea can be a website, news app, or "something else all together." The key here is sustainability. J-Lab will fund projects built for the long haul and that adhere to journalistic standards in terms of fairness and accuracy.

To look at this grant through a market-oriented lens, it's as if this untapped talent represents an asset that depreciates without ever being used. Furthermore, some of the start-up costs may be absorbed by the winners themselves. J-Lab estimates that many candidates already enjoy financial security and will feel compelled to tap personal savings to realize their projects. You read that right. These are grants toward which the recipients chip in their own money.

Then there's an intangible element. Baby Boomer journalists not only have the experience of being in the field for their adult lives, but they also understand the power of journalism to transform a country. After all, they lived through Watergate. You can't teach this to a 22-year old.

Ultimately, J-Lab is seeking to access a pool of valuable, untapped talent and capacity. We hope other foundations will also look at ways in which underutilized demographics can be leveraged for positive purposes.

And as an added bonus, we imagine these projects can be managed from any place with a fast internet connection. (We hear it's blazing-fast in South Florida.)