WWJ Newsradio 950’s midday anchor Brooke Allen is a wife, mother, and unabashed optimist. Here, she shares her approach to remaining hopeful about the future.
By Courtney Conover – Brooke Allen is a woman who knows what she likes—and it includes connecting with Metro Detroit listeners every weekday. And drinking coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
A graduate of Wayne Memorial High School’s class of 1988, Allen went on to study theatre at Eastern Michigan University before heading out west to California. And her Wayne roots run deep: her grandfather, Patrick Cullen, even served as Wayne’s city manager back in the 1980s. Every weekday afternoon from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., Allen holds down the studio while informing Metro Detroit listeners as WWJ’s midday anchor. She also hosts the WWJ Difference Maker podcast, which, as the name implies, shines a spotlight on folks who make a difference in the lives of others. But that’s not all: One can also find Allen alongside Dewey Steffen, the CEO and Chief Financial Investor at Great Lakes Wealth, on the What Dewey Do podcast, a financial planning and wealth management series.
This proud mother of nine-year-old twins—whom she affectionately refers to as “The Twinkies,” knows a thing or two about making great radio—and making the choice to see the glass as half-full.
Courtney Conover: I am so excited to talk to you today! Let’s start with the essentials: You’re a wife, a mother of twins, and you’re enjoying a thriving radio career. Take me through your typical weekday…
Brooke Allen: Well, I get up at 5:30, and my kids start school at eight o’ clock. I drop them off, head to WWJ, where I do my interviews and whatever I’ve got scheduled to air either that day or the next day. And then I go on the air at ten, and I’m on the air until two o’ clock in the afternoon. After I’m off at two, most people assume that I leave, but I’m actually there until four—either doing more interviews or whatever is needed. When breaking news happens, obviously, you stay when you need to. But I typically walk out of there at four. Then, it’s the typical evening stuff that goes on when you have a family. My kids go to bed around nine, and then I may try to sneak in a Law & Order episode.
CC: What are your thoughts on achieving balance? There are varying opinions regarding whether we as mothers can truly have it all—one of my favorite sayings is that we can indeed have it all—just not at the same time. Is balance something you actively strive for?
BA: What I’ve realized as my kids have gotten older is that it’s gotten easier because they’re independent. But you really have to have everything scheduled to a T. Because if something goes off the rails, then it’s off the rails. And if that happens, obviously, what’s going to give is maybe my Law & Order—as selfish as that sounds…right? In our industry, time is of essence—especially in radio because it’s a big deal. But, personally, maybe not so much. So, I’m constantly saying to The Twinkies, “We have to be on time; we have to leave in five minutes,” and I back time [a radio industry term that refers to the technique of working out how much time is left before an event] everything because that’s how you get out the door, and that’s how you do what you need to do. And, to have an outline of what you need to have done that day is always a good idea and something I really try to live by. Do I do it all the time? Absolutely not.
CC: Everyday life consists of juggling work commitments, relationships, our kids’ schooling, extracurricular commitments, etc. All of which can be challenging enough…and then the pandemic happened. What has enabled you to continue to show up and be your best self in the wake of all this?
BA: My husband had actually retired, so when everything got locked down and my kids were sent home for good, he was home with them, which was what allowed me to work. I was always in the studio because I run my own board and all the technical stuff I do myself. I have a producer who does my newscasts for me, but as far as in the studio—because I’m solo—it’s me. But because my husband was retired, that was probably the saving grace. Otherwise, I probably would have had to quit.
CC: I have to ask you about self-care, putting yourself first in an unselfish way as a means of improving our overall health. What little things—little actions—do you do for yourself that bring peace?
BA: I’ve done so many interviews on this, and it’s so interesting to me that self-care kind of sounds…selfish, right? But that moment of maybe watching your favorite TV show or grabbing your favorite cup of coffee from a local coffee shop—when maybe you shouldn’t be doing that, honestly, because it’s like, Oh my gosh, I’ve got to be somewhere or I’ve got to do something—taking that moment, as small as it may be, means so much. For me, I usually do the coffee thing. I love coffee. And people just assume that it’s the caffeine part of it. But when I have a cup of coffee, it reminds me of my favorite conversations with my favorite people, like my grandfather who worked at Ford, and one of my best friends. Stuff like that. Yes, I love the coffee and the caffeine, but to me, it brings back that sense of my life, really.
CC: Now, let’s shift gears from peacefulness to heaviness. The tragedy last month at Oxford High School shook all of us to our core—and I don’t think that it’s an exaggeration, particularly for all of us parents who have the tough task of explaining this to our children. How did you approach this subject with The Twinkies?
BA: I was debating on the drive home that day—I was really upset—and I didn’t know what to do as far as they were concerned. So, I emailed their teacher and their principal, and I said, “Are you guys going to be talking about this?” And they had said that they were sure it would be mentioned, but if I feel it needs to come from me, please do. So, I sat them down—one’s a boy and one’s a girl, not that it matters, but sometimes I think the perspective may be different—and I had told them what had happened. And they immediately said that they do those lockdown drills all the time. But then they asked, “Is the bad guy going to come and get us?” I told them, “No, he’s in jail, he’s only 15, and he can’t drive.” Then my son goes, “He can’t drive…but he can shoot people?” And I was blinking [back tears] that a nine-year-old would say that. And I just thought, that says it all, right? Then I told them that there was nothing to be afraid of, he was in jail, that people were coming together, and if they had any questions to, please, ask me. Well, the next morning, I get an e-mail from the principal and both of their teachers saying, “They [students] were all talking about this already, but your kids are the ones who told them it was going to be okay.” So, it was pretty interesting that they were kind of level-headed and talking about this and trying to get through it.
CC: I constantly tell my children that kindness matters—that everyone is carrying around something that no one else sees (i.e. challenges, hardships, etc.) and keeping that in mind is a form of compassion. Which brings us to your podcast, WWJ Difference Maker. Tell us more about it…
BA: This feature, WWJ Difference Maker, started over a year ago now, and runs every week. I’ve interviewed individuals that are big corporate people, I’ve interviewed an eleven-year-old kid who’s a big-time baker from Howell…there are just so many people out there who are making a difference. And while that sounds cliché, it really isn’t—especially now since we’ve noticed it more during the pandemic.
CC: Hands down, one of my favorite episodes of WWJ Difference Maker is the one that aired on December 2, 2021 about the man at the coffee shop. Tell us about Shawn Lee.
BA: I usually receive nominations for Difference Maker through my e-mail. Well, I was at the Biggby in Berkley, waiting for my coffee—there were probably, like, seven people ahead of me. And every time they got their drink, they’d walk up to this man and say, “Thank you so much!” There was a mom with her daughter and son, they went up to him and gave him a fist-bump…I just kept standing there thinking, What is happening? So, I finally got my drink, and I almost walked out [the store]—I literally had the door open—and I turned around, and I said, “Hey, I don’t want you to think this is weird, but why is everyone saying thank you to you?” And he’s like, “Oh, it’s because I just bought all their drinks.” And I’m like, “Well…why?” And the conversation went on from there, and I eventually told him who I was and why I was wondering. So then, we set up a phone call and I interviewed him over the phone. But it’s just so interesting because, here’s this guy, who’s a photographer in Southfield and is involved in a couple of different charities. But outside of that, he just sits in this Biggby and buys everyone’s drinks! And I asked him why he does it, and he said that it was about making a difference in someone’s day. It’s just so amazing.
CC: Okay, shifting gears—again, I must ask this because I truly think enquiring Dispatch minds will want to know: What has your husband, award-winning Hall of Fame WWJ afternoon anchor Greg Bowman, been up to since his 2019 retirement?
BA: He takes care of The Twinkies, and although he is retired, he actually still fills in at WWJ. And it’s kind of funny because sometimes he’ll even fill in for me! So, that’s wild.
CC: How cool! Sidebar: What was it like to work alongside your husband?
BA: Working with him was always one of my goals because he is the consummate professional. He’s so good at his job, I’ve always admired him for that. I’ve respected him as a journalist and broadcaster and just always thought he was amazing. It was fun to work with him, honestly. We had a great time.
CC: Back to the common thread of our interview, which is maintaining a sense of optimism. What’s one thing you think we could all do to bring more positivity into our lives in 2022?
BA: Okay. This might sound silly, but…smiling. Yes, it’s free and easy, but I also think [it’s about] paying closer attention to people. I mean, obviously, the bad stuff is more prevalent. But, if you pay attention to your surroundings, which I do mostly because of my job, [you will see the good stuff]. I’m always looking for a news story, but by doing that, I’ve met some incredible people. It’s simple. Listening and being genuine makes all the difference. And I really do think smiling opens the door. Even with a face mask on, you can still tell if someone is smiling by their eyes. It’s about paying closer attention to people, rather than yourself.
Listen to Brooke on WWJ Newsradio 950 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays and find her on Facebook, where she posts link to the Difference Maker podcast, which airs on WWJ on Thursdays and Saturdays. Visit whatdeweydopodcast.com to find the What Dewey Do podcast featuring Brooke and her co-host, Dewey Steffen.