Paula Madison to Step Down at NBCU
Monday, April 11, 2011
Paula Madison, executive vice president and chief diversity officer for NBCUniversal, is retiring on May 20 after more than 35 years in the news media, NBCUniversal announced on Monday.
Madison, 58, a board member of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and longtime diversity champion, is one of few African Americans in the upper reaches of media corporations.
Having steered NBCUniversal through diversity initiatives that helped to secure its purchase by Comcast, Madison told Journal-isms, she can now devote her time to the businesses and investments she has seeded over the years.
"I've planned for my retirement since I was 21 years old," she said.
An announcement about Madison's successor will be made "probably in a few weeks," Nate Kirtman, senior vice president for publicity at NBCUniversal, told Journal-isms.
Madison and her family are majority owners of the Los Angeles Sparks, the Women's National Basketball Association team, and of the Africa Channel. She is an investor in Broadway Federal Bank, the largest African American bank west of the Mississippi, and has created the Madison Media Fund, a division of Williams Group Holdings that will invest and advise multicultural media, she said.
Throughout her career, Madison said she looked for jobs offering deferred income and deferred bonuses, as well as perks and benefits that would be useful in retirement.
According to her NBCUniversal bio, that career began shortly after graduating from Vassar College in 1974.
"She worked as a newspaper reporter in New York and Dallas/Fort Worth," it reads. "After a few years at television stations in Texas and Oklahoma, Paula returned to her native New York City by joining NBC's owned and operated station WNBC in 1989 as Assistant News Director. Paula rose to the station's Vice President and News Director in March 1996.
"Four years later, Paula was appointed President and General Manager of KNBC, NBC's owned and operated station in Los Angeles. She was the first African American woman to become general manager at a network-owned station in a top five market. In April 2002, when NBC purchased the Telemundo network, Paula was additionally named Regional General Manager of the Spanish language network's stations, KVEA and KWHY.
"In July 2006, she added another duty to her existing responsibilities — Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, NBC Universal. She was not a complete stranger to this role, however. While leading KNBC, Paula held the position of Vice President, Diversity, and then Senior Vice President, Diversity, for the NBC network from February 2000 to May 2002."
Madison was charged with helping to win over groups representing people of color who objected to the Comcast takeover of NBCU.
- Comcast Corp. will add four cable networks owned, or partly owned, by African Americans over the next eight years, as well as a new English-language channel aimed at Asian Americans.
- An NBCU commitment to increase news and information choices for Hispanic viewers, including a plan to work with an independent producer on a weekly business news program.
- Comcast will add a Hispanic to its corporate board within two years.
- Comcast promised to add at least three independent cable networks with "substantial [minority] ownership interest" over the next three years; to establish four external advisory councils, one each for representatives of the African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander communities, and another for "other diverse communities," and to spend at least $7 million more on advertising in minority-owned media in 2011.
- NBC promised that " 'Meet the Press' is committed to having a more diverse group of voices on the show whose opinions and expertise reflect, not just the news of the day, but the cultural, economical and political landscape of our country." NBC has by and large kept this promise, made last year. Helene Cooper of the New York Times was on Sunday's show.
Madison timed her retirement date for May 20, the second day of two-day meeting in Philadelphia of the Comcast Advisory Council, which is to include representatives of African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Pacific Islanders, women, gays and lesbians, American Indians and people with disabilities. Memoranda of understanding signed with African Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Pacifics will result in "some really positive outcomes that are going to be seen very shortly," Madison said.
"It's a new company," she said she told Stephen B. Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal and executive vice president of Comcast Corp. "It's a really good time for you to bring in a new chief diversity officer."
Madison said her message to those starting out in the news business would be directed "to people who have an interest in or a passion for running things, for being in charge.
"The first time I was told I should be a manager, I was 25 years old." Looking at the managers she worked for, she said "not only should I be doing that, but I'm going to [take] the best of what I'm seeing and internalize that and reject the worst."
Regardless of the economy, "there are always going to be executive positions. I would encourage as many of them as possible who are interested in being managers and executives that you line up your career to achieve that goal. They you decide who has a job and who doesn't, and what is a story and what is not a story."
Madison attributes much of her drive to her Jamaican immigrant parents, who set high standards for their children and taught them to pool their money. "We Jamaicans always have a lot of irons in the fire," she said. She said they knew of only the U.S. top universities growing up. Her eldest brother, Elrick Williams, went toand . He was a commodities trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, is retired CEO of the algorhythmic trading company he founded and is CEO of . The third sibling did not pursue higher education and is retired from construction and trucking.
Asked two years ago by EURWeb.com what was the best thing about being Paula Madison, she said, "That's easy. The absolute best thing about being me is that I am a grandmother. . . . My husband and I are unbelievably happy."
At its meeting last month, the board of Unity: Journalists of Color responded to a key complaint of the National Association of Black Journalists by unofficially deciding to grant each partner veto power over Unity decisions, according to board members.
Neither that response nor others were enough to stave off a vote Sunday by the NABJ board of directors to pull out of Unity, and some board members continued to maintain that Unity had not made significant concessions.
It was not clear that most members of the NABJ board knew about the veto proposal.
Except for the NABJ president, NABJ board members are not part of the Unity deliberations, and the movement on the veto was made in a session where no onlookers were permitted.
With the recession forcing reexaminations of bottom lines, NABJ had submitted several proposals to reorder the way the Unity convention proceeds are divided, and in the end, cited finances as its chief reason for pulling out. It had been outvoted at a conference-call meeting March 12, with none of the other partners — the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association — supporting NABJ's financial proposals.
Under the idea favorably discussed at the Unity meeting, the substitute proposal could not have passed without NABJ's approval.
Robin Washington, an NABJ representative on the Unity board, referred allegorically to the Unity dispute in his March 13 column in the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune.
Without mentioning Unity by name, he suggested that coalition groups could demonstrate respect for all of constituent member organizations by requiring not only a majority vote, but also at least one vote in the affirmative by each coalition group.
Nearly two weeks later, he presented that idea to the Unity board, members confirmed privately. After discussion, a system was proposed in which the president of each organization could veto controversial issues. It became part of the governance changes the presidents of each organization were to work on.
A conference call between the Unity representatives from NABJ and the NABJ board took place during an executive session of an NABJ board meeting on March 30.
But NABJ's representatives on the Unity board viewed things differently from the NABJ board. Journal-isms was told that two wanted NABJ to stay through 2012, one would not give an opinion and one wanted to "explore every option." Other versions vary slightly, but all agree that no NABJ representative on the Unity board urged a pullout.
However, the NABJ board voted 12-1 to leave Unity. Kathy Y. Times, as president, had no vote.
Meanwhile, members of the constituent groups reacted to the NABJ decision.
"NABJ's withdrawal puts UNITY in an extremely difficult position," Veronica Villafañe, a former NAHJ president, wrote in her Media Moves column. "The minority journalist coalition, which is scheduled to meet in Las Vegas in 2012, would face its own financial crisis, given that all of its contracts — hotel, food and beverage — for the event are based on the combined attendance of members from the 4 groups. If they don't meet the stipulated numbers in the hotel contract, for example, UNITY would have to pick up the expense."
Doris Truong, national president of AAJA, told members she would be available to answer questions directly at 1 p.m. Eastern time in a Wednesday conference call.
[See April 13 follow-up item, ". . . 'You Can Take It to the Bank When It's Voted On.' "]
- Eric Deggans blog, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times: National Association of Black Journalists pulls out of coalition of minority journalism associations called UNITY
- Emil Guillermo blog: Separate but equal: journalists of color run out of unity
- National Association of Hispanic Journalists: Statement from NAHJ's President on UNITY
- Native American Journalists Association: Statement on NABJ’s Decision to Leave UNITY Journalists of Color
- Rafael Olmeda blog: Dis UNITY: NABJ split avoidable, regrettable… reversible?
Readers might be excused for double takes in reading the April issue of Ebony magazine. Susan L. Taylor, for years the face of Essence magazine, her column on spirituality a front-of-the-book staple, wrote the one-page "One Love: The Journey Home." It appeared in what some might view as Essence's competition.
"Susan is a longtime mentor of mine," Amy DuBois Barnett, Ebony's editor-in-chief, explained to Journal-isms. "The first national magazine I worked for was Essence. She was friends with my mother."
The 130-page April issue was the first under a redesign of the venerable Johnson Publishing Co. monthly, which though family oriented, has black women as its primary customers, as does Essence.
One of Ebony's new sections is "Elevate: Wellness and Spirituality," and no one was as equipped to write on the topic as was Taylor, Barnett said. In what seemed like an echo of Taylor's Essence days, the "One Love: The Journey Home" headline continued, "A devoted spirit finds the path to eternal internal peace."
Taylor ended her Essence career in 2007 after nearly 17 years, succeeded by younger women. She left as editorial director and went on to found the National CARES Mentoring Movement, of which she is CEO.
With its "cover-to-cover, page by page" redesign of Ebony, Johnson Publishing hopes to reverse circulation and advertising losses. The April issue features such non-staff contributors as Toure, Roland S. Martin, Taylor and filmmaker Reginald Hudlin, who co-authored "You Can't Handle the Truth," a graphic novel in serial form produced with Denys Cowan.
The May issue, on sale this week, boasts a 12-page package on multiracial relationships, Barnett said. Reminded that the New York Times recently devoted a Sunday front-page story to the topic, Barnett replied, "please," as if to say one could not compare the two. She also said Taylor might be back in future issues.
Barnett, hired last June, offered this advice for potential Ebony writers:
"Please be sure you've read the magazine. Nothing is more annoying" than demonstrating that you haven't.
In making a pitch, say "why the story is important, why it is important to Ebony readers, and why you are the writer who can bring the story home.
"People should absolutely pitch," she said, but "you're not going to have something in the book if you haven't had publishing experience." However, beginners might be used on the Ebony website, which Barnett also supervises.
BBC footage taken last week in the Ivory Coast. Major fighting tore apart the city of Abidjan before incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo was arrested on Monday. (Credit: BBC) (Video)
"The French Embassy in Ivory Coast announced on Monday that Ivory Coast security forces had arrested incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, after major fighting that had torn apart the city of Abidjan since March 31," Time magazine wrote over a story headlined, "Surviving Gbagbo: Escape from Ivory Coast."
"TIME reporter Monica Mark was caught up in the chaos. This is her report of a week of surviving the siege.
"I should really have known better. But I'd lived in Ivory Coast for two years, working as a journalist out of Abidjan, as has my boyfriend Tim Cocks, a reporter for Reuters, and we were comfortable and perhaps too complacent. We certainly knew there was trouble ahead but we thought the war would be over quickly. But now, after one of the longest weeks of my life, I should have realized the reckoning was going to be bloody. The signs were everywhere.
". . . Paradise almost immediately became hellish. Hours later Alexandra," a thin and haggard woman who sought refuge in the hotel, "found herself hiding in a dark cupboard as armed gunmen stormed our hotel looking for hostages. When the invasion took place, Tim and I and the other journalists abandoned a careful worked out emergency plan of proceeding to the roof to await the arrival of Licorne, a word meaning 'unicorn,' the name for the French army in Ivory Coast. Instead, we all collected into a room on the top floor. When shots rang out in the corridor, everybody dropped to the floor, crawling behind sofas or under desks. A colleague lifted the bed for his girlfriend to squeeze underneath. A mobile phone rang, piercing our attempt at stillness, the owner's fingers trembling too much to silence it. Someone crossed themselves three times. Eventually, a flurry of whispered phone calls resulted in the United Nations sending two helicopter gunships to circle overhead. The gunmen fled, taking the hotel manager and four other guests with them.
". . . . Mass panic threatened to engulf us all. The 25 foreign journalists in the building were at loggerheads with the fervently pro-Gbagbo hotel staff, and the mutual suspicion eventually boiled over into open hostility. After another scare, the acting manager, close to hysteria, yelled, 'They first time the gunmen came, they took money and rich businessmen. I have no more money or businessmen. Next time they come, I'll have only journalists to give them, and I will!' "
In March, Libyan government minders tried to prevent Iman al-Obeidi from speaking to foreign journalists. (Credit: Sky News)
"More than two weeks ago, Iman al-Obeidi burst into a Tripoli hotel and told assembled journalists there that she had been gang-raped by members of forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar [Gadaffi] after being stopped at a checkpoint in the capital," NPR reported Wednesday on "Morning Edition."
"NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro snuck out of her guarded hotel Monday with another reporter and went to visit Obeidi at her home. They were the first reporters to independently speak with her in person. Because journalists are unable to report freely in Tripoli, NPR cannot verify her claims. [The second journalist was a female reporter from the Associated Press.]
". . . Wrapped only in a tablecloth and bleeding, Obeidi says she tried to make her way out of the compound, but there was a huge wall and an electric gate. She grabbed a piece of metal and ran at the two African guards who were sleeping, screaming hysterically and demanding that the gate be opened.
" 'The guards were shocked to see a bleeding naked woman with wild hair holding a piece of metal,' she says. 'So they opened the gate for me and I just ran out.'
"And there, she was helped by people in the neighborhood.
" '[The neighbors] put me in a taxi, paid the fare, and I told the taxi driver to take me to the hotel [where the journalists are staying],' she says.
"She says she went there because she knew she would never get justice otherwise." [Added April 12]
For the more than 100 international journalists cloistered in Tripoli, Libya, at the invitation of the Gadaffi government, "its management — or, rather, staging — of public relations provided a singular inside view of how this autocracy functions in a crisis," David D. Kirkpatrick wrote Sunday for the New York Times.
The Gadaffi government’s "most honest trait might be its lack of pretense to credibility or legitimacy. It lies, but it does not try to be convincing or even consistent," Kirkpatrick continued in his "Memo From Tripoli."
". . . While some Libyan officials have publicly promised foreign journalists the freedom to report, others have sought to manipulate them. One Libyan official privately warned a Times reporter last week not to trust information from people speaking over Internet connections from Misurata because some were in fact government agents trying to trap journalists. He even cited a specific casualty count recently attributed to a Misurata resident in the pages of this newspaper.
"Was that new resident of Misurata who recently made contact in fact a double agent? Maria Golovnina, a Reuters correspondent, received an e-mail purportedly from an exiled opposition figure asking for rebel contacts in Misurata. Could that person, too, be a spy? But both proved legitimate after further communications; the Libyan officials were apparently just playing mind games."
- Arthur S. Brisbane, New York Times: Juggling the World, Wearily
- Roy Greenslade, the Guardian, Britain: Libyan embassy protest [planned] over detained Al-Jazeera journalists
- Turmoil continues at AOL Black Voices, which is reorganizing under its new Huffington Post management. On Monday, the interim life & style editor told colleagues she had been let go, saying, "looks like the site's going in a new direction and they're looking for folks that are a good fit, of which i am not." As reported March 14, Alexis Garrett Stodghill, programming manager who supervised the Money division, and Timothy Cornwall, who ran BVX.com, a portion of the site devoted to readers under 35, sent farewell notices. AOL-wide, freelancers have been let go. The editor-in-chief position is open at Black Voices, but in the meantime, culture editor Rebecca Carroll is making changes in subject matter and presentation.
- "David Sperling is an immigration lawyer in Long Island, New York, but he wasn't always one," Marisa Treviño wrote for her Latina Lista blog. "At one time, earlier in his career, Sperling was a journalist who reported from abroad and witnessed firsthand the kinds of conditions his clients today left behind. Because he still retains that journalistic curiosity and sense of justice, he is asking some hard questions of the media about the recent wrongful deportation of 4-year-old Emily Ruiz, a U.S. citizen, to Guatemala. David and some of his staff traveled to Guatemala, on behalf of Emily's parents, to bring her back home recently." The questions concern the culpability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in the deportation.
- "The Blacks at Microsoft (BAM) employee network is offering a $5,000 scholarship for the 2011/12 academic year to outstanding high school seniors pursuing careers in technology. The scholarship is renewable, so the recipient will receive $5,000 annually for up to four years as long as they continue to meet the criteria," BlackWeb20.com reported on Monday.
- CNN en Español plans to cover from Havana the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party April 14-20. Coverage begins with a special led by Juan Carlos López, who will report live for several of the network’s programs, including "Encuentro," "NotiMujer," "Directo USA," "Panorama Mundial," "Café CNN" and "Conclusiones," the network said.
- "BET has declined to air the videos for Kanye West’s 'Monster' and Ciara’s 'Ride,'" as part of BET's effort to clean up its image, BET CEO Debra Lee told Fox Business Channel . "Rihanna’s raunchy clip for 'S&M' was on the chopping block, too." Of BET, Lee said, "'I think the criticism has gone away. The first thing I did, which was in the works anyway, was to create more original programming that shows different images of women," she said, explaining her agenda once she took control of BET, EURWeb reported on Monday.
- USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III has been offered and accepted another five-year term as dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, USC President C.L. Max Nikias announced last week.
- "TheCrescentPost.com is a global news portal officially launched today dedicated to bringing diverse voices about the 'Muslim Street' together in one place," Arsalan Iftikhar, who also created TheMuslimGuy.com website, announced on Monday. "The Crescent Post is proud to have our first exclusive ‘3 Questions’ interview series with Dr. Kenneth Pollack, Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and who was also a top former National Security Council official under the Clinton Administration…In his exclusive interview with The Crescent Post, Dr. Pollack discusses Islamophobia, the 2011 Brookings US-Islamic World Forum and the future of Arab Muslim youth pro-democracy uprisings around the Middle East."
- Your "Journal-isms" columnist is among "30 Black Bloggers You Should Know," as determined by theRoot.com. "From politics to pop culture, from relationships to fashion and natural hair, today's bloggers are an exceedingly opinionated bunch. We like 'em like that," theRoot.com says.
- "Olivera Perkins won an award for explanatory journalism for a series of stories on how Hugo Boss workers prevented owners from shuttering the men's suit manufacturing plant and shipping its jobs abroad," Marcia Pledger wrote March 27 for the Plain Dealer of Cleveland. Perkins, of the Plain Dealer, was honored by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
- Debra L. Adams Simmons, editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, and Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor of Al Día, Dallas, were among five elected to three-year terms on the board of the American Society of News Editors. The others were Neil Brown, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times; Amanda Bennett, Bloomberg News, New York; and George A. Stanley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Craig A. Dubow, the Gannett Co. Inc. chief executive, and Gracia C. Martore, the president and chief operating officer, received cash bonuses of $1.75 million and $1.25 million respectively, David Carr wrote Monday for the New York Times. "In fact, the top six executives at the embattled publishing company would receive 2010 compensation packages of more than $28 million if the company does very well, which seems unlikely, but the symbolism remains. The savings from two years of mandatory furloughs for the rest of Gannett employees: $33 million. Well, that didn’t go very far, did it?"
Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.
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