Madison, Paula 1952–
Paula Madison 1952–
Paula Madison is a media executive for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) television-broadcasting network. She began her career as a journalist in print media and then became a television news manager. She worked her way up the corporate ladder to become a news director and eventually the president and general manager of the NBC station in Los Angeles, the second largest NBC station in the country. Madison was the first African-American woman to become a general manager of a top five network-owned television station. She was also the first person to hold the position of senior vice president of diversity at NBC. Throughout her career Madison has promoted the fair inclusion and representation of minorities in the media. She has built a reputation as a strong leader who is committed to quality journalism and community involvement.
Paula Madison was the youngest of three children born in Harlem, New York, to Jamaican immigrants. Her father, Elrick M. Williams, Sr., was a tool and die maker and her mother, Nell Williams, was a homemaker. Madison’s parents separated when she was only three years old. Her parents struggled financially, but they raised three successful children. Madison has two brothers, one of whom is a truckdriver and the other is a commodities broker and businessman. Madison’s first trip out of the United States occurred when her father took her to visit Jamaica. Madison told Contemporary Black Biography (CBB) that while in Jamaica she was inspired by the fact that “people of African descent were very visible in all walks of life: prime minister, high court justice, merchant, police commissioner, etc.”
Madison attended Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx. Her favorite subjects in school were history and social studies. She also participated in many extracurricular activities, such as the African-American association, academic clubs, and student council. As a young adult Madison wanted to become an educator. As a teenager she spent her summers teaching African-American history to inner-city youth. Madison knew that she would have to go to college to pursue her career. When Madison was in high school, she told a school counselor that she wanted to attend an Ivy League or Seven Sister college such as Radcliffe or Vassar. The counselor laughed at the thought that she would aspire to do so. However, Madison was not discouraged by her counselor because her family supported her decision to pursue whatever career she wanted.
Madison’s determination to attend the college of her choice paid off and she received a scholarship to attend Vassar. As Madison told CBB, her experiences at Vassar “prepared me for the business place by exposing me to a myriad of experiences and very diverse people.” During her senior year, a friend and Vassar alumna visited Madison and encouraged her to pursue a career in journalism because of her strong writing skills and her knowledge of and interest in history, politics, and national affairs. She took her friend’s advice and applied to graduate school for journalism. Months later, Madison graduated in 1974 with a degree in history and Black studies and headed to Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications.
At a Glance…
Born Paula Madison in 1952, in New York, NY; married Roosevelt Madison; one daughter. Education: Vassar College, B.A., 1974; Syracuse University, Newhouse School of Communications.
Career: Syracuse Herald Journal, Syracuse, NY, print reporter, 1974-80; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, TX, print reporter, 1980-82; Dallas Times Herald, Dallas, TX, assistant city editor, 1982; WFAA-TV, community affairs director, 1982-84, news manager, 1984-86; KOTV-TV, Tulsa, OK, news dir, 1986; KHOU-TV, Houston, TX, exec news dir, 1987-89; WNBC, New York, NY, asst news dir, 1989-96, news dir, 1996-99; NBC, Los Angeles, CA, sr vice pres for diversity, 2000-02; KNBC, pres/general manager, 2000-; KNBC, KVEA, and KWHY, regional gen mgr, 2002-.
Memberships: National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ); African American Alumni of Vassar Coll; Chinatown Service Center; bd mem, Nati Medical Fellowships, Inc; bd mem, Center for Public Integrity; bd mem, Poynter Institute; Board, Maynard Inst; New York Vassar Club; New York Press Club.
Awards: Catalyst Award, National Assn of Minority Media Executives, 2002; Outstanding Women in Marketing and Communications Award, Ebony Magazine, 2002; Woman of the Year Award, Los Angeles County Commission for Women, 2002; Freedom Fund, NAACP, 2001; President’s Award, NAACP, LA Branch, 2001; Frederick D. Patterson Award, United Negro Coll Fund, 2001; Ellis Island Medal of Honor, Nati Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, 1999; Ida B. Wells Award, NABJ, 1998; Tri-State Catholic Comm on Radio and Television TRISCCORT Award; Distinguished African American New Yorker, NY Comptroller; NY’s 100 Top Minority Executives, Crain’s NY Business; Image Award for Corporate Achievement, Org of Chinese Americans Greater LA Chapter; Corporate Impact Award, Asian Pacific American Legal Center.
Address: Office— NBC4, 3000 W, Alameda Ave., Bur-bank, CA 91523.
She never completed the master’s program but Madison began her career in journalism as a print reporter for the Syracuse Herald Journal in Syracuse, New York from 1974 to 1980. She then moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to work as a bureau reporter, then an investigative reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper. In 1982 Madison became an assistant city editor for the Dallas Times Herald.
Later in 1982 Madison made the switch from newspapers to television. Her first television job was community affairs director at WFAA-TV in Dallas, Texas. Only two years later Madison was promoted to news manager at the same station. In 1986 Madison moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to become the news director for KOTV-TV. A year later she returned to Texas to fill the position of executive news director of KHOU-TV in Houston.
Madison joined the NBC team in 1989 when she became the assistant news director of WNBC in New York. In March of 1996 she was promoted to news director of the station. In only three years Madison turned WNBC into the top television station in New York. It was ranked first in all local newscasts, which was a position the station had not held for 16 years. “Paula put out a very good newscast in New York,” Newsday television columnist Verne Gay was quoted as saying in Los Angeles Magazine in March of 2002, “but what she really brought was leadership. She took over a demoralized newsroom near a nervous breakdown, stopped the fear, recriminations, and backstabbing, and created a team feeling that had not been there for years.”
Madison’s success in New York led to another promotion. In 2000 Madison became president and general manager for KNBC in Los Angeles, California, which is the second largest television market. This promotion made her the first African-American woman to become a general manager at one of the top five networked-owned stations. Madison has revamped KNBC to focus more on local communities. “Reflecting the community with insight and accuracy is my number one priority,” Madison told the National Association of Minority Media Executives. In particular, Madison made important changes in the news department, which had a reputation for reporting sensationalist stories such as car crashes. “I believe in beat reporting, building relations, and knowing the community,” Madison told Joe Domanick of Los Angeles Magazine in March of 2002. Following NBC’s purchase of Telemundo, the second-largest Spanish-language network, in April of the same year, Madison also became the regional general manager for two NBC/Telemundo television stations, KVEA and KWHY, in addition to her KNBC duties.
In addition to her position as regional general manager, Madison also served as senior vice president for diversity for NBC from February of 2000 to May of 2002. Madison was the first person to hold this position at NBC. In this capacity Madison chaired the NBC Diversity Council, of which she is still a member. She was responsible for ensuring that the network fully included people of color on the staff and in the shows it aired. Madison has been awarded for her efforts to include minorities in the media. In 1998 she was given the Ida B. Wells award by the National Association of Black Journalists. When announcing the award, Professor Samuel L. Adams of the University of Kansas stated, “Ida Wells used her twentieth century newspaper to crusade against lynching, and Paula Madison has used her position as a media manager to improve America through fairer inclusion of minorities in print and broadcast news.”
Aside from her responsibilities at NBC, Madison is also active in numerous professional and community organizations, including the National Association of Black Journalists, the African American Alumni of Vassar College, the National Medical Fellowships, Inc., and the Center for Public Integrity. She ’s also a member of the Vassar College Board of Trustees and president of the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College. Since 1990 Madison has been married to artist Roosevelt Madison. Despite the demands of her career, Madison has been able to find time for her family, her community activities, and her favorite hobby—fishing. In order to maintain this balance in her life, Madison told CBB, “I leave work at work and try never to take my work problems home to my family.”
Madison has received numerous awards for her professional accomplishments. In particular, she won the National Association of Minority Media Executives Catalyst Award and Ebony Magazine’s Outstanding Women in Marketing and Communications Award in 2002. In 1999 she won the Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations in recognition of descendants of immigrants who have distinguished themselves. However, Madison’s motivation for success does not come from external recognition. Madison told CBB that what she enjoyed most about her career was the fact “that I’m doing my best to leave the world a better place than I found it.”
Broadcasting and Cable, February 14, 2000, p. 85; November 6, 2000, p. 27.
Ebony, October 2002.
Jet, May 6, 2002.
Los Angeles Magazine, March 2002, p. 52.
Mediaweek, May 31, 1999; February 12, 2001.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 1, 2001, p. 10B.
Newsday, May 28, 2001, p. B23.
New York Times, May 1, 1999, p. B2.
Presstime, April 2002, p. 14.
Rocky Mountain News, December 22, 2001, p. 6E.
St. Petersburg Times, August 26, 2001, p. IF.
USA Today, December 13, 2001, p. 4D.
Variety, February 14, 2000, p. 32.
Black Journalists Association of Southern California, www.bjasc.org/archive/print/print_may2001.html
Los Angeles Press Club, www.lapressclub.org/archives/mayOl/madisonparty.html
National Association of Black Journalists, www.nabj.org/madison.htm
National Association of Minority Media Executives, www.namme.org/paulamadison.asp
The New Leaders, www.newleaders.org/calendar4-events/events/2002.05.pmadison_post.html
Operation Hope, www.operationhope.org
University of Kansas Office of University Relations, www.ur.ku.edu/News/98N/JulyNews/July2/award.html
Vassar College Executive-in-Residence, www.vassar.edu/relations/archive/2000-2001/010416.madison.html
Additional information for this profile was obtained through a personal interview with Contemporary Black Biography, on November 14, 2002.
—Janet P. Stamatel
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