Paula Madison, who joined KNBC-TV 11 years ago as president and general manager and moved up to become executive vice president and the first chief diversity officer for NBCUniversal, announced plans to retire on May 20.
Madison’s journalism career began with newspapers in New York and Dallas/Fort Worth after graduation from Vassar College. Following stints with television stations in Texas and Oklahoma, she joined New York’s WNBC in 1989 as assistant news director and went on to become its vice president and news director in 1996.
Four years later, she headed west to KNBC, Channel 4, becoming the first African American woman to become a general manager at a network-owned station in a top-five market. When NBC purchased the Telemundo network, she added the position of regional manager of the network’s two Spanish language stations, KVEA and KWHY.
Under Madison’s guidance WNBC took the Peabody Award in 1996 and KNBC would earn a local Emmy, a Golden Mike and regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Among other honors was being named one of the “75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America” by Black Enterprise magazine in 2005 and inclusion in the Hollywood Reporter’s Power 100.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Madison, 58, is leaving NBC after 22 years to focus on her family’s investment business. While some wondered if she was forced out following the Comcast Corp. takeover of NBC, Madison told The Times she “wanted to become more involved with her family’s 5-year-old company, Williams Group Holdings, which is majority owner in the Los Angeles Sparks professional basketball team and the largest investor in the Africa Channel.”
“For years I have wanted to retire early,” Madison was quoted by the paper as saying. “There have been many instances where I had to recuse myself from a variety of our investments because of my position at NBC.”
“This is a big loss for the industry,” Kathy Y. Times, president of the National Black Journalist Association (NABJ), said in a statement. “Paula has an incredible record when it comes to championing diversity and has been a faithful friend to [the] NABJ and a counsel to me. I implore Comcast to choose someone with a track record that demonstrates the same level of commitment to diversity and to keep the diversity officer at the executive level.”
Madison has been a member of the NABJ for 34 years.
In the same statement, Steve Burke, chief executive officer, NBCUniversal and executive vice president at Comcast, said: “Paula has had an extraordinary career from her early days as an award-winning journalist and station manager up to an including her appointment as the first chief diversity officer in the history of NBCUniversal.”
“As part of an agreement with the federal government, Comcast agreed to launch 10 new independently owned-and-operated channels over the next decade in an effort to afford minorities a greater voice in media ownership, which is dominated by a handful of multibillion-dollar conglomerates,” said The Times article.
“Her family investment business plans to launch a new arm, Madison Media Productions, to make investments in multicultural media initiatives, she said.”