Articles about "NBC"


Former NBC Journalist/Executive Paula Madison Finds the Story of Her Life

Paula Madison shocked her colleagues when she walked away from television in October, 2011. She was 58 and an executive vice president at NBC.

“I wanted to find my family,” she told me. “I knew that everything I had done, from majoring in black studies at Vassar College to studying the Caribbean and China, then being a reporter and developing my world view, all of this, I realize was getting me ready for something.”

It was getting her ready to report the greatest story of her life.  Her own.

Photo Courtesy Madison Media Management

Paula Madison (Photo Courtesy Madison Media Management)

Paula Williams Madison and her brothers Elrick and Howard grew up in Harlem, raised by their immigrant single mother Nell Vera Lowe.  There was a time when they depended on welfare to get by. Paula recalls a lecture from her mother. “I came home from elementary school one day and handed my mother my grade card. She told me ‘I did not come to this country for you to get a B. I came to this country for you to be wealthy.’”

It was an extraordinary vision with, it turns out, deep roots. Paula and her brothers didn’t look like most black people in Harlem. They had no relatives there. There was something different about their facial features.

Screen shot 2014-08-01 at 12.28.45 PM

Samuel Lowe (Photo courtesy Madison Media Management)

“My mother looked Chinese,” Paula says. “I grew up knowing my mother had Chinese ancestry.”  The family story was that Paula’s mother was born in Jamaica and that her maternal grandfather’s name was Samuel Lowe, a Chinese shopkeeper in Kingston, Jamaica. “My grandfather’s first two partners were black Jamaican women whom he did not marry. His family sent a Chinese wife for him to marry — sight unseen,” Paula says.

Lowe had fathered several children with the other women. The family story was, one day Samuel Lowe left Kingston and went home to China and died. The story, as with many family stories, was not complete.

In April 2012, six months after she retired from her executive jobs at KNBC and NBCUniversal Paula Madison began her quest to discover the real story of who she was. One thing, she was was successful. She and her brothers had invested in real estate and other businesses and amassed a fortune. They bought the WNBA basketball franchise, the L.A. Sparks, which she sold this year to Magic Johnson. She and her brothers bought the majority share of The Africa Channel television network.

She expected it would take years to unravel the family’s past.

“The first thing I did was log on to I built a family tree around my mother’s name and plugged in a lot of names of my Black relatives. New connections began to appear. Then I turned to and I found birth certificates as well as aunts and uncles.” She found ship’s logs that listed her grandfather Lowe’s travels from China to Jamaica where he went to work at a sugar plantation in 1905. It was a time when many Chinese traveled to the Caribbean to work. There Samuel met Paula’s Jamaican born grandmother. Paula’s mother, Nell Vera Lowe, barely knew her father. In 1945, she took advantage of relaxed U.S. immigration laws and moved to New York. Everyone assumed Samuel Lowe had lived a lowly shopkeeper’s life.

But Paula Madison could not settle for assumptions. On a trip to Jamaica, she started nosing around the shops known by locals as “Chiney shops,” places opened by Chinese immigrants. She asked if anybody had ever heard of a shopkeeper named Samuel Lowe and was surprised to find people who knew him, she also found relatives who helped her begin to understand the Jamaican-Chinese culture and migration patterns.

She discovered Samuel Lowe had expanded his businesses significantly in Kingston and after 30 years on the island, traveled back to China. Paula found out that many Chinese-Jamaicans had come from a group of North Chinese who had been driven from their homes to South China. They were called the “Hakka” and every four years the Hakka descendants held a reunion. Only a couple of months after her search began, she and her brothers hustled to attended one of those reunions in Toronto, where they met with a group of Hakka who pledged to help her find her Chinese family.

Her new Hakka friends told her there were only two villages in South China where you would find the Lowe name. One of those towns was a village called Niu Fu, the other seemed like a natural fit-Lowe Swee Hap, a Chinese city that included the family name. Her Hakka friends began contacting relatives in China and within a matter of weeks, the lines were connected. She found that she was related to a cadre of previously unknown aunts, uncles and cousins living in Shenzhen, China.

In August, now only five months after she began her search, Paula made the trip to China to meet her lost family. She returned to China in December 2012 with her brothers and 16 family members to piece together the lost family stories.

Her Chinese kin greeted her warmly and told stories about Samuel Lowe. The family was surprised to learn that Paula’s mother was likely Samuel’s oldest daughter and would have held a high place of honor had they known of her.

December 2012, Paul Madison and American relatives meet Chinese relative in first family reunion. (Photo courtesy Madison Media Management)

December 2012, Paula Madison and American relatives meet Chinese relative in first family reunion. (Photo courtesy Madison Media Management)

Screen shot 2014-08-01 at 2.54.05 PMSince meeting her new extended family in China, Paul and her brothers have gone into business with cousins shipping Napa wines and Maine lobsters to China. In 2015, Harper Collins will release a book on the whole odyssey. The documentary “Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China” is making the film festival rounds and will eventually end up on television and The Africa Channel.

For Paula, unraveling the mystery helped her makes sense of her own life. She now knows her own drive to invest and develop businesses comes from her entrepreneurial Chinese grandfather, even though they never met. She said she wants to open people’s eyes to help them want to know more about their family’s past and continue family legacies.

“This is a universal story, we are all immigrants, we come from all over and most of us have lost pieces and bits of our story along the way. My grandfather used his full Chinese name when he gave it to the ship’s clerk heading for Ellis Island, that he had to pass through from Jamaica to China. The clerk reduced the name to Samuel Lowe,” Madison said. But because Lowe had to stay at Ellis Island for quarantine, his name showed up in the National Archives. “For African Americans, slavery in the United States interrupted and destroyed family histories. Part of my goal is to help black people understand that slavery is a blip, a horrible blip, but a blip in the history of who they are.”

Paula Madison

Siqi Luo, great-granddaughter of Samuel Lowe, her father, Minjin Luo and Paula Williams Madison finding Samuel Lowe’s lineage on the Lowe/Luo family tree in the family’s ancestral village, Lowe Swee Hap, Shenzhen, China. (Photo Courtesy Madison Media Management)

In Chinese culture, villages sometimes keep family stories. The stories, that go back centuries, are written in a document called Jia Pua.  Paula saw her family’s Jia Pua that stretches back three thousand years to 1006 B.C. and there was, of course, no mention of her mother, or of the black Chinese-American family she raised. Not once in three thousand years has the document added footnotes or backdated additions. But Paula Madison insisted on accuracy. “You know I wouldn’t rest until that happened,” she said. Nell Vera Lowe’s name was added to the village history book.

There was a reason Paula Madison had a lifelong gnawing need to know her past. She comes by it naturally. The gates of Paula Madison’s ancestral village of Lowe Swee Hap in Shenzhen, China are topped with a sign with three words. “Family, Education, Prosperity.”  Note, that the word “family” comes first.

VIDEO: Paula Madison explains why she thinks it is important to explore family stories. Read more


NBC correspondent Kerry Sanders injured by broken TV light

NBC correspondent Kerry Sanders said in a Twitter post Thursday that he suffered serious eye injuries while covering the Michael Dunn trial in Jacksonville, Fla., in February.


In the post that he attached to his tweet, Sanders explained that the injuries were caused by a malfunctioning HMI TV light that slowly damaged his corneas while he reported live on the Today Show, MSNBC and NBC Nightly News.

Sanders wrote in his post that the light fried the skin on his face and: “Not only could I not see, but my eyes burned in pain as if two hot coals smoldered in my sockets. The darkness lasted a frightening 36-hours. I still see foggy halos and out-of-focus views. The doctors say my eyesight will eventually return to normal.”

Networks and high-end production companies use HMI or hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide lights because the lights are color balanced for outdoor use. The light they put out is about the same color as sunlight. But the lights are dangerous if used incorrectly.

Every HMI lamp should have an ultra-violet safety glass covering it. When the UV filter fails, injuries like the ones Sanders suffered can result. Usually HMI lights have a safety switch that shuts off the light globe if the UV filter lens door is broken or open. We don’t know how the filter failed in Sanders’ case. Here is a link to an HMI manufacturer’s website to give you an idea of what the lights look like and how they operate.

Most local TV stations use lower cost tungsten or LED lights and put color gels over the lights to achieve about the same color temperatures as the HMI lights.

Sanders suffers increasing pain

Sanders explains the slow painful onset of his problems that started around 8 p.m. By 2 a.m, he said he was in agony.

“My eyes had swollen shut and I could no longer tough out the escalating pain. I called for a cab. It was 25-minutes away, maybe longer. Desperate, and perhaps with a mind muddled by pain, I grabbed the keys to the rental car. With my finger and thumb I pried open one of my now puffed-shut eyes, I aimed the car to the nearest hospital. Why I didn’t call 911 for ambulance is something I still can’t explain.”

Sanders said when he got to the hospital, doctors told him his corneas were “fried.”

“The anesthetic eye-drops to ease the pain lasted only about 15 minutes and then the agony returned. The biggest problem: those powerful drops could cause permanent injury so I would get only four per eye and no more.”

By morning, Sanders said, he was blind.

As his doctors predicted, his eyesight is returning, slowly. He says he is about 80 percent healed now.

While he has been recovering, he and his siblings made a long planned trip to the Andes to release his mother’s ashes in Peru, where she grew up.

“We stuck to our plan and made our way south. My sister was sort of my seeing eye-dog, and my brother played the pack mule, carrying my luggage.

“More than 7,000 feet up, along the Inca Trail, we found the perfect spot to release her ashes. While there may be a detail or two I couldn’t make out, I could see the stunning beauty my mother always talked about when she would remember her childhood.”

Sanders said the first thing he will look for when he gets back to work at NBC is “those damn HMI lights, in the off position of course. Right now I’m not sure what to look for, but you can be sure I’m going to find out. And if being around camera lights is anywhere in your job description, you should too.”

Other on-air journalists responded to Sander’s tweet saying they too had been injured in HMI accidents.




I asked experienced photojournalist friends how common HMI injuries are. Here are some of the responses I got:

Richard Adkins: WRAL TV

“HMI lights, as with any piece of equipment, if used improperly, set up incorrectly, or poorly maintained, can be dangerous. I know I’m a geek, but I read instruction manuals, and I would encourage everyone to do so. But it all boils down to maintaining the gear, checking the set up, and taking the time to make sure everything is okay.”

Bethany Swain: University of Maryland lecturer, former CNN photojournalist

“I know two CNN reporters who had this happen, both after long days doing live shots outside. But only heard of two in all of my years and all of the thousands of days using them. Neither were with lights I set up, thank goodness.”

“I remember liking to have one of our lighting experts check my lights sometimes so I had another person to double check. The check takes a few seconds. “

Sanders’ injury is a wake-up call not just to photojournalists but to reporters and anchors who stand in front of TV lights. TV stations should use this story as a reminder that TV gear should be used by professionals and professionals need training. Read more

FILE- In this Jan. 13, 2012 file photo, U. S. skier Bode Miller looks at the scoreboard after finishing third in a alpine ski, men's World Cup super-combined, in Wengen, Switzerland. On Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, Miller’s estranged girlfriend, Sara McKenna, regained temporary custody of their infant son. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati, File)

Olympian Bode Miller: ‘Be Gentle With Christin Cooper’ for NBC interview

Olympic skier Bode Miller told his Twitter followers that NBC’s Christin Cooper was doing her job when she asked him questions about his brother who died last year. Miller cried and viewers jumped online to complain. (Watch the interview here.) Read more


#JFK: media organizations taking new look at old news

Cape Cod Times | Associated Press | Huffington Post | The Washington Post | Fox News | CNN | Los Angeles Times | NBC | | The Dallas Morning News | The New York Times | USA Today | Reuters

The news today, in many parts of the country, is about something that happened in Dallas 50 years ago. But now, the retelling of JFK’s assassination is unfolding in a way quite different than it did then — through social media.

The Cape Cod Times started its two-day project Thursday, tweeting out events from 50 years ago at the times when they happened. The paper also has a cache of stories about the Kennedy family on its site, with reader memories, a story about Kennedy’s local church, and the news photographer who covered him.

Read more

Brian Williams

NBC Nightly News issues correction for wiping New Hampshire off the map

Tuesday night’s episode of NBC Nightly News ended with something you rarely see in a television newscast: an on air correction.

According to anchor Brian Williams, after viewers and at least one U.S. Senator complained that a graphic from Monday night’s newscast left New Hampshire off a map, the NBC broadcast acknowledged and corrected its error. And it did so with style.

Here’s how Williams ended the broadcast:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Clear, apologetic, and with a nice mixture of playfulness, humility and random facts. (Tupperware! Paper towels!)

Best of all, Williams and NBC made their correction something worth watching, rather than hurriedly tacking it on as the credits rolled.

Others seemed to agree:


Read more

ABC, CBS and other networks take second swing at Aereo

The Wrap | New York Times

Aereo’s honeymoon is over, as broadcast networks re-filed their petitions for an injunction this morning.

As The Wrap reports, ABC, CBS, NBC Universal and Fox Television Stations are among the parties who have asked judges to reconsider the 2nd Circuit District Appeals Court’s decision from earlier this month. The decision came down in favor of Aereo, whom the court ruled was not in violation of copyright law.

The networks’ complaints stem from Aereo’s business model. Aereo provides a live stream of broadcast television to its subscribers via a live Internet feed. The court’s ruling hinged on the fact that Aereo uses an individual antenna for each subscriber; the judges in a 2-1 decision said this constituted a “private” rather than “public” performance, which meant Aereo is in the clear.

The networks have filed suit against Aereo to stop the company from transmitting their broadcasts without giving the networks compensation. Speaking from the NAB Show last week in Las Vegas, News Corp. President and COO Chase Carey  threatened to move Fox’s broadcast channels to cable if Aereo continued to win in the courts. Read more


David Gregory, NBC will not be charged for showing gun ammunition ‘magazine’ on air

The Washington, D.C., Attorney General has decided not to charge “Meet the Press” host David Gregory or NBC, after they showed a high-capacity ammunition clip during an NRA interview last month. A.G. Irvin B. Nathan explained the decision in a letter to NBC:

Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States, especially while this subject was foremost in the minds of the public following the … events in Connecticut and the President’s speech to the nation about them.

Not influencing their decision, they said, was “the feeble and unsatisfactory efforts that NBC made to determine whether or not it was lawful to possess, display, and broadcast this large capacity magazine as a means of fostering the public policy debate.”

NBC should be warned, the letter continues, that the decision not to press charges was “a very close decision”; the network should “take meticulous care” in the future to follow the law. Read more


George Zimmerman sues NBC over editing of 911 call about Trayvon Martin

Lawyers for George Zimmerman, who has been charged in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, announced Thursday that their defendant has sued NBC for defamation.

Zimmerman is also suing two people fired by the network and an owned-and-operated affiliate for their role in airing edited audio of a 911 call that was made before the shooting. Also being sued is one person still employed by the network, as well as the network itself.

As Andrew Beaujon reported in October, when sources told the New York Post such a suit was imminent,

NBC broadcast three reports using audio edited to make it appear Zimmerman said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.” The first report was produced by WTVJ in Miami, which fired reporter Jeff Burnside, who was involved in editing it. “Today” broadcast a report apparently influenced by WTVJ’s that edited the audio the same way; reporter Lilia Luciano lost her job with the network after that. The [Ron] Allen report was broadcast after those two, and apparently used the same audio track as the second.

Zimmerman’s suit names Burnside, Luciano and Allen, who is still employed by NBC. Read more


Bob Costas delivers gun control commentary during halftime Sunday

Washington Post | Fox Sports | Media Matters
The longtime NBC sportscaster delivered a straight-to-camera commentary during halftime of the Sunday night broadcast, calling for tighter gun control after a Kansas City Chiefs player shot and killed his girlfriend and himself over the weekend. Read more


Reports: Jeff Zucker to head CNN

The New York Times | Los Angeles Times | Variety
CNN and Jeff Zucker are close to an agreement that would place the former NBCUniversal chief executive in charge of the news channel, Brian Stelter reports. Time Warner CEO Jeffrey L. Bewkes and Turner Broadcasting CEO Phil Kent “want someone who has programming and management and cable expertise; someone who can be credible to the staff and to the business community,” one source told Stelter.

Mr. Zucker could check off all those boxes. As a young NBC News producer, he helped start what became a 16-year winning streak for the “Today” show. He had mixed results as he moved up the rungs of NBC, but he can point to cable programming successes even as the NBC broadcast network struggled. He did not respond to requests for comment, and people with knowledge of the search insisted on anonymity to preserve friendships and business relationships.

Jim Walton announced his resignation as the head of CNN Worldwide in July, telling staff “CNN needs new thinking.” Read more

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