Kent State Honors Trailblazers in Media Diversity at Annual McGruder Lecture and Awards Luncheon

Former NBC executive Paula Madison is 2016 McGruder Award recipient; Plain Dealer columnist Phillip Morris to Be Honored with Diversity Leadership Award

Kent State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will honor Paula Madison, former NBC journalist and executive, with the 2016 Robert G. McGruder Distinguished Award for her accomplishments in media diversity.

Madison will visit the Kent Campus to present a lecture on media diversity and accept the award on Sept. 29. The keynote lecture, which is open to the public, will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Kent Student Center Kiva.

The McGruder Distinguished Lecture and Award Program, now in its 13th year, is presented in honor of the late Robert G. “Bob” McGruder, the first black editor of the Daily Kent Stater who went on to become the first black reporter at The Plain Dealer, the first black president of the Associated Press Managing Editors group and first black executive editor at the Detroit Free Press

Learn more about the Robert G. McGruder Distinguished Award at….

Madison was raised in Harlem, New York, and throughout her career, has blazed trails in media diversity. She was the first African-American female general manager of a top news network (KNBC in Los Angeles) and NBCUniversal’s vice president and chief diversity officer. She has received several honors for corporate leadership and community outreach, including being named one of the “75 Most Powerful African-Americans in Corporate America” by Black Enterprise magazine in 2005 and one of the Hollywood Reporter’s “Power 100.”

After retiring from NBC in 2011, Madison set out on a personal journey: She and her brothers, who were raised in Harlem, New York, set out on a journey to uncover their Chinese and Jamaican roots. The journey is depicted through the book (2015) and documentary (2014), “Finding Samuel Lowe” – a story about familial love and devotion and the American dream. Learn more at

“I don’t know anyone that says, ‘I’m a trailblazer,’” Madison said. “[As a journalist, my work] is motivated by a desire that accuracy, balance and fairness are as fair and as thorough as you can make them. It has everything to do with access, with giving voice to the disenfranchised, with bringing everything to the forefront and to the public's attention when there is something that requires a closer look and deeper inspection.”

Thor Wasbotten, professor and director of Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said he is honored to present this distinguished award to Madison, one of his professional mentors circling back to his days as a television news director.

“As someone who believed so strongly in community journalism and diversity issues, and the fact that she was the first African-American woman to be general manager at one of the top five network-owned television stations, she helped me solidify my beliefs that diversity in journalism was paramount to servicing our audience,” Wasbotten said. “I can think of no one who is more deserving of the Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity."

The Diversity in Media Distinguished Leadership Award

Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Phillip Morris also will be recognized on Sept. 29 with the Diversity in Media Distinguished Leadership Award.

Morris was a 2010 and 2011 Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary. In 2010, he was recognized for his columns “that close the distance between the reader and the rough streets of the city, confronting hard realities without leaving people to feel hopeless.” In 2011, he was recognized for “his blend of local storytelling and unpredictable opinions, enlarging the discussion of controversial issues that stir a big city.”

For more information about Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, visit

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Media Contacts:
Christina Russ,, 330-672-2571
Emily Vincent,, 330-672-8595

POSTED: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 11:48 AM
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2022 07:27 PM
School of Journalism and Mass Communication