Local TV news trailblazer Alma Newsom dead

Alma Newsom, one of the first Black female news anchors and TV executives in Houston, died Nov. 4 of natural causes. She was 70. Funeral services will be held Friday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m. at Abiding Faith Baptist Church, 15376 Fondren in Missouri City. The viewing is at 10 a.m.

Newsom became the first full-time community affairs director at KHOU-TV Channel 11 in 1973, and became a reporter and weekend anchor in 1975. She resumed her community affairs director role in 1978, serving as a talk show host and human resources advisor.

She was named KHOU’s assistant program manager in 1981 and program manager in 1982, and oversaw the day-to-day TV operations at a major CBS affiliate.

On her resume Newsom stated that she advised the general manager on recruitment, hiring and development of minorities and women.

“I hired an unprecedented number of women and minorities into broadcast operations positions,” she said. “Many of these hires are currently in broadcast positions from coast to coast.”

Defender CEO and Publisher Sonny Messiah Jiles, a former TV talk show host who considered Newsom a mentor, said Newsom was a pioneer in Houston television.

“Alma was one of the first in community relations, which played a strategic role in building a relationship with her station and fighting to get the issues of Blacks and other minority communities covered fairly and with balance,” Messiah Jiles said.

“It was a hard-fought battle and Alma was a great warrior for people of color, constantly working to have positive stories covered instead of the negative images often portrayed.”

Newsom was a magna cum laude graduate of Texas Southern University, where she majored in English and minored in history. Before joining Channel 11, she was managing editor of Hope Development/The Voice of Hope.

In 1984 Newsom formed AJ Newsom Enterprises, working as a communications and media consultant. She joined the faculty and staff of Texas Southern University in 1985, where she managed the closed circuit television system and served as an assistant professor in the Department of Communications.

In 1988 she became director of communications for Houston Congressman Mickey Leland, who died in a 1989 plane crash. She formed the Newsom Communications Group in 1990.

She was former president of the Houston Association of Black Journalists and a founding member of the National Broadcast Association for Community Affairs. She was the first executive director of WALIPP, the William A. Lawson Institute for Peace and Prosperity. Her survivors include six sisters and two brothers.