Mary Nissenson (born April 1952) is an award-winning American television journalist, who also has been an entrepreneur, social activist and university instructor.
Early life and education
A summa cum laude graduate of Vassar College in 1974, Nissenson received her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1977, where she was the first woman elected president of the law students' association in that institution's history.
Broadcast journalism career
After practicing briefly as a corporate litigator with the Chicago firm of Hopkins & Sutter, Nissenson was hired as chief investigator of the consumer affairs unit (Factfinder) at WBBM-TV Chicago. She received her first Emmy Award eight months later for her investigative reports into violations of child labor laws—a series also honored with a Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association in 1979, a Jacob Scher Award for investigative reporting, and a Peter Lisagor Award.
In 1980, Nissenson was hired as a reporter/documentarian for WTVJ-Miami. Shortly thereafter, Nissenson went to Israel and Poland to produce Pages of Testimony, which documented a Holocaust survivor's return to Auschwitz and the donation of the Auschwitz Album, a valuable pictorial record of the Holocaust, to the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem.
While in Warsaw, Nissenson was asked by CBS Network News to cover Lech Walesa's Solidarity Movement and ensuing labor strikes which led to the democratization of Poland. Nissenson's series of reports, Poland: Changing Nation, received a George Foster Peabody Award (television's equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize) just two months after she had begun her first full-time on-air reporting job.
Nissenson was hired by NBC Network News in 1982, where, in addition to being a correspondent on three presidential campaigns, she sometimes guest-anchored on Today, NBC News at Sunrise, NBC News Overnight and NBC News Digest. She left the network in 1985 to report and anchor for WABC-TV in New York.
From 1987 until 1988, Nissenson worked as a reporter at WBBM-TV in Chicago. In an interview with Chicago Sun-Times TV columnist Robert Feder, Nissenson denied that she resigned from the station in May 1988 because she was unable to obtain an anchor slot at the station. "I simply want to be my own person," she told Feder.
Career as an entrepreneur
In 1988, Nissenson formed Foresight Communications, Inc. (FCI). FCI's worked with Fortune 500 companies to divert monies from traditional marketing and advertising to public service ventures, earning Nissenson recognition as one of the "Socially Responsible Entrepreneurs of the Year" by INC Magazine and induction into the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame. During this same period, she and husband Bill Scheer (now deceased), founded Assignment Desk, Inc. the first worldwide fully computerized booking agency for videographers.
Plastic surgery mishap
In 1995, a disastrous plastic surgery mishap left Nissenson homebound and disabled with an incurable pain condition, then known as cranial reflex sympathetic dystrophy - ranked alongside terminal bone cancer as one of the most painful conditions in the world. The mishap was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, in countless newspapers and magazines, and several documentaries, including America the Beautiful (2007). She spent most of the next 14 years bedridden. During this period, Nissenson founded the Triumph Over Pain Foundation, one of the first pain patient advocacy groups in the country, and wrote a column to offer advice and encouragement to other pain patients.
She also became an accomplished self-taught glass artisan and award-winning jewelry designer and opened the Bali Muse gallery in Chicago, whose revenues supported the work of her pain foundation.
Left by her husband and dropped by her insurance company, Nissenson lost her home and life savings, paying for medical expenses well into the millions of dollars. In 2007, she moved to Kauai in the hopes of healing and regaining her strength.
Nissenson now lives in Sausalito, California, where she is an instructor of graduate multi-media at San Francisco's Academy of Art University. She recently formed Global Gravitas, Inc. (a 501c3[clarification needed]) which specializes in strategic planning for international peace summits and global healthcare campaigns. Among their current projects are: A.M.E.N. (the first global campaign to fight MRSA) in cooperation with the President of the US Federation for Middle East Peace, and OMG (Obesity Must Go) a nationwide campaign to combat childhood obesity, in support of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" efforts.
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- Eloise Parker (July 30, 2008). "New documentary exposes horrors of botched plastic surgery". New York Daily News.
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