Dori Maynard led journalism toward diversity

Dori Maynard, a powerful and respected voice for diversity and accuracy in journalism, passed away from lung cancer at her West Oakland home Tuesday at the age of 56.

Maynard spent a lifetime in and around the news business, working for a decade as a reporter in the footsteps of her father, Robert Maynard, journalist and former editor and owner of the Oakland Tribune.

Maynard would go on to become president of the Maynard Institute, reaffirming a mission to help the news media accurately portray segments of society that are often overlooked, according to their website.

Erna Smith, professor of Journalism at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and colleague of both Dori and her father, told SFBay:

“What I’m going to miss so much about her is her ability to address very serious issues in a way that embraced the humanity of everybody.”

Maynard worked for The Detroit Free Press, Bakersfield Californian and the Patriot Ledger, and had her work published in the Huffington Post, Oakland Tribune, American Journalism Review and Nieman Reports, according to the Maynard Institute.

She also was the editor of a compilation of her late-father’s nationally syndicated columns titled Letters to My Children, according to the Maynard Institute.

Maynard, at a convention titled Investing in Black Male Achievement: Accelerating What Works, said:

“I do this work in part to honor and build on the legacy of my late father Robert Maynard. … and what my dad tought me from a very early age is about the power and the promise of the media but he also thought me about the problem.”

In 1983, Maynard’s father purchased the Oakland Tribune, where he was editor, becoming the first African American to own a major metropolitan newspaper, according to their website.

He also co-founded the Institute for Journalism Education in 1977. It was renamed to the Maynard Institute after his death in 1993.

Over its history, the Institute trained thousands of journalists of color, including the managing editor of the Washington Post, the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the only Latina to edit a major metropolitan newspaper, according to their website.

Mark Trahant, Maynard Institute board chair and colleague of Maynard for years, said:

“She was just a lovely and remarkable woman. … Wherever she went in the world she knew people and they were eager to see her.”

Trahant added:

“Dori has been a tireless advocate for making sure that all voices are heard in journalism.”

In 1993, Dori and Robert Maynard became the only father-daughter duo to receive the Neiman scholarship, an award her father received in 1965 at Harvard University, according to the Maynard Institute.

Dori Maynard received the prestigious “Fellow of Society” award from the Society of Professional Journalists at the national convention in Seattle, Wash., according to the website.

In 2003 Maynard was named one of the 10 Best Journalists in the Bay Area and in 2008 she received the Asian American Journalists Association’s Leadership in Diversity Award.

Smith told SFBay:

“She was one of the most generous person I’ve ever met, not just in terms of what she would give you but the space that she allowed people to be themselves.”

Venise Wagner, associate professor of journalism at San Francisco State University said:

“I called her my sister … she was the kind of person I could relate to professionally and personally and I will really miss her friendship.”