Dori Maynard
Wikimedia Commons

President of Maynard Institute Succumbs to Lung Cancer

Dori J. Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard institute for Journalism Education and longtime champion of diversity in journalism and civic life, died Tuesday at her West Oakland, Calif., home, the Institute announced. She was 56.

Maynard died of lung cancer and kept her illness closely held. "It was a gentle passing surrounded by family and close friends," a friend said.

Maynard became president of the Institute in 2001. In that role, she kept alive the memory and the goals of her father, Robert C. Maynard, a co-founder of the Institute and publisher of the Oakland Tribune, and Nancy Hicks Maynard, also an Institute co-founder, co-publisher of the Tribune and Dori Maynard's stepmother.

Mark Trahant, chairman of the Institute, tweeted, "Sad that #DoriMaynard and her father, Bob, died at the same age. They both had so much to do and yet contributed so much."

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Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said in a comment on this site, "You can hardly put into words how important the work Dori and the Maynard Institute did to train young people of color for careers in journalism and how the institute trained the media to write fair stories about communities of color."

Tuesday's announcement said, "Maynard advocated tirelessly for the future of the institute and its programs, reminding all that the work of bringing the diverse voices of America into news and public discourse is more vital than ever.

"Under her leadership, the Institute has trained some of the top journalists in the country and helped newsrooms tell more inclusive and nuanced stories. New programs are empowering community members to voice the narrative of their own lives. On the morning of her death, she was discussing plans with a board member to help the institute thrive and to attract funding to support that work."

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It was Dori Maynard's idea to begin a column about developments in the news industry geared toward diversity and journalists of color. That became the online column "Journal-isms," which debuted in 2002, after having existed only in print. At the time, the online media column by Jim Romenesko was a staple of the industry, but Maynard considered its focus too limited.

"That's why we started it, actually," Maynard said. "I was so disturbed by Romenesko. There was [rarely] any notice of people of color."

Under Maynard, the Institute's training included Fault Lines, "an inclusive framework that looks at diversity through the prisms of race, class, gender, generation and geography and BrotherSpeak, a video series looking at the lives of black men through the eyes of black men, done in partnership with The Washington Post."

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Woody Lewis, a technology consultant and friend of the Institute, said of father and daughter, "In addition to upholding his standard of journalistic excellence, she took his Institute to new heights of relevance. Her work with news organizations on both coasts was without parallel. To say that she will be missed is an understatement."

David DeBolt wrote for the Bay Area News Group, "Dori Maynard knew from an early age she, too, wanted to be a journalist, her mother Liz Rosen said Tuesday.

"Once asked what her middle initial 'J' stood for, she quipped: 'Journalism.' . . ."

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DeBolt also wrote, " 'Dori was an amazing force for good in journalism,' said Dawn Garcia, managing director of the Knight Fellowships at Stanford University. Maynard served on the Knight board. 'She was the voice that must be heard.

" 'When others were shying away from speaking about race, Dori was fearless. She made an amazing difference for so many people and was just a fabulous person, quirky in the best sense of the word. She will be remembered in every newsroom where journalists are trying to make a difference for diversity and for equity in coverage.' "

A 2000 news release announcing her appointment as Institute president said:

"Dori J. Maynard is at home at the Institute for many reasons.

"She is the daughter of Institute co-founder Robert C. Maynard for whom the Institute is named.

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"She began working full time at the Institute after her father's 1993 death when she edited 'Letters to My Children,' a compilation of her father's newspaper columns for which she wrote additional essays.

"Maynard currently is the director of the Institute's History Project, which preserves the stories of courageous journalists of color who broke into the mainstream media against the backdrop of the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. She also directs the Fault Lines Project which is designed to help journalists reflect more accurately their multicultural communities and organizes other Maynard Institute events.

"Before joining the Institute, Maynard worked as a reporter at the Bakersfield Californian, the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, MA, and the Detroit Free Press, where she covered senate and mayoral campaigns and City Hall.

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"In 1993 she and her father became the first father-daughter duo ever to be appointed Nieman scholars at Harvard University. She worked regularly with her father, researching and preparing for his appearances on 'This Week With David Brinkley' and the 'MacNeil/Lehrer Report.'

"Dori J. Maynard graduated from Middlebury College, Vermont, with a BA in American History."

Another bio adds:

"In 2001, the Society of Professional Journalists named her a Fellow of the Society, in 2003, she was named one of the 10 Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area and in 2008 she received the Asian American Journalists Association's Leadership in Diversity Award. The editor of 'Letters to My Children,' a compilation of her late-father's nationally syndicated columns, Maynard’s writing has also appeared in the Oakland Tribune, The Huffington Post, American Journalism Review and Nieman Reports.

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"She is on the board of the American Society of News Editors, Homeland Production, Sigma Delta Chi and on the board of visitors of the John S. Knight Fellowship and the Journalism and Women Symposium advisory board. . . ."

Maynard's husband, Charles Grant Lewis, the principal of an Oakland-based architectural firm bearing his name, died in 2008 at 59. He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2006, the year of their marriage. She is survived by two brothers, David and Alex Maynard.

David DeBolt, Bay Area News Group: Oakland: Dori Maynard, journalist and diversity champion, dies at 56

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A "High-Class Thing" for Nancy Maynard (Oct. 2, 2008)