History of the Maynard Institute

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Frank Sotomayor
June 27, 2013

The Beginning: Making Newsrooms Look Like America

Published and distributed at Unity 2008 conference in Chicago

Thirty years ago, the composition of newsrooms across the country didn’t look much like America: They were dominated from top to bottom by white men. But a group of nine journalists—black, Latino and white—took a significant step toward changing the culture in newsrooms nationwide. For far too long, they had heard newspaper executives proclaim they would like to hire minorities, but couldn’t find anyone qualified.

Their response? They worked to remove this excuse from the equation.

“We will not let you off the hook,” Robert C. Maynard, one of the nine, declared to a gathering of newspaper executives in April 1978. “We must desegregate this business.”

The declaration symbolized his willpower as well as the vision and determination that have marked the journalism training institute that bears his name: the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (MIJE).

As the Maynard Institute celebrates more than 30 years of accomplishments, a key part of its legacy is the many journalists of color who have trained at its programs and gone on to distinguished media careers. But it is also time to recognize its proud history and the commitment by people like Bob Maynard and his wife, Nancy Hicks Maynard, the other co-founders, and the staff and faculty members who have played significant roles in establishing this extraordinary training center.

If the Maynard Institute “hadn't been there all these years, we would have had to create it,” said Sharon Rosenhause, managing editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and a former chair of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) Diversity Committee.

In 1978, only 4 percent of journalists in newsrooms nationwide were people of color. Today, the figure stands at 13.5 percent. The situation still cries out for improvement, but many industry leaders, such as retired Freedom Forum executive Gerald M. Sass, call the Maynard Institute the lead agent of change for the progress of the media diversity movement. The Institute was the catalyst, said Sass, “that made things happen.”

The Institute started the ball rolling in April 1978 when it held its landmark National Conference on Minorities and the News at Washington’s Capital Hilton. Bob and Nancy Maynard effectively worked the room at the concurrent ASNE convention and with their lobbying helped secure adoption of the Year 2000 Goal, which pledged ASNE to work toward having minority employment in U.S. daily newspapers equal to the percentage of minorities nationally by the end of the century.

“We did such a good job of getting the industry to think they thought it up that a lot of people believed it,” Nancy Maynard told interviewer Alice Bonner years later. “The real strategy was to get [the editors] to own it.”

Indeed, it had been the Maynards, Leroy F. Aarons and other Institute co-founders who planted the seeds for what became the Year 2000 Goal. They advocated the plan at a meeting of ASNE’s Committee on Minorities, held months earlier in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The committee, chaired by Oak Ridger editor Dick Smyser, bought into the plan. In addition to the Year 2000 Goal, the committee recommended “an annual accounting of minority employment,” including “types of positions held.” The committee’s recommendations, five in all, were adopted by ASNE’s governing board on April 8, 1978.

The ASNE resolution was bold in scope for its time. Two out of three daily newspapers had no “minority journalists” whatsoever on staff, according to the first newsroom survey conducted by Jay Harris, then at Northwestern University’s Medill School. The survey by Harris, who also had been at the Oak Ridge meeting, showed that a scant 4 percent of newsroom employees were journalists of color—and minorities made up only 0.4 percent of top editors—while people of color accounted for 17 percent of the nation’s population.

ASNE had no way to enforce its resolution among its member newspapers, and some editors never got on board. As we well know, the newspaper industry fell far short of achieving the 2000 goal. But one industry observer says things would have been far worse without it.

Without the Institute’s work—setting the goal, promoting the annual census, and providing training programs—Sass, a close observer of the diversity movement from his positions at the Gannett Foundation and Freedom Forum, said: “I’m sure that by the year 2000, it would’ve been a sad performance, [even worse] by far.”

Gilbert Bailon, whose term as ASNE president ended in April, also spoke about the value of the census: “The annual census figures have not changed appreciably in the last few years, but they have served the important purpose of spotlighting the growing gap between an increasingly minority overall population and the stagnation of minority hiring percentages among the nation's daily newspapers."

Today, people of color make up more than 34 percent of the nation’s population while journalists of color represent only 13.5 percent of the newsroom total at daily newspapers.

Yet there are numerous individual success stories, such as African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans who are influential columnists, top editors, and publishers. Since 2000, four journalists of color have led the board of ASNE, which 30 years ago was 100 percent white and male. Unmistakable progress has been made, but it hasn’t been systemic enough.

At the time, the 1978 actions clearly represented a coup for the Institute, which had been incorporated just 10 months earlier as the Institute for Journalism Education (IJE). IJE gained significant attention with its national conference: Articles appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and dozens of other newspapers. Paul Duke and Charlayne Hunter-Gault discussed the causes and effects of the segregated newsroom for 30 minutes on PBS. The Rev. Jesse Jackson drew press attention when he told the conference: “It is a sad commentary, yet a true one, that the print media may be behind almost every other major institution in this society … in accepting blacks.” Many newsroom jobs had come about, Jackson said, because “white journalists … could not venture into our community to record the [1960s urban] riots. We were already qualified, we’d just been denied.”

From its running start in 1978, IJE assumed a central role in the struggle for more complete integration of newsrooms. Bob Maynard, a former Washington Post national correspondent, editorial writer and ombudsman, perceptively critiqued news coverage, saying minorities tended to be covered as “pathological fragments.” Newspaper staffs, IJE founders argued, should mirror the makeup of the communities they covered. The point was not to achieve some numerical goal but to ensure the news media fulfilled their journalistic responsibility to fully inform citizens and policymakers.

The Institute’s effort for greater diversity in news media has been an unending struggle. It has had to cope with cynics, skeptics, critics—and racists. It has endured recessions, tragic deaths and cuts in support from philanthropic foundations.

Dori J. Maynard, representing the second generation of the Maynard family to serve as chief executive of the Institute, celebrates MIJE’s work as “30 years-plus and counting.” Few would challenge the significance of the Oakland-based Institute’s work or that its work still matters.

Over the years, the Maynard Institute family has grown to thousands of people. At its heart are the graduates of its professional development programs, including those who moved on to win Pulitzer Prizes or become leading newsroom executives, outstanding reporters and editors, authors, and journalism school professors and directors. The extended family includes hundreds of supporters, including speakers and instructors from MIJE programs, and staff members, such as Greg Lewis, Ira Hadnot, Charles Jackson, Perry Lang and many others who shared a passion to realize Institute goals.

No one could have predicted the Institute’s achievements or its longevity in the early days. It was built from the ground up by journalists with absolutely no experience in fundraising or running a nonprofit. I know firsthand about those early days, having been fortunate to be there.

The forerunner to the Institute’s reporting program had its genesis in the 1960s urban rebellion in U.S. cities. The 1968 Kerner Commission, reporting on causes of the disturbances, castigated the media for failing to report on deteriorating conditions in the inner city. And it assailed the media for being “shockingly backward in seeking out, hiring, training and promoting Negroes.”

Stirred to action, professor Fred W. Friendly established a summer program at Columbia University, later named the Michele Clark Fellowship Program, to train and place minorities in U.S. newsrooms. The broadcast program began in 1968, with print following in 1969. Then an editor at the Los Angeles Times, I joined five heavyweights on the multicultural 1974 print faculty: Bob Maynard and Leroy F. Aarons of the Washington Post, John L. Dotson Jr. of Newsweek, Earl Caldwell of the New York Times, and Walter Stovall of the Associated Press.

Reporters in the program hopped on the subway to get to assignments that summer as the Watergate scandal came to a crescendo and President Nixon resigned. Our reporters wrote under deadline pressure and saw their work published in Deadline, the program’s newspaper. We were feeling good about the journalists we had helped prepare that summer, including Milton Coleman, Steve Holmes, Chauncey Bailey and Alexis Scott. (Bailey was killed by a gunman last year in Oakland, Calif.) All were talented but no one had seen fit to offer them a newspaper job.

We were stunned when Friendly and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism decided to kill the program, saying it was up to the media industry and journalism schools to take on the task and the program was no longer needed.

As the 1974 program neared its end, we faced a haunting question: Could we allow the Summer Program, which was jump-starting so many journalistic careers, to die? A mere 400 journalists then were racial minorities—not even 1 percent of newsroom staff at more than 1,500 daily newspapers. Our answer was no! Had we not taken action, the Summer Program would have vanished entirely into history. As it was, we were able to keep only the print portion alive.

Friendly had been president of CBS News and had supervised the legendary era of Robert R. Murrow (“Good Night and Good Luck") before moving to Columbia. He deserves immense credit for starting the Summer Program there, aided by Ford Foundation funding. But he came under pressure from some Columbia faculty and students. Why, some students asked, should they each pay $5,000 tuition for the yearlong master’s program and, unlike Summer Program graduates, not be guaranteed a news media job?

At an emotional graduation ceremony, Friendly delivered the eulogy for the program he had birthed. In attendance were two men who would become our closest allies: John Quinn and Jerry Sass, then with Gannett Newspapers. To our relief, they told us after the ceremony that they could help us keep the program alive.

Recalling that graduation ceremony and his meeting with us that day, Quinn said: “The adolescence and ultimate maturity of the whole diversity effort started [that day] on the third floor of the Columbia Journalism School, in the [World Room], and it grew and grew … not just in volume but in sophistication.”

Yet as the six of us on that faculty left Columbia, we had no clear sense of how the journey would proceed. Stovall bundled up our program materials and stored them in his New York apartment—in an old refrigerator.

Back at our regular jobs, some of us wondered if we had chewed off too much. But as I looked around the L.A. Times newsroom, the need for diversity became even more evident: Only 20 or so journalists of color worked there out of a staff of perhaps 800.

Earl Caldwell hit the road on a fundraising campaign. It helped that he was well known in the industry for his refusal to provide the FBI with information on the Black Panthers. His stand led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that went against Caldwell but prompted enactment of more state shield laws protecting journalists who guard confidential sources.

Our big break came when the Gannett Foundation, with a nod from Quinn and Sass, provided $25,000 in seed money. Other foundations followed suit. We found a new program home, the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, under Dean Edwin Bayley. And in 1976 we welcomed the first class of reporters to the reborn Summer Program for Minority Journalists (SPMJ).

Having worked so hard to get the program restarted, we felt we could not afford to fail. We sent our reporters across the Bay Area on BART to report on breaking stories and news features alike. Sometimes, on deadline day for the program’s weekly newspaper, we pulled all-nighters directing the reporters to rewrite—and rewrite—their articles on typewriters, before computers were commonplace.

Sometimes, recalled Steve Montiel, who served as city editor, “We would emerge from a tiny newsroom to see the sun rising.”

During this 11-week journalism boot camp, the reporters heard Bob Maynard’s famed talk about problems they might face in the workplace. “White journalists put on their suits to go to work,” he would tell them. “Journalists of color put on their suits of armor.”

A dedicated corps of faculty members arrived in Berkeley each summer, comprising a type of Who’s Who of Dedicated Journalists. Among them over the years were Jackie Trescott, Bill Wong, Frank del Olmo, Stan Chen, Acel Moore, Joel Dreyfuss, Reggie Stuart, Maggie Rivas, Tom Morgan, Alexis Scott, Ernie Sotomayor, Dinah Eng, Joe Boyce, Eileen Shanahan, Sylvia Moreno and Milton Coleman. Gayle Pollard, a frequent SPMJ instructor, became Gayle Pollard-Terry after marrying Mike Terry, a program graduate.

Not every reporter or every program graduate worked out. But after learning from some of the best in the business, most SPMJ graduates distinguished themselves in their own careers. Dennis Bell, class of 1978, shared a Pulitzer with another Newsday reporter and a photographer for a series on the plight of the hungry in Africa. I worked with three SPMJ grads—David Reyes, Virginia Escalante and Louis Sahagun—on a 1983 series on Latinos at the L.A. Times, and they shared with me and other team members the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Tony Marcano (1985) is now supervising senior editor at NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday.” At SPMJ, he filed on deadline for the first time, helping hone the skills that would allow him to later move from the New York Daily News to the L.A. Times, the New York Times and other papers. At each career step, he recalls, the Institute family helped him to secure jobs.

After landing his first job following SPMJ, Mike Adams, a 1978 graduate who later worked at the Baltimore Sun, wrote: “I know I probably would have never become a reporter without it. There are no words to express the way I feel. All I can say is thanks.”

Bob and Nancy Hicks had married on New Year’s Day of 1975, creating IJE’s first family. Later, in courageous twin moves, both left prestigious jobs to put the Institute on the map. Their Wyoming Avenue home in Washington, D.C., became the Institute’s first office and was the site of board meetings that stretched into the night.

On June 15, 1977, IJE was formally incorporated as a tax-exempt organization. Steve Montiel of AP and Dorothy Butler Gilliam, a pioneering black journalist then with the Washington Post, joined the founding board. Nancy Maynard also took a seat on the board and became the Institute’s first president in 1979.

“Those early days had been pretty tough for journalists of color,” Dotson recalled. “And when I saw what could be done and what talent was entering our programs, it was invigorating.” The Institute co-founders, Dotson said, developed an unspoken bond and a firm commitment to diversity “that became a part of our being.”

Roy Aarons left his Washington Post job to run IJE’s Job Net, which matched minority job seekers and newspaper employers. Aarons, a bubbling fountain of energy and enthusiasm, was often the life of the party at Institute social gatherings, belting out show tunes or sharing the latest gossip. IJE board members worked hard but we also loved to laugh and have a good time. Over the years, that friendship and unity of purpose carried us through some tough times.

Bob Maynard was our intellectual touchstone. He possessed an amazing depth of knowledge and extraordinary skill as a speaker. He and Nancy were among the first to use the phrase “newsroom diversity," which seemed to be an alien concept to many media managers.

The Institute's board members were the first to apply the economic rules of supply and demand to journalism employment. Editors complained that they could not find qualified minorities to hire. We argued that if the news media demonstrated a clear demand for journalists of color, an adequate supply of journalists of color would follow—and our programs would help train many of them.

Still, some editors and personnel directors were uncertain what IJE was up to. Sass said he got calls from newsroom leaders wondering whether the folks out in Berkeley, known for its free speech movement and its counterculture, were militants or union organizers or both.

Many editors were eager to hire our reporter graduates. They also emphasized their need for first-rate copy editors of any color, but particularly those from racial minorities.

In 1980, we launched the Editing Program for Minority Journalists at the University of Arizona, following an invitation from journalism department head Don Carson. We brought in some of the nation’s copy editing gurus, such as Bob Webb of the Washington Post, Bill Connolly of the New York Times, and Richard Holden of the Wall Street Journal. Like many instructors, they fell in love with the Editing Program and returned to Tucson year after year, despite the 100-degree summer temperatures.

Bob Maynard moved from preaching diversity to practicing it in 1979 when he became editor of the Oakland Tribune. In 1983, Bob and Nancy purchased the Tribune from Gannett, becoming the first African-American proprietors of a U.S. daily newspaper. Bob hired Aarons and together they developed one of the nation’s most diverse newsrooms.

Gannett had decided “to go with Bob,” recalled Quinn, who was Gannett senior vice president for news at the time, “to put the Tribune in the hands of someone who understood the community and who was doing the kind of news job it needed.”

Ellis Cose took over as IJE president in 1983 and quickly became a diversity movement leader. “Ellis led the organization with verve and imagination,” Dotson said.

Cose directed a formal study, “The Quiet Crisis,” which showed that journalists of color were leaving newspapers in great numbers because they did not feel valued and were not moving up the career ladder.

This led Cose to set up an IJE management task force. Members included New York Times Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger and Washington Post Publisher Don Graham. The new program was called the Management Training Center (MTC), a summer program at Northwestern University involving both the Medill School of Journalism and the Kellogg School of Management. The program, begun in 1985, became a quick success; its graduates have moved up the ladder in their companies, and most stayed in the business.

Graham said the program “fit our needs enormously well.” His newspaper sent one or two people from the business or news side to MTC nearly every year. “I always talked to them before and after they went,” Graham said recently, “and I never heard anyone say anything except that it was sensational.”

Although Graham and Sulzberger worked toward diversity, other publishers were less pro-active. Dorothy Gilliam, a longtime Post columnist and IJE chair for eight years, was disappointed in 1987 when the American Newspaper Association failed to endorse ASNE’s Year 2000 Goal.

Through the years, the Institute has had loyal support from the foundation world, but raising money for a nonprofit is never easy. Economic hard times brought budget crunches for the Institute and its officers scrambled to make ends meet. After Steve Montiel became Institute president in 1988, he had to explain to a UC-Berkeley official that an existing debt to the university would indeed be repaid—it would just take a bit more time. And, in time, it was repaid, and the Institute later moved off-campus to Preservation Park in Oakland.

In perhaps the Institute’s most painful decision, Montiel and the board closed the Summer Program for Minority Journalists in 1989. The IJE board, cognizant that other reporter training programs were being launched, reluctantly decided to concentrate its limited resources on editing and management. But the move drew fierce criticism from program supporters who pointed to its record of success.

A few years later, the Maynard family and the Institute suffered a tragic loss when Bob Maynard died of cancer. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1988, but he had twice fought it into remission. The cancer later took hold. Bob, the pioneering journalist, syndicated columnist and diversity’s most eloquent spokesman, died Aug. 17, 1993. He was only 56.

The board renamed the Institute in Bob’s honor. It also adopted his Fault Lines framework—race, gender, class, generation and geography—as a way “to help journalists build a more diverse source list, have more voices in stories and determine which fault lines are at work in complex issues.”

In 2004 the Institute lost another co-founder, Roy Aarons, also to cancer. Aarons, 70, had been a dynamic force as an Institute leader and a beloved figure to hundreds he had mentored. At the 1990 ASNE meeting, he summarized for editors the results of a survey of gays and lesbians in the newsroom. Near the end of his speech, he disclosed publicly that he was gay: “I, as an editor and gay man, am proud of ASNE for having done this study.'' While continuing on the Institute board, he later became founding president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

During Montiel’s 12-year tenure as CEO, the Institute re-engaged with funders and media company executives. Structured interviews, he recalled, “led the Institute to intensify our focus on preparing editors and managers—people of all colors from business operations as well as the newsroom—to manage successfully in a multicultural, multimedia environment.”

The Institute was among the first to develop cross-media training for journalists, and its Total Community Coverage workshop provided the opportunity to develop Fault Lines training for staff members. It also provided the means to do content audits in regard to diversity.

The 1994 Unity: Journalists of Color conference in Atlanta boosted morale for the diversity movement, bringing together 6,000 journalists from the four professional associations of journalists of color. Members of the MIJE family met there to celebrate our personal and group victories and to gather strength for the continuing challenges. Among the four association presidents were two with Institute ties: Dorothy Gilliam was president of the National Association of Black Journalists, and Evelyn Hsu presided over the Asian American Journalists Association. Hsu, a 1979 SPMJ graduate, had been elected to the Institute board in 1985.

By the mid-1990s, Gilliam said, there was a growing "diversity backlash" from critics of the press. Complaints also grew among whites, especially white men, of reverse discrimination.

By 1993 newsroom employment of journalists of color had risen to only 10.25 percent nationally—an increase of 6 percentage points in 15 years. And it was going to get even worse: In the 15 years since, it has inched up by only 3 more percentage points to today’s anemic 13.5 percent.

Several past MIJE chairs and presidents, contacted by e-mail and in interviews, expressed disappointment with news organizations' lack of commitment to the diversity goal. Gilliam wrote about the “industry's resistance to diversity, retention and promotion of minorities.” Montiel said it became clear to him that “diversity in content, staffing and business practices was not a core value, despite public pronouncements and promises. It wasn’t really valued.”

Gilliam and Montiel are the only two of the nine co-founders who remain on MIJE’s board, which has been infused with news media executives. Gilliam, now at George Washington University, runs a program for high school journalists. Montiel is director of the University of Southern California Annenberg’s Institute for Justice and Journalism, where I am associate director. Caldwell, on the journalism faculty at Hampton University, has compiled histories of groundbreaking black journalists for the MIJE Web site. Dotson, retired as publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal, is a director for the Washington Post Co. Stovall is a novelist in New York. Nancy Maynard, who went on to chair the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia, has more recently run the Web-based Editors World from Los Angeles.

In 1999, Mark Trahant, a former president of the Native American Journalists Association, became Institute board chairman and, as the new century dawned, took over as CEO for two years. “The most important thing I did was to lay the groundwork for Dori's presidency,” said Trahant, now editorial page editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “There were so many really strong programs already going—and those that Dori later created. My job, at the time, was trying to match resources with those programs.”

Dori Maynard, Bob Maynard's daughter, became MIJE president in 2002 and, drawing on credibility achieved over time, continues to be innovative amid rapidly evolving conditions. Today, in the digital age, the Institute continues the struggle to bring diversity to America’s newsrooms, news coverage and, yes, the blogosphere.

“We know what works and we can point to our graduates who are successes,” Dori Maynard said. “There are people in positions of power who are still invested and who understand that not only is it good for society, but it’s the only way to keep your franchise going.”

The Maynard Media Academy, conducted at the Nieman Foundation at Harvard, has taken the place of the Management Training Center. It draws both news and business-side employees who typically are novice frontline supervisors.

Participants do case studies with Harvard Business School professors. “It’s very powerful to watch them go through that process,” Maynard said. At the end of each Media Academy program, she said, “people give testimonials and say they were on verge of leaving the industry but because of the training, they have decided to stay.”

After a hiatus for reevaluation, the Editing Program was relaunched in 2005 at the University of Nevada-Reno. The move from Tucson had been strongly opposed by some longtime faculty members. Montiel said the program was shifted initially to Berkeley to consolidate it with Institute operations. When costs in the Bay Area proved prohibitive, it was moved to Reno. Today, its sessions, with a growing multimedia component, are led by Columbia professor Addie Rimmer, a graduate of the first class in Tucson and now a board member.

MIJE also supports the work of columnist Richard Prince, who writes a blog for the Maynard Web site. “He’s the only columnist consistently writing about issues pertaining to journalism and diversity,” Maynard said. “He has quite a following, and he has helped shape coverage with Katrina, Don Imus” and other stories.

When the Institute began, its programs were open only to people of color. But over the years, they have been opened to everyone. “It’s incredibly important to know how to manage in a multicultural work force,” Dori Maynard said. “If we have white supervisors who do not know how to supervise people of color, we are going to be in big trouble.”

In the face of what some call “diversity fatigue” and wrenching economic conditions for newspapers, Dori Maynard and the Institute are still at it, preaching the gospel of diversity and inclusiveness in the news, and making

 
  

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