Nancy Maynard, Famous Black Women
Nancy Hicks Maynard, a foresighted pioneer in newsroom diversity and a former co-publisher of the Oakland Tribune, died September 21, 2008 in Los Angeles after a prolonged illness. She was 61.
Her death resulted from the intertwined failure of several major organs, her family said.
Prior to her marriage to Robert C. Maynard in 1975, Nancy Hicks was recognized along with her soon-to-be husband, as among the best and most accomplished of the vanguard of fewer than 50 black journalists who moved into significant roles in newspaper, radio and television journalism nationally during the urban conflagrations of the early years of the 1960s. Her several journalistic achievements included coverage of developments surrounding the mid-sixties urban rebellions, cutting-edge developments nationally in science and health ranging from the NASA Apollo program to the costs and effectiveness of Great Society-era health care programs including Medicaid and Medicare.
Maynard's distinguished work for the New York Post, the New York Times, and occasionally the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour preceded and were eventually outshone by her life partnership with her late husband, Robert C. Maynard. The stylish and polished pair left major positions at the New York Times and the Washington Post respectively, struck out on their own and established a highly recognized institute to attract, train and develop minority reporters, editors and media managers.
The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, now based in Oakland, Calif., has prepared thousands of graduates to enter the nation's newsrooms, including at the Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Nancy Maynard was the institute's first president and served on its board until 2002.
"I think part of her legacy was being one of the early black women journalists at the Times. Of course, also part of her legacy was being co-publisher of the Tribune. That was groundbreaking," said Dorothy Gilliam, a former Washington Post columnist who was a co-founder of the institute. "Part of her legacy was keeping the institute alive in the early years."
In 1983, the journalistic power couple purchased the financially struggling Oakland Tribune from the Gannett Co. For nearly a decade, during which time Nancy Maynard earned a law degree from Stanford University, the Maynards co-published the daily, where they practiced the diversity in staffing and coverage they had been preaching to white newsroom managers. The paper remains the only major metropolitan daily to have ever been black-owned.
The Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for spot news photographs of the destruction that the Loma Prieta earthquake inflicted on the Bay Area. The paper collected a total of 150 journalism awards under the Maynards. But declining circulation and advertising revenues forced them to sell the daily to the Alameda Newspaper Group in 1994.
Nancy Maynard once told an interviewer that publishing the Tribune was her greatest accomplishment.
She grew up in New York, the biracial child of a black jazz musician and a white mother whose own interest in journalism sparked their daughter's. It was also inspired by an early sense that the metro dailies produced by what were at the time largely segregated newsrooms did not reflect the diversity of their readers.
When her former grammar school burned down, she became so outraged at the negative and inaccurate description of her neighborhood that she decided she needed to do something about misrepresentation of that kind.
Nancy Hicks got her start in a major mainstream daily as a copy clerk at the New York Post while studying journalism at Long Island University. Several New York Times editors taught at the university, and she immediately attracted their attention. She could have gotten a job at the Times right out of college but she decided it would be prudent to begin her career at the New York Post.
She joined the Post's reporting staff after graduating in 1966. At 20, she may have been the youngest reporter at a New York daily and certainly was the only black woman covering news in the city.
In a 2001 interview, Maynard said the "lone low point" in her career occurred at the paper. "In 1968, the Post would not allow me to cover a labor strike among garbage workers in Memphis," she recalled. "Martin Luther King was there to speak at a rally for the garbage workers. He was assassinated that evening."
She moved to the Times, becoming its youngest staff reporter. From the metro staff and the paper's Washington bureau, she covered Robert F. Kennedy's funeral, black student takeovers at Columbia and Cornell universities, the Apollo space missions, the Watergate jury's deliberations and congressional passage of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in college athletics.
The year before joining the Times, she attended an early meeting of the pioneering black journalists who had landed jobs at metro dailies. About 30 of them gathered at the home of a Washington Post staffer. Their host was Robert Maynard, who introduced himself to Nancy Hicks and a friend at the front door.
Hicks and Maynard married in 1975, not long after she moved to the Times Washington Bureau. The ceremony was held at the Washington home of Dr. Robert Butler, who had met Robert Maynard at the Democratic Nominating Convention in 1968 and through him had become friends with Nancy Hicks too.
Though the couple had responsible jobs at major newspapers, both resigned in 1977 to launch a nonprofit initially known as the Institute for Journalism Education, then based in Berkeley, Calif., where they and the institute's co-founders had run a summer program at the University of California campus there to train minority reporters.
The institute was created to do year-round what the Berkeley program had done in the summer and also to champion the market and moral imperatives for newsrooms to "reflect the diversity of thought, lifestyle and heritage in our culture" on their staffs and pages, as Nancy Maynard later expressed the goal.
Nothing like the institute existed at the time. The other seven co-founders were a mix of black, white and Latino journalists. Nancy Maynard, then 30, and Steve Montiel, a 29-year-old reporter for the Associated Press in San Francisco, were the youngest.
"It was a bold move for two people who were really on the rise in their careers at two of the best papers in the country to leave that security and get the institute going," said Montiel, who later served as the institute's president and is still a board member; he now directs the Institute for Justice and Journalism at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.
As president, Nancy Maynard led the institute to shift its focus to training editors and newsroom managers, partly because other organizations had started programs to train minority reporters.
"Her leadership was really significant in the early development of the institute. She was fearless, always very optimistic also about what could be achieved," Montiel said. "She understood power and was able to get leaders in the industry and heads of companies to listen to what she had to say. She was able to get them to make commitments" to hire the institute's graduates and other minority journalists.
"As the first president of what was then called the Institute for Journalism Education, Nancy Hicks Maynard set the standard. 'Failure is not an option' was her constant refrain, whether she was talking about a difficult assignment or a seemingly impossible new venture. More often than not she proved to be right. Her determination, her vision will continue to serve as an inspiration in the many years to come," said Dori J. Maynard, current president of the Maynard Institute.
Nancy Maynard also successfully proposed that the American Society of Newspaper Editors adopt a goal of racial-ethnic parity in their newsrooms by the year 2000. That goal, set in 1978, has not been reached. The deadline has been extended to 2025.
Gannett's hiring of her husband in 1979 to be editor of the Oakland Tribune five years later led to the couple's co-ownership of the paper.
Eric Newton, who was the last managing editor under the Maynards, said Nancy Maynard successfully reoriented the circulation and advertising departments to focus on Oakland and Berkeley, rather than suburbs that smaller dailies had come to dominate. As a result, circulation was growing in those urban areas even as financial problems forced a sale, recalled Newton, now a vice president of the Knight Foundation. She also wrote a column for the paper.
"She was a mighty force in the reconstruction of the Tribune," he said.
The newsroom assembled under the Maynards reflected the values they promoted through the institute.
"The Oakland Tribune was a pioneer in news and newsroom diversity," Newton said. "Though we had not yet reached parity with the market, we were nearly half journalists of color and women. I was the main hiring editor during the time when we shot up to the top of the diversity stats. But I think the most interesting thing was our utter lack of a glass ceiling. The higher up you went in the newsroom management, the more diverse it got."
Of Nancy Maynard's description of the paper as her greatest accomplishment, Butler, the longtime friend, said, "I know how proud they were of the Tribune and how hard they worked to keep it afloat, but I think the passion was the minorities' institute, now the Maynard Institute." It was renamed for Robert Maynard after he died from prostate cancer in 1993.
Gilliam recalled Nancy Maynard set high standards for students as an instructor in the reporting program, emphasizing the importance of accuracy by telling them: "If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out."
In the years after her husband's death, Maynard went on to work in consulting, writing and continuing to advocate for newsroom diversity. In 1995, she published a book, "A Woman's Right to Know--Health and Hormones after 35" by Joan Kenley, and in 2000 authored another, "Mega Media: How Market Forces are Transforming News."
She served as a board member or director of the Tribune Company, Public Broadcasting Service, Newspaper Advertising Bureau, Kaiser Permanente and New York Stock Exchange. In 1998, the National Association of Black Journalists awarded her its annual Lifetime Achievement Award.
She is survived by her partner, Jay T. Harris of Santa Monica, Calif.; mother, Eve Keller of Riverdale, N.Y.; sister, Barbara Guest of Princes George's County, Md.; brother, Al Hall of White Plains, NY: sons David Maynard of Los Angeles and Alex Maynard of Oakland; and daughter, Dori J. Maynard of Oakland.
Funeral services are pending. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, 1211 Preservation Parkway, Oakland, Calif. 94612.
Here are some remembrances of Nancy from her fellow institute co-founders.
Nancy Hicks Maynard believed so strongly in the mission of diversifying America's newsrooms that she quit one of the best jobs in the country: reporter at the New York Times. As the first president of the Maynard Institute, she helped establish the organization as the nation's prime agent of change for newsroom diversity. In 1978, her advocacy persuaded the American Society of Newspaper Editors to pass the Year 2000 Goal, which called for the full integration of journalists of color on U.S. newspaper staffs.
It was a privilege to work on the Institute's board with Nancy, who made strategic, sound decisions to advance our work. Nancy made the Institute a leader in training, not only for reporters, but also for editors -- the decision makers on who gets hired and how news events are covered. She shared with her late husband, Bob, the vision and goal of giving readers and other media consumers a more complete view of what was occurring in all communities.
Nancy, you left an indelible mark in American journalism and a formidable legacy.
Rest in peace.
Frank O. Sotomayor
Associate Director, USC Annenberg's Institute for Justice and Journalism
Maynard Institute Board Member, 1978-1994.
Nancy and I were both in our late 20s when nine of us founded what became the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and we both served as president of the institute. The memories I treasure most come from the early years, the late 1970s and early 1980s - Nancy teaching and leading in the Summer Program for Minority Journalists, boldly proposing, with Bob, the Year 2000 goal (to have newsroom diversity roughly equivalent to the diversity of the U.S. population) the American Society of Newspaper Editors and firmly persuading editors, publishers and CEOs to do the right thing; creating, with Frank Sotomayor, the Editing Program for Minority Journalists; and launching, with Roy Aarons, the groundbreaking JobNet placement service for journalists of color. She was a fearless, astute champion of diversity in news media, and an early advocate of new business models incorporating digital media, always pushing us to be proactive. We've lost a leader who made a difference.
Director, USC Annenberg's Institute for Justice and Journalism
Maynard Institute president, 1988-2000
It is sad to see our founders slipping away. We are indebted to Nancy, who devoted her life with husband Bob Maynard to the early successes of IJE. For her, the Institute was a family business, which she helped run from her home in Washington. She brought a unique perspective to those early days: on many of our problems, she was the one who came up with outside-the-box solutions. And she was tenacious in advocating her position. Those early days were invigorating.
John L. Dotson, Jr.
Retired publisher, Akron Beacon Journal
To fully convey my highest regard for Nancy Hicks Maynard, I must go back to the l970s when we first met. It was a few years after the fiery urban insurrections in many American cities. The Kerner Commission had said the U.S. was moving into two separate and unequal societies, one black and one white. The media, the Commission continued, were part of the problem because they had not hired enough black reporters and editors nor adequately told the white world what was occurring in minority communities.
When, in response, newspapers and television stations began to hire blacks, some of us pioneer journalists who carried the scars of our early treatment and the low regard of our community understood deeply the need for more racial diversity. 'We can't find anyone qualified,' whined many white editors as an excuse for failing to hire people of color. It was into this maelstrom and its aftermath that Nancy Hicks Maynard emerged to national prominence. We met in the mid-1970s, when she, Bob and others of us co-founded the Institute for Journalism Education to train minority journalists and help media managers live up to their commitment to hire more diverse staffs.
I remember Nancy as a master strategist on the IJE board. She and her late husband, Robert Maynard, were behind the decision to lobby the American Society of Newspaper Editors to set a goal to support the editors' commitment to meet their own standards of accuracy and fairness, to hire a more representative workforce.
Nancy was involved in much of the behind-the-scenes lobbying in 1978 to achieve this goal. We kept IJE's role largely out of sight because Nancy and Bob knew that our efforts would be doomed to failure if it became openly known that minority journalists were behind the industry's action. When ASNE finally pledged that by the Year 2000, the percentage of minorities working in the nation's newsrooms would be equivalent to the general U.S. population, affirming that diverse staffs would cover communities of color better than all-white ones, we celebrated merrily - but out of sight.
Nancy and Bob always knew that the issues were more than black and white and, from the beginning, the Institute incorporated all communities of color into our programs. Nancy also supported the strategy to open IJE's editing and management programs to white participants. She argued that they could not cover communities of color if they didn't know about the culture and history of people of color and did not work side by side with minority journalists. That was a groundbreaking decision 20 years ago.
For a few years, Nancy served as IJE's chief executive officer, and I witnessed firsthand her tenacious spirit in fundraising and the myriad other challenges of keeping the Institute thriving. When, in l985, I was nominated as IJE Board chair, I demurred at first, feeling inadequate to the task. Nancy quickly said, 'You can do it and we'll help you!' And she did.
Nancy and Bob's pioneering spirit persisted when, in l983, they became the first blacks to own a major daily newspaper, The Oakland Tribune. During the years they co-published the paper, Nancy and Bob still remained on the IJE Board and I saw them regularly in Oakland or other cities where the board met. During countless meetings, as we mapped our path forward, Nancy, the master strategist, was always on the scene, helping lead us in new and often uncharted courses.
Nancy was saddened, even outraged, when ASNE admitted in 1998 that daily newspapers would not reach the 2000 parity goal and moved the target date by 25 years - to 2025. Like all of us, she lamented the declining circulation and broadcast viewership as the nation's minorities increased. But she knew, as did all of us, that the industry had in a sense written its own epitaph by dragging its feet and failing to listen to people like her when she urged them to swifter action.
I think we all honor best the giant legacy of Nancy, one of the most brilliant strategists among the pioneering minority journalists, by continuing the fight for a full, diverse and accurate portrayal of communities of color as America becomes a majority-minority nation. Despite the rise of the Internet, Web 2.0 and the digital revolution, therein lies a crucial ultimate hope for American democracy.
Co-founder, Maynard Institute
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