September 22, 2008

Nancy Hicks Maynard (Courtesy The Associated Press)

Nancy Maynard, Champion of Newsroom Diversity, Dies at 61

Nancy Hicks Maynard, a pioneering African-American reporter and former co-publisher of the Oakland Tribune who dedicated her career to diversifying the nation’s newsrooms, died Sept. 21 in Los Angeles.

Maynard, 61, served as co-publisher of the Oakland Tribune with her husband Robert C. Maynard from 1983 to 1992, making it the first major metropolitan daily to be black-owned. Under their leadership, the Tribune won a slew of journalism awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography for the Tribune’s coverage of the 1989 San Francisco Bay Area earthquake.

Robert Maynard died of cancer in 1993, a year after he and his wife sold the newspaper.

In 1977, the Maynards founded the Oakland-based Institute for Journalism Education, now called the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which was created to prepare minority journalists to work in newspapers across the nation.

"She was passionate about this country, democracy and making certain that every citizen has a voice in our future," said Maynard Institute chairman Mark Trahant, Freedom Forum trustee and editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "She loved exploring how those three thoughts come together with new media and technological innovation."

Maynard joined the New York Post as a 20-year-old reporter in 1966 but left just two years later when the paper would not allow her to cover a labor strike by garbage workers in Memphis. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was in Memphis to speak at a rally for the garbage workers, was assassinated during that visit.

It was the "lone low point of my career," Maynard said in a 2001 interview.

In 1968, she was hired by The New York Times and made history as the paper’s first black female reporter on the metropolitan staff. She also was the youngest reporter at the Times.

While at the Times, Maynard covered Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral, campus takeovers at Columbia and Cornell, the Apollo space missions, Watergate and Title IX. She married Robert Maynard, who was then with The Washington Post, in 1975 just as she was transitioning to the Times’s Washington bureau.

Both resigned from their newspapers to start the institute in 1977. She later was chair of the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center in New York City.

"Nancy Hicks Maynard brought inspiration and insight to the early days of the march for diversity," said former USA Today editor John C. Quinn, founder of the Freedom Forum’s Chips Quinn Scholars program and an early supporter of the Maynard Institute. "She was a true guiding light."

Read more about Robert C. and Nancy Hicks Maynard in the News Corporation News History Gallery.

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