Journalism Diversity Champion Dori Maynard died Tuesday

Dori J. Maynard
Dori J. Maynard

She was only 56 years old, but it seems as if Dori Maynard has been teaching, preaching, fighting and encouraging news organizations to embrace diverse thinking for so much longer.

Her Institute's website reported this morning, "The president of the Robert C. Maynard institute for Journalism Education and longtime champion of diversity in journalism and civic life, died Tues., Feb. 24, at her West Oakland home." She died of lung cancer.

Her father Robert C. Maynard, was the former owner and publisher of the Oakland Tribune and wrote a twice weekly syndicated column about race and diversity and he was a regular on national news talk shows.  In 1992, Dori J. Maynard became the first woman to follow her father to Harvard as a Nieman scholar.

To understand Maynard, watch this video "BrotherSpeak" where she explained her father's influence on her life's work, and on her vision for better journalism. She was especially focused on how media portray black men.

Maynard, a longtime friend of The Poynter Institute, pushed newsrooms to tell stories about race and ethnicity in "nuanced" ways. She pushed journalists to go beyond the usual experts they turn to in stories and find a broader band of voices. Maynard was a regular at journalism gatherings including South by Southwest, National Association of Black Journalists, Online News Association and Associated Press Media Editors. She was also a popular speaker at university programs including Hampton University, University of Southern California, Harvard, Columbia and many more.

This video is of Maynard speaking to college students at Laney College, in Oakland, California.

The Maynard vision said, "We see media throughout the nation that consistently portray ... people of color accurately, creating the climate necessary to enact public policies that allow all members, including people of color, to fully contribute to society."

The Maynard Institute started in 1977. Dori came to the Institute after a long career as a working journalist. The Maynard Institute's website states:

Prior to joining the Institute in 1994, Maynard spent a decade working as a reporter at the Bakersfield Californian, The Patriot Ledger, in Quincy, Mass. and the Detroit Free Press.

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. 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.

On such a sad day, Dori might want journalists to read this from her father.

The country's greatest achievements came about because somebody believed in something, whether it was in a steam engine, an airplane or a space shuttle. Only when we lose hope in great possibilities are we really doomed. Reversals and tough times inspire some people to work harder for what they believe in.""

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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