Dori Maynard, journalism diversity advocate, dies at 56

Dori J. Maynard was president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

Story highlights

  • Dori Maynard was champion of diversity in newsrooms, journalism
  • She was president of notable journalism organization

(CNN)Dori J. Maynard, who as president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education was dedicated to expanding diversity in newsrooms and excellence in journalism, died Tuesday, according to a statement on the institute's website. She was 56.

The cause of death was complications from lung cancer, her family told the Bay Area News Group, which runs the Oakland Tribune, the newspaper her father edited and later owned.
Maynard was once asked what her middle initial, "J," stood for. "Journalism," she responded, and in a long career in the field she worked as a reporter for such papers as the Bakersfield Californian and the Detroit Free Press.
    But it was as the head of the Oakland-based Maynard Institute -- co-founded by her father, a longtime journalist who became the first African-American to own a major metropolitan newspaper -- that she had the greatest impact, colleagues said.
    "She's the kind of person who understood how this idea of diversity was so vital today and continues to be vital and needed to change from our old ways of thinking of what that meant and how to implement it in the production of news and the way we think about news," longtime friend Sally Lehrman told the Oakland Tribune. "She was always thinking about work because she loved it and it was such a part of her."
    "Dori was fearless," added Dawn Garcia, managing director of Stanford University's John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships.
    Maynard was concerned that there were blind spots in traditional metropolitan newsrooms and worked to correct them.
    "There is one often overlooked reason why the industry continues to struggle to retain journalists of color. It is because the news organizations that essentially serve as moderators of the nation's conversations have yet to learn how to talk about and across their own racial fault lines," she wrote in an essay in 2003.
    The Maynard Institute had a variety of programs to address these issues, including a "diversity framework that looks at diversity through the prisms of race, class, gender, generation, and geography," she told Harvard's Shorenstein Center.
    "African-Americans are primarily (portrayed) in crime, sports and entertainment (stories). Latinos (through) episodic coverage of immigration. Native Americans and Asian Americans apparently just don't contribute to the daily fabric of our lives. ... We're spending some time trying to raise that issue," she continued.
    Friends and colleagues expressed sadness at her death.
    "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," wrote Bob Butler, a San Francisco radio reporter and the president of the National Association of Black Journalists, in a comment on the Maynard Institute's website.
    Maynard was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1993. Her father had a Nieman in 1966, making the pair the first father-daughter pair to earn that honor.