Dori Maynard (124026)

Maynard is a name almost synonymous with Black journalism, and a pall hangs over it at the moment with the death of Dori J. Maynard, the daughter of publisher Robert C. Maynard, who carved her own unique niche in the pursuit of journalistic excellence and diversity.

She died of complications from lung cancer Tuesday at her home in West Oakland, Calif. She was 56.

At a very early age, Maynard was blessed with a love for journalism, even once telling someone that the “J” in her name stood for “journalism.” Her father, along with his wife, Nancy Hicks Maynard, was the former owner of the Oakland Tribune, the first major U.S. newspaper owned by African-Americans. They purchased the paper in 1983.

The trail he blazed was expanded and enhanced by his daughter by the time she graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, with a degree in American history, and occupied desks at the Detroit Free Press, the Bakersfield Californian and the Patriot Leader in Quincy, Mass.

“Dori was an amazing force for good in journalism,” Dawn Garcia, managing director of the John S. Knight Fellowships at Stanford University, told the San Jose Mercury, and is among a number of friends and associates to respond to her passing. “She was the voice that must be heard. When others were shying away from speaking about race, Dori was fearless. She made an amazing difference for so many people and was just a fabulous person, quirky in the best sense of the word. She will be remembered in every newsroom where journalists are trying to make a difference for diversity and for equity in coverage.”

Around the time of her father’s death in 1993, Maynard became the first woman to follow her father to Harvard as a Nieman scholar. Two years ago, as the 20th anniversary of her father’s death approached, she posted this note about her father’s legacy: “As the date neared, I began reflecting, rereading his letters, speeches, columns and journals. I had not forgotten the power of my father’s writing. I was, however, unprepared for how timely his words would be today, some of them 40 years after they were written.”

Similar accolades are arriving about Maynard’s own writing, her uncompromising essays and editorials and her unstinting leadership at the Maynard Institute, where she had been the president since 2001.

“It’s hard to fathom how the institute is going to go on,” said Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists and a reporter at Bay Area radio station KCBS. In his estimation, she worked “tirelessly for the future of the institute and its programs, reminding all that the work of bringing diverse voices of America into the news is more vital than ever.”

Funeral services are being planned.