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Nancy Maynard, 61; Newspaper Owner Pressed for Diversity

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 22, 2008

Nancy Hicks Maynard, 61, a former co-publisher of the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune and co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, died of multiple organ failure Sept. 21 at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

A pioneering African American reporter for the New York Post and the New York Times, she and her husband Robert C. Maynard purchased the financially ailing Oakland Tribune from Gannett Co. in 1983, making it the only major daily with African American owners. The Tribune won a 1989 Pulitzer Prize for photographs of the San Francisco Bay area earthquake.

The Maynards published the Tribune for nearly a decade before Robert Maynard's declining health and the newspaper's continued financial difficulties forced a sale in 1992. Maynard died of cancer the next year.

Mrs. Maynard was a co-founder of the California-based Institute for Journalism Education, now the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. She was "a brilliant strategist," in efforts throughout the 1970s to diversify the nation's newsrooms, said former Washington Post editor and columnist Dorothy Gilliam.

Nancy Hicks was born Nov. 1, 1946, in New York City, the child of a jazz bassist and a mother whose interest in journalism nurtured her daughter's.

In an oral history interview for the Maynard Institute, she recalled her first brush with the power of the press as a teenager. Her former elementary school burned down, and the local newspaper's negative and inaccurate description of the neighborhood she knew well prompted her to look to journalism as a way to right wrongs.

She started her career as a copy girl at the New York Post while studying journalism at Long Island University, where she received her undergraduate degree in 1967. (She also received a law degree from Stanford University in 1987.)

She became a New York Post reporter in 1966 at age 20. Two years later, she requested her editor's permission to go to Memphis to cover the city's garbage strike, in the company of New York union representatives. The editor said no, citing a potential conflict of interest if she traveled with the union delegation free of charge.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis a few days later, and Mrs. Maynard decided that it was time to move to another newspaper.

She joined the Times, where she was the youngest reporter and the first African American woman on the newspaper's metropolitan staff. She covered science, health, education and other domestic policy issues in New York and Washington until 1977.

She and Maynard married in 1975, not long after she moved to the newspaper's Washington bureau. Both resigned their newspaper positions in 1977 to launch the nonprofit organization initially known as the Institute for Journalism Education in Berkeley, where they had run a summer program to train minority reporters.

The organization was created to continue the program on a year-round basis and to encourage newsrooms to "reflect the diversity of thought, lifestyle and heritage in our culture," Mrs. Maynard said in an interview included on the institute's Web site.

The Gannett chain hired Robert Maynard to edit the Oakland Tribune in 1979, and the Maynards bought the paper four years later.

After her husband's death, Mrs. Maynard worked as a consultant and writer and continued to be an advocate for newsroom diversity.

She was the author of "Mega Media: How Market Forces Are Transforming the News" (2000) and served as a board member or director of the Tribune Company, Public Broadcasting Service and the New York Stock Exchange. She also served as chair of the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University.

In 1998, the National Association of Black Journalists presented her with its annual Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mrs. Maynard's first husband, Daniel D. Hicks, died in 1974.

Survivors include her partner of four years, Jay T. Harris of Santa Monica, Calif.; a son from her first marriage, David Maynard of Los Angeles, a son from her second marriage, Alex Maynard of Oakland, and a stepdaughter from the second marriage, Dori J. Maynard of Oakland; her mother, Eve Keller of Riverdale, N.Y.; a sister, Barbara Guest of Prince George's County, and a brother, Al Hall of White Plains, N.Y.

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