Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Oakland: Dori Maynard, Maynard Institute President, Remembered

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
OAKLAND -- Friends, family and colleagues from the journalism world gathered Monday (March 2) in Oakland to remember Dori Maynard, 56, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, who died of lung cancer Feb. 24. 

Maynard is the daughter of the late Robert Maynard, the first African-American editor and publisher of the Oakland Tribune. He founded the Maynard Institute, an organization dedicated to helping journalists accurately portray overlooked segments of society and to foster racial diversity in reporting. 

Novelist, poet, and playwright Ishmael Reed remembered Maynard as someone with a "droll" sense of humor. He said he visited her at home a few days before she died. 

"I said, 'Dori, look at all the people who are coming to visit you," Reed remembered. "She said, 'Yeah, when you die, everybody loves you.'" 

Maynard's mother, Liz Rosen, said her daughter "was willing to do things that might scare her to death if she thought they were worth doing," which included her first airplane flight at age 5. 

"Finally when the plane took off and I told her, 'Now we are flying,' she took hold of the arm rests on her seat and promptly fell asleep," Rosen said. "Later, she spoke truth to power even when addressing the most formidable audience. Her voice can now only be heard by those willing to carry on her work." 

In her work at the Maynard Institute, Maynard visited newsrooms across the country to teach the institute's Fault Lines training, which got journalists to recognize their own biases so they could do a better job in writing stories where race, class and gender entered the narrative. 

Felix Gutierrez, a journalism professor who helped form a partnership between the Washington, D.C.-based Freedom Forum and the Maynard Institute in the mid-1970s, said Maynard built upon the work of her father and his then-wife, Nancy Maynard. 

The two were at the "pinnacle of their careers, she at The New York Times and he at the Washington Post," when they decided to start training journalists to do a better job of reporting about whole communities, not just the white power structure, and to get more racial color in the newsroom, Gutierrez said. "They may have been at the pinnacle, but Bob and Nancy didn't want to be alone there. They wanted to help others play the game." 

So he said, they went after editors, something Dori Maynard continued. 

"They told me editors are like water buffalo: They travel in herds, they follow the leader and they gather at the same water holes, so that's where you take your message," Gutierrez said. "Many times I found myself with Bob and Nancy in front of editors, all white. Our idea was to get the message of diversity across to them. Dori built on that foundation, but she wasn't content to just to maintain it. She took the Fault Lines training into newsrooms and classrooms." 

Martin Reynolds, community engagement editor at the Bay Area News Group who teaches the Fault Lines class to colleagues at the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News, said Dori Maynard was a hard worker who was doing business until a few hours before she died. 

"Here's a woman who is a few hours away from death, and she was still pushing the work of the institute and making sure the legacy was continued," Reynolds said. "When she died, I was ready to give a Fault Lines session to my colleagues the next day. My wife asked me if I was going to take a day off. I said 'Oh no. Dori was working on the day she died; the best thing I can do to honor her work is continue the work she did.' The work of the institute must go on, and it will go on and the legacy will continue." 

Maynard is survived by her mother, Liz Rosen; brothers David and Alex Maynard; and sister Sara-Ann Rosen. 

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