Nancy Hicks Maynard, the first African American woman to own a major daily newspaper and a co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, died today (Sunday) at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles of organ failure, The Associated Press is reporting. She was 61.

She’s seen here in a 1992 photo with husband Robert Maynard. They married in 1975 when he was at The Washington Post and she was at The New York Times. A year later, they moved to Oakland where they set up the Maynard Institute to train a new generation of journalists. In 1979, he was hired by Gannett to be editor of the Oakland Tribune. Nancy remained involved in both the institute and the Trib.

In fact, the couple bought the Trib from Gannett and operated it until 1992. They sold it to the company now known as MediaNews Group due to Bob’s struggle with cancer. He died Aug. 17, 1993.

In recent years, her partner was Jay Harris, former publisher of the Mercury News. Harris resigned from the Merc in March 2001 because of disagreements with then-owner Knight Ridder over staff reductions.

From the Trib’s obit:

    Nancy Maynard established a glowing reputation among the journalists who worked for her.

    “I always thought Bob and Nancy Maynard were the best journalists I ever worked for,” said Harry Harris, a 43-year veteran reporter for the Oakland Tribune. “They had energy, they had compassion, they had the experience. They’d both worked in this business, and neither one would ever ask you to do something they hadn’t done.”

The Tribune obit also included this:

    Eric Newton, who served as managing editor for the Maynards, called Nancy Maynard “a mighty force in the reconstruction of the Tribune.”

    Speaking in 2006, Newton said, “Bob and Nancy did something that wasn’t just ahead of their time, but transcended time. During the 20th century in America, more than 1,000 daily newspapers closed. The Oakland Tribune was not one of them. The Maynards saved it.”

    Newton also praised the Maynards’ commitment as publishers to diversity.

    “I think the most interesting thing was our utter lack of a glass ceiling. The higher up you went in the newsroom management, the more diverse it got,” Newton said.

    Martin G. Reynolds, editor of the Oakland Tribune, met Nancy Maynard while an intern at the paper.

    “She had us over for dinner. I will always remember how classy, knowledgeable and encouraging she was to all of us,”
    Reynolds said. “She was such an important and iconic contributor to this profession, and to the legacy of the Tribune. Her passing is a huge loss to the journalism community.”

Here’s a portion of the Washington Post’s obit:

    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 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.

(Photo credit: AP file, Olga Shalygin)

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