Renowned Pioneer In Journalism Dead at 61
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
Finally, there's been an important loss to the world of journalism we wanted to tell you about. Nancy Hicks Maynard died on Sunday at the age of 61. She was the first black female reporter at the New York Times. Later, she and her husband Robert Maynard became the first African-Americans to publish a big city daily newspaper and they didn't stop there. They also founded a renowned institute to train minority journalists. Joining us on the line to talk about Nancy Hicks Maynard is Richard Prince. He's the author of Journal-isms, an online column about diversity issues in the news business. Welcome. Thank you so much for speaking with us, Richard.
Mr. RICHARD PRINCE (Author, Journal-isms;): Great to be here, Michel.
MARTIN: You know we used that term pioneer so often. Sometimes I think it may have lost it's meaning. But Nancy Hicks Maynard really was a pioneer.
Mr. PRINCE: Exactly. She was, of course, a pioneer at the New York Times. Imagine a black woman covering science then in her 20s in the midst of the Civil Rights movement and all that turmoil. She had a law degree. She later was a businesswoman and a publisher, a co-publisher with the newspaper, and of course she founded the Maynard Institute. She and some other people founded the Maynard Institute for whom my column is written. And that Maynard Institute was a forerunner of, you know, the unity movement among journalists. I mean it was multi-cultural and that was also a pioneer institute.
MARTIN: It trained journalists of all ethnic backgrounds. You pointed out that, you know, she was at the New York Times. She married Bob Maynard who was a distinguished columnist for the Washington Post. Both of them could easily have devoted all of their time to kind of managing and pursuing these prestigious careers, but they gave it all up to establish this nonprofit institute. Why do you think they did that?
Mr. PRINCE: Well, part of it was the times. I was just reflecting on this about how growing up in the civil rights era as many of us did. We encountered a lot of historical figures who we didn't realize were historic at the time. But people just did what they thought needed to be done. And at the time, the phrase was banded about and still banded about - can't find anybody qualified. So they were tired of hearing that, and they said we're going to produce people who are qualified so that phrase will be eliminated from the ranks of journalists.
MARTIN: And they also had this standing to understand as often one hears that well, I can't find anybody. And you know as employers, they say well, give me a break. I can't find anybody. They were employers. As we mentioned, they were publishers of the Oakland Tribune. I just want to point out a couple of things that they did, and it was considered counterintuitive at the time but they reoriented the circulation at advertising away from the suburbs and focused on the urban core - Oakland and Berkeley. They didn't run handgun ads in the paper because of the spiraling murder rate in Oakland at the time. And you just talked to me a little bit about their time at the Oakland Tribune. I do want to point out that it remains the only major metropolitan daily to have ever been black-owned.
Mr. PRINCE: Isn't that sad? Yes. That is definitely true. And the staff they produced - I mean there was such a spirit that I'm taking such inspiration from the comments that have come in for the maintenance at your website about what it was like to work there and to work under Nancy. Not only was she, you know, the co-publisher, but she was still a journalist. And then, when they had the maintenance in the early days, she was on that classroom teaching about ethics and good journalism, and doing journalism with a social conscience. The combination of being a business person and having a social conscience, and being an artist as journalists are is kind of rare.
MARTIN: What do you think her legacy will be?
Mr. PRINCE: Well, I think that her legacy is going to be on inspiring other people. People of the current generation sometimes say they don't find this kind of role model. People who are willing to just step on out there and build something and maintain high standard and be elegant at the same time. And I think Nancy fulfilled that role. She was sort of like a karate king figure for a black journalist.
MARTIN: That's well said. Richard Prince is the author of Journal-isms, an online column about diversity issues in the news business and issues pertaining to reporters of color. He was telling us about Nancy Hicks Maynard. She died on Sunday at the age of 61. Richard Prince, thank you so much for speaking with us.
Mr. PRINCE: Thanks again.
MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.
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