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RIP: Nancy Maynard, trailblazer and former Oakland Tribune owner

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by Sean Mayer, Mercury News

Nancy Maynard, a prominent Bay Area journalist and the first African-American woman to own a major daily newspaper in America, died Sunday in Los Angeles after a prolonged illness. She was 61.

Her death was due to the failure of several major organs, her family said.

Born Nancy Hicks, she began a gutsy, trailblazing journalism career in 1966. Outraged by inaccurate and destructive reporting on her neighborhood, she became a reporter for the New York Post when she was 20 years old.

From there she jumped to the New York Times, and as its youngest staff reporter she covered stories ranging from the Apollo space missions to African-American student takeovers at Columbia and Cornell universities.

She married news legend Robert C. Maynard in 1975 when she was at the Times and he worked for the Washington Post. Two years later, they left their jobs and moved to the West Coast, gambling on an idea they had to form a non-profit dedicated to training minority reporters and pressing newsrooms to “reflect the diversity of thought, lifestyle and heritage in our culture,” as Maynard put it.

They launched the Institute for Journalism Education out of Berkeley. No year-round service like it existed at the time.

“It was a bold move for two people who were really on the rise in their careers at two of the best papers in the country to leave that security and get the institute going,” said Steve Montiel, one of eight other co-founders of the institute.

The Maynards bought the Oakland Tribune in 1983, a historical first in two respects: It was the first management-led leveraged takeover of a newspaper, and it resulted in the first African-American ownership of a major metropolitan daily newspaper.

The couple sold the Tribune to Alameda News Group in 1992, a few months before Robert Maynard died.

“Nancy Maynard was a very good businesswoman,” said William Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews, which owns the Tribune. “She was on the one hand tough, but one the other hand extremely gracious.”

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Written by Symphony

September 22, 2008 at 11:33 pm

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