“This country cannot be the country we want it to be if its story is told by only one group of its citizens. Our goal is to give all Americans front door access to the truth. ”
– Robert C. Maynard
I woke up this morning to the horrible news that my friend and mentor, Dori J. Maynard of the Maynard Institute, had died after a battle with lung cancer. Those of us who have been on the front lines in fighting for media diversity understand the magnitude of this loss.
For those not familiar with Dori, she was the head of the Maynard Institute, “the nation’s oldest organization dedicated to helping the news media accurately portray all segments of society, particularly those often overlooked, such as communities of color.” Dori and the institute worked tirelessly to help news media hire diverse journalists of color, along with ensuring that outlets offer their readers and viewers the most accurate and nuanced coverage possible.
Since 1977, the institute also offered quality training for generations of journalists of color to affect change in hundreds of media outlets. Dori and the institute also served as watchdogs, pointing out inaccurate media coverage and helping newsrooms do it right when covering issues dealing with diversity.
There are many who I can cite as influencers in my decision to become a journalist. But near the top was Dori’s father, Robert Maynard, the editor and publisher of the Oakland Tribune. In between moving around the world as an Air Force brat, I grew up in Oakland, California, where my mother insisted that we read — and support — a newspaper that was owned and overseen by a black man. It was because of Robert Maynard that I learned I could do what he did for a living.
I joined the National Association of Black Journalists in 2006, and had the honor of meeting Dori at my first convention in Indianapolis. I won’t lie — I was star struck, but Dori was very kind and put me at ease. After that, whenever Dori asked for anything, I answered.
This post could last for days listing all of Dori’s achievements, but I’m sure that those of us who loved her so much will share their own stories. I’ll end with two. The first one was at UNITY 2012 in Las Vegas. I was there to help Doug Mitchell, my partner in diversity crime, with the New U Startup Loft. It was fun, but it was hard work. During a break, Doug and I decided to attend Dori’s lunch event, “Decision 2012: What Media Need to Know about Voters of Color.”
I distinctly remember telling Doug that I wasn’t going to do anything; I was just going to sit and listen to the stellar panel Dori had created. As we took our seats, Dori saw me, came over, and asked if I would live-tweet and create a Storify of the event. I didn’t hesitate to say yes, and Doug laughed at me after Dori left, noting that no one could say no to her.
The last time I saw Dori was at the 2013 Online News Association conference in Atlanta. Dori was a champion of encouraging journalists of color to attend ONA, and I firmly believe that the large amount of diversity at the Atlanta convention — the most diverse ONA in my opinion — could be partially credited to Dori. We had the chance to have dinner and catch up. I was thrilled to do a video to help her launch the Front Door Project, a 14-month series looking at the state of diversity and the media, which also honored her father’s vision.
Dori would want us all to carry on her work in media diversity. Honor her and her family’s legacy by stepping up and speaking out about media diversity. Help mentor and train the next generation of journalists who will help give front door access to the truth. And finally, in lieu of flowers, make a donation to the Maynard Institute so that its necessary work can continue.
Benét J. Wilson is the co-editor-in-chief of AirwaysNews.com. She is also the Air Travel Expert for About.com and a long-time an aviation/travel journalist. She has written for publications and blogs including CrankyFlier.com, ACI-NA Centerlines, Aviation International News, Airport World, the Airline Passenger Experience magazine and the Runway Girl Network. She currently serves on the board of the Online News Association and is Vice Chair of Education for the National Association of Black Journalists’ Digital Journalism Task Force.