Remembering Dori Maynard: Journalist, Bellwether

Kimberly N. Alleyne

Dori J. MaynardDuring my time as a copy editor at the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper, I was selected to attend the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education’s editing intensive. It was an eight-week program, I think, that to-date ranks as one of the most challenging yet simultaneously-rewarding professional experiences I’ve enjoyed. It’s where I met Dori J. Maynard.

I’ll break AP Style here and call her “Dori” on second reference instead of Maynard because to do otherwise would just seem odd, and cold.

I remember being impressed to near silence when we met; I felt so inadequate and unaccomplished in her presence. She did nothing to make me feel that way. It was the greatness of her, her work, her vision that caught my tongue. I knew she was an accomplished and highly-regarded reporter prior to taking the helm as president of MIJE and all I could manage to whisper, in my thoughts, was, “Wow…me, too. One day.”

Dori followed in the footsteps of her father, Robert C. Maynard, who co-founded the Institute for Journalism Education in 1977 (it was renamed the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education following Maynard’s 1993 death); but she certainly carved out her own byways—all in the name of diversity: diversity in newsrooms and diversity in coverage. “The Institute is the nation’s oldest organization focusing on ensuring newspapers, magazines and other news outlets accurately portray overlooked communities,” according to the MIJE website.

Robert C. and Dori J. Maynard. Maynard Institute.
Robert C. and Dori J. Maynard. Maynard Institute.

Her brilliance inspired me to go for more, to go beyond filing or editing a story, to add my voice to the conversation, to use journalism as a vehicle to spark solutions and change. I went on to write and edit for America’s Wire, a MIJE project, and to use journalism to lift up disparities among underserved populations. Some of my inspiration to focus on social justice journalism was triggered by my time at MIJE— and Dori’s work.

In 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of shooting to death Trayvon Martin, she wrote a column for the Oakland Tribune:

It’s time for us to look at what our distorted coverage of communities of color is doing to the country. It’s time for us to look at whether we’re meeting our ethical obligation to give our audience factual and credible information necessary to make rational decisions in its private life and about public policies.

Dori died on Tuesday, Feb. 24, but her voice will continue to permeate conversations on race, social justice and fairness. The scores of journalists she mentored, those she befriended and other colleagues, will, I hope, carry the lyrics of her ballad for what is fair, right and equitable in their work.

Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said, “It’s hard to fathom how the institute is going to go on, but it’s got to go on.”

Dori’s work, her father’s work, is not done, and the Institute will go on. It must.

We can carry the Maynard legacy forward and ensure the Institute does go on by 1) making a commitment to hire from communities of color when we are in a position to do so; 2) pursuing diversity in coverage — whether you’re an editor or a reporter, ask yourself, “Does this story/angle accurately and adequately represent the community my outlet serves? Do I have enough voices; 3) honestly assessing our biases and blindspots; and 4) Giving to the MIJE so that more doors are opened for more journalists of color more often. It’s not that hard.

Policy Link Dori Maynard

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