Press Correspondents and Journalists

Why was Robert C. Maynard known as an important journalist?

Robert C. Maynard (1937–1993) was the first black to direct the editorial operations of a major American daily, the Oakland Tribune in California, in 1979. In 1983 he became owner and publisher of the Oakland Tribune and the first black to become a majority shareholder in a major metropolitan daily newspaper. Maynard spent ten years at the Washington Post as its first black national correspondent, and later as ombudsman and editorial writer. On October 15, 1992, the name and certain assets of the Oakland Tribune, then the nation’s only black-owned major daily newspaper, were sold to the Alameda Newspaper Group. Maynard was a high school dropout whose interest in writing surfaced when he was eight years old. While in high school in Brooklyn, he chose to spend his time at the offices of the New York Age, a black weekly newspaper of the time, instead of attending class. His involvement with the newspaper, which published some of his articles, led to his dropping out of school. Maynard’s first big journalistic break came when he was hired as a police and urban affairs reporter for the York, Pennsylvania, Gazette and Daily in 1961; he later covered the Civil Rights Movement as well. Maynard added to his formal journalistic training when he was awarded a one-year Nieman Fellowship for journalists at Harvard University. His work at the Post led to national visibility: he was one of the only three journalists chosen as questioners for the final debate between presidential candidates Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. He was hired by the Gannett newspaper chain while on leave from the Post to pursue his strong interest in provision of training programs for aspiring minority journalists. When Gannett made him editor of the Oakland Tribune, Maynard made many improvements, but the paper ran into financial difficulties. After putting together sufficient funding, he purchased the Tribune when Gannett put it up for sale in 1983. The paper was financially unsuccessful, but it became a symbol of racial pride, and it won a Pulitzer Prize for its photographic coverage of the 1989 Bay Area earthquake. The Tribune was sold in 1992 after Maynard became terminally ill.


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