Robert Maynard (1937-1993) was the first black owner of a major daily newspaper.
When Robert Maynard bought the Oakland Tribunein 1983, he became the first black in the United States to own a major daily newspaper. But Maynard had a career full of firsts, from being the first black national newspaper correspondent to being the first black newspaper editor in chief.
The son of immigrants from Barbados, Maynard grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. Interested in writing from an early age, Maynard frequently cut classes at Boys High School in Brooklyn to hang around the editorial offices of the black weekly newspaper the New York Age. By the age of sixteen he had dropped out of school to work full-time as a reporter for the New York Age. In 1956 he moved to Greenwich Village, where he wrote freelance articles and met writers such as James Baldwin and Langston Hughes.
Applying for jobs on white-owned newspapers brought no results, and it was 1961 before he found a job on a mainstream paper. Maynard began as a police and urban-affairs reporter for the York (Pa.) Gazette and Daily . In 1965 Maynard applied for a Niemann Fellowship and won, spending 1966 at Harvard University studying economics, art, and music history. After Harvard, he returned to the York Gazette and Daily as night city editor.
In 1967 Maynard was hired by the Washington Post as national correspondent, the first black to hold that position on any major newspaper. He was widely praised for his 1967 series on urban blacks. In 1972 he was appointed as ombudsman and associate editor for the Washington Post and also began working as senior editor for the new black monthly magazine Encore. In 1976 he was chosen to be one of three questioners for the final debate between Jimmy Carter and President Gerald Ford.
In 1977 Maynard left the Washington Post and moved to the University of California, Berkeley, to found the Institute for Journalism Education, a program for the training of minority journalists. In 1979 he was hired by the mammoth newspaper publisher Gannett as editor of its newly acquired but struggling Oakland Tribune. When he became editor of the paper, which was renamed simply the Tribune, circulation was at 170,000. By 1982 circulation had plummeted to 110,000, and the paper lost $5 million in 1981.
In response to the declining readership, Maynard started a morning edition, which was named Eastbay Today. Although the morning edition drew only 90,000 readers, in the fall of 1982 Maynard announced the end of the afternoon Tribune. The afternoon paper was merged with Eastbay Today into a morning Tribune, a move that was a prelude to Maynard's purchase of the paper in 1983 from the Gannett Company for $22 million.
By 1985 the paper's circulation had increased to more than 150,000, but expenses still outpaced revenues. Maynard was forced to sell real estate holdings to meet expenses. Despite the losses the Tribune and Maynard's leadership garnered much praise and many awards for editorial excellence. In 1992 Maynard was diagnosed with prostate cancer and was forced to sell the Tribune. He died on 17 August 1993, an important figure in American journalism and a pathfinder for black journalists.
Black Enterprise, December 1993, p. 26.
Christian Science Monitor, June 16, 1983, p. 1; August 22, 1986, p. 3.
Ebony, June 1985, p. 105.
Fresno Bee, November 30, 1992, p. A-3.
Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1990, p. D-1; August 19, 1993, p. A-1.
Newsweek, September 24, 1979, p. 89; May 16, 1983, p. 93;August 30, 1993.
Sacramento Bee, October 18, 1992, p. J-1; August 19, 1993, p. A-3; August 21, 1993, p. B-5; December 13, 1993, p. E-1.
San Francisco Chronicle, August 19, 1993, p. A-1; August 21, 1993, p. B-5; August 27, 1993, p. A-23.
San Francisco Examiner, November 3, 1991, p. I-8; October 16, 1992, p. A-1, B-1; August 18, 1993, p. A-1.