Chauncey Bailey: Journalist, father, friend
Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey made a name for himself in the headlines as a passionate journalist, but those who knew him say his biggest passion was being a father.
Bailey, 57, was gunned down assassination-style last Thursday morning while walking to his job as editor of the Oakland Post. Devaughndre Broussard, a 19-year-old who worked at Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland, has been arrested in connection with the slaying and is expected to be charged this week. According to reports, Bailey was working on a story about the organization.
Bailey left many family members and friends, including his fiancee, Deborah Oduwa, 41, and his teenage son, whose name is withheld for safety reasons.
Harry Harris, an Oakland Tribune staff writer who had worked with Bailey at the Tribune, said that as a single father himself, he “admired the way Chauncey was with his son” and how proud he was of him.
Bailey grew up in Oakland. He earned a degree from Merritt College in 1968 and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Jose State University in 1972. Two years later, he graduated from the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at Columbia University, a precursor of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
“Chauncey was, in many respects, the essence of Oakland,” said Martin G. Reynolds, managing editor at the Oakland Tribune, noting Bailey’s edgy style. “What will be missed with Chauncey gone is just sort of this constant presence. He really loved Oakland and really loved being a journalist.”
Bailey immersed himself in the Oakland community, mentoring youths interested in journalism careers through OCCUR, Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal.
Sandy Close, executive director of New America Media, said Bailey was always looking for ways to engage young people in media. Bailey, a co-founder of New America Media, appeared on New America Media’s weekly television show.
“He was one of the great speakers we had,” Close said. “Chauncey would steal the show.”
Bailey worked for numerous print and broadcast media outlets, including the Tribune and the Post in Oakland, San Jose’s KNTV television station, San Francisco’s Sun Reporter, the Hartford (Conn.) Courant, United Press International in Chicago and the California Voice.
In the 1980s, he worked as a publicist in Chicago and as press secretary to Rep. Gus Savage, D-Ill., in Washington, D.C. Bailey then spent a decade at the Detroit News as a reporter and columnist covering city government, special projects and features before returning to Oakland in 1992 to take over as KDIA radio’s public affairs director and newscaster.
One year later he started at the Oakland Tribune, covering East Oakland and African American community affairs for 12 years. During this time, Bailey was also the news director for KSBT Soul Beat Television.
“Chauncey and I, together, worked on some very controversial stories. He never said no,” said Harris, who has worked at the Oakland Tribune for more than 40 years. “He was a very good example of our profession.”
Bailey had an insatiable appetite for journalism, and in 2004 he co-founded Opportunities in Urban Renaissance Television (OUR-TV) on Comcast Channel 78 and served as its executive adviser.
This June, Bailey was hired as editor-in-chief of the Post Newspapers and was honored as one of the Black Expo 2007’s 101+ Outstanding Men Making a Difference in Our Community at the 12th Annual African American Excellence in Business Awards and Scholarship Gala held this July in Oakland.
Close considers Bailey “an icon for investigation reporting in the ethnic media” and admires him for showing the need for investigative reporting at a local level. Bailey’s investigative reporting served the community, not his career, she said. New America Media is naming its investigative reporting award the Chauncey Bailey Award for Investigative Reporting.
“Chauncey’s death will impact not just the ethnic media, but all media in general,” said Bob Butler, president of the Bay Area Black Journalists Association and a KCBS reporter.
In addition to remembering Bailey as a talented journalist and dedicated father, his friends recall one of his other loves: sports.
Reynolds laughed as he recalled playing basketball with Bailey at the local athletic club. He described Bailey’s outfit: low-top white tennis shoes, which he said really weren’t appropriate for basketball, high white socks and tight red shorts.
Bailey wasn’t all that good, Reynolds said, but that didn’t stop him from enthusiastically calling out, “And the Detroit Pistons!” — his favorite team — after every play he made.
Harris said Bailey “was one hell of a softball player,” as the two had played on a team together.
Bailey’s colleagues admired his drive and spirit in both his personal and professional life.
“Working with him was always an adventure because he was quite incendiary,” Reynolds said, adding that although Bailey liked to stir things up, he had a good heart.
Reynolds said the irony of Bailey’s killing “is thick like frozen molasses” because he believes that Bailey stood for many of the same values as the Your Black Muslim Bakery organization suspected of being involved in his death.
“First there was shock and now I’m more angry,” Reynolds said. “It really doesn’t make any sense.”
Bryan Monroe, president of the National Association of Black Journalists and former president of the Bay Area Black Journalists Association, reflected on Bailey’s commitment to journalism:
“I remember Chauncey’s intensity and work ethic, something that inspired many young writers,” he said. “If true, it is sad that, in his intense pursuit of a story, in his journalism, he had to pay the ultimate price in search of the truth.”