Commentary: Police hint at conspiracy to kill Bailey
A 19-year-old handyman who has confessed to killing Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey with a shotgun is not believed to have worked alone, police said on Monday, raising the possibility that a splinter Black Muslim group conducted the first assassination in memory of a American-born black journalist on American soil.
“Devaughndre Broussard, 19, admitted pulling the trigger in Thursday’s ambush killing in downtown Oakland, but ‘we don’t believe he worked on his own,’ said Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan, who declined to elaborate,” Henry K. Lee reported Monday on the San Francisco Chronicle Web site.
Broussard worked at Your Black Muslim Bakery, which is affiliated with a black Muslim splinter group.
“Jordan said Monday that Bailey, a former Oakland Tribune reporter, was working on a story about financial troubles the bakery was having and that the story upset Broussard,” Paul T. Rosynsky of Media News reported on Monday on the Oakland Tribune Web site.
“‘The motive, we believe, is that Chauncey Bailey was working on a story about some of the financial shortfalls,’ Jordan said. ‘He is an innocent person just doing his job.”’ Bailey was editor of the Post Newspaper Group, black-oriented weeklies in the San Francisco Bay area.
If the police are correct, the killing of Bailey could be the first assassination of a black journalist by a black community group. That did not happen even in the turmoil of the 1960s, when some militants subjected journalists to menacing rhetoric.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the last journalist to be killed on U.S. soil was Dona St. Plite of WKAT in Miami on Oct. 24, 1993.
“St. Plite, a Haitian-born reporter and commentator for radio station WKAT in Miami, was murdered at a benefit for the family of Fritz Dor, a colleague killed two years earlier. His name had appeared on a hit list of supporters of ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He was the third Haitian-born journalist killed in Miami in three years,” CPJ said.
“Obviously, his name will be added to the Journalists Memorial this year,” Margaret Engel, managing editor of the Newseum, said of Bailey on Monday. The Newseum’s Journalists Memorial bears the names of more than 1,600 journalists who died while reporting the news.
Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums, along with media figures and family members, will speak at Bailey’s funeral Wednesday at 11 a.m. at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Oakland, a cousin, Donna Duhe, told Journal-isms. The church holds 500.
“The outpouring of support from the community locally, nationally and internationally has just been enormous,” she said. “Every minute we’re realizing the difference that he made and the magnitude of the work that he did.”
Duhe gave Bailey’s date of birth as Oct. 20, 1949. Some news organizations had given his age as 57; others as 58.
Journal-isms asked Eric Newton, vice president/journalism program of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and a managing editor of the Tribune under owners Bob and Nancy Maynard, why Bailey’s death is news.
“It’s news whenever a part of civil society is under attack — and that’s what journalists are, part of civil society,” he said. “If someone kills a judge or an elected official or a journalist because they were doing their jobs, that murderer is doing more than taking a single life. He is trying to take civic life from the whole community.”
Asked whether he was satisfied with the coverage, Newton said, “Chauncey’s story got more coverage than any journalist’s slaying in the United States since Don Bolles was killed in the 1970s. Both reporters were, when they were murdered, writing about people accused of wrongdoing. Both had long careers in mainstream journalism and were known by hundreds of colleagues.”
But, Newton said, “I’m concerned whenever editors don’t think the murder of a journalist is important. CPJ, for example, lists a dozen other journalists killed in the United States in the line of duty in the 30 years between when Don was murdered and when Chauncey was murdered. But the murders of those journalists were not well-covered. They were immigrants, and not seen as mainstream journalism stories. The only place the others are remembered now is the Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial.”
Newton continued, “It’s unfortunate, but too many editors in the United States still do not consider the murder of journalists to be a significant problem.
“The Inter American Press Association has for a decade been doing a good job of reporting on the murders of journalists throughout the Americas. IAPA has helped get laws changed to improve investigations, prosecutions and convictions for the crime of murdering a journalist.
“Publishers throughout the Americas, but very few in the United States, have donated millions of dollars in ad space to fight the impunity with which journalists have been murdered. Though journalists continue to be killed throughout the world, some progress is being made. Ten years ago, virtually no one was behind bars for murdering a journalist in the Americas. Now, according to Ricardo Trotti of the IAPA, 77 people are in jail, right now, for that crime.”
The group behind Your Black Muslim Bakery filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, and a bankruptcy judge on Friday filed an order converting the bakery’s case to a Chapter 7 liquidation. The judge said the bakery’s last day of business would be Thursday, Lee wrote in the Chronicle.
According to police, on Thursday morning Broussard had apparently tried to track Bailey down, going by the paper’s downtown offices to confront him, according to the Oakland Tribune. “When he found Bailey had not yet arrived at work, Broussard began driving around in a van looking for him and spotted him in the 200 block of 14th Street. He stopped and approached Bailey on the street, shooting him several times with the shotgun.”
- Farai Chideya, “News & Notes,” National Public Radio: Slain Newsman Remembered http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12533180
- Leslie Fulbright, San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/08/07/MNA1RDQAE1.DTL
- Editorial, San Francisco Chronicle: Death of a Journalist http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/08/07/ED6CRDNUU1.DTL
- Angela Hill and Josh Richman, Oakland Tribune: Bakery Enterprise Spirals Out of Control
- Christopher Hitchens, Slate: Brutality by the Bay: Why did the Oakland police do so little about Your Black Muslim Bakery?
- Chip Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle: Leadership sadly lacking in wake of the killings
- Michel Martin, “Tell Me More,” National Public Radio: Leading Journalist Killed over Investigative Report
- National Association of Black Journalists: Chauncey Bailey: A Journalist and a Friend