Chauncey Bailey Project

Second victim in Bailey’s death: Oakland Post

Unidentified colleagues of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey console each other at the scene where Bailey was slain Aug. 2, 2007 (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)
Unidentified colleagues of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey console each other at the scene where Bailey was slain Aug. 2, 2007 (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)

Unidentified colleagues of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey console each other at the scene where Bailey was slain Aug. 2, 2007 (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)

Kevin Weston and Cliff Parker, Chauncey Bailey Project

More than 10 weeks after the murder of Chauncey Bailey, the newspaper he worked for is struggling to maintain its place as the premier African-American newspaper in the Bay Area.

In his first on-the-record interview since the murder, Oakland Post publisher Paul Cobb and his lawyer, Walter Riley, talk about the day Bailey was killed and their determination to keep the paper afloat.

OAKLAND – Paul Cobb, publisher of the Oakland Post, was sitting at his desk in his downtown office when he found out that his editor Chauncey Bailey had been murdered just blocks away.

He gets a phone call. It was the police. They said, ‘We have someone who works for you who is on the ground. Do you know Chauncey Bailey?’ and Cobb said, ‘Yeah, he’s probably there covering it.’ And the officer said, ‘He won’t be covering anymore.'”

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Video link: Newspaper is second victim in Bailey murder

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Chauncey Bailey wasn’t the only victim that day. The gunman who shot him may also have mortally wounded the oldest black newspaper in Oakland as well.

In his first on the record interview, with his attorney present, Paul Cobb says he lives and works in fear for his own safety as well as for the survival of The Post News Group.

He ticks off the challenges:

* He’s had to lay off numerous staff while others have left fearing violence;

* He may have to move his office to a new location because tenants in his building are nervous over heightened police security since the murder;

* Walk-in advertising business has dried up because the offices of the Post are no longer easily accessible;

* Advertisers are delaying paying invoices thinking that the paper is close to shutting down;

* Financial and legal problems preceding Cobb’s purchase have prevented the paper from raising loans.

Then there is the matter of continuing threats against the paper and Cobb himself. Cobb prefers to play this down. “It’s been kind of stressful,” Cobb says. “We’ve changed the locks, we’ve done a lot of basic security things. I have received threats, threatening letters, threatening phone calls…It’s put a damper on us.”

Over and above these problems, the loss of Bailey has gutted the Post editorially. “Losing someone who was playing an important role in the paper has had a tremendous impact,” says Walter Riley, an Oakland based attorney and the retained counsel for Cobb and the Post Newspaper Group. “It’s caused (the staff) a lot of difficulty in getting the paper out. No doubt it has financial consequences for the paper.”

Cobb, a veteran activist in Oakland who bought the Newspaper Group in 2004 after the death of its founder Thomas Berkley, sees it as a crucial vehicle for providing information that the black community needs. He is proud of what the Post has accomplished under his leadership. “The Post is the largest audited, verified, circulated black newspaper in the Bay Area. We’ve written about police corruption, crime, all kinds of things that others don’t necessarily jump into.”

“The Post has a particular niche,” adds Riley. “It is important that there are places for people of color, particularly black people, to get training (in journalism). The Post is one of those places.”

But the realities of owning a black newspaper under siege weigh heavily. “I had a meeting with an accountant who’s representing a group of buyers back east who are considering buying the paper,” Cobb notes. “We may be forced to consider it if we don’t turn things around.”

For now, Cobb remains determined to get the newspaper out – just as he was that Thursday morning when Chauncey Bailey was killed.

That day The Post – which is printed on Thursdays – had to be revised to honor the murdered newsman who was well known by everybody who was anybody in Oakland.

“I sat here and watched Paul being interviewed in this room by people who were coming through,” Riley recalls. “And he was going from being downcast and sad, and crying at times, and at the same time trying to be very cooperative with the various media folks that were coming in. People were coming in streams, standing in line at times.

“He sat here and talked with everybody as well as he could. And was open and honest with people. And suffering, tremendous suffering, because someone that he knew had been killed in such a horrible way. But he sat here and he got that paper out.”

 Kevin Weston is director of New Media and Youth Communications; Cliff Parker is director of Video Production at New America Media.

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