NABJ recognizes Chauncey Bailey Project with Community Service Award
By Sean Maher, The Oakland Tribune
OAKLAND — The dozens of journalists and media outlets that teamed in 2007 to investigate the shooting death of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey were honored last week by the National Association of Black Journalists.
The NABJ named the Chauncey Bailey Project winner of its annual Community Service award, in recognition of the Project’s work to uncover a conspiracy in Bailey’s death.
The announcement came on April 29, the same day that Yusef Bey IV, a major target of the Project’s investigation, was indicted by an Alameda County grand jury for three counts of murder, including his alleged ordering of Bailey’s death. Bailey had been investigating Bey and other figures connected to the defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery.
“The whole team deserves the highest recognition for their unwillingness to accept the institutional denial of justice in this case,” NABJ President Barbara Ciara said. “The tragedy that enveloped a black journalist and community icon called for a deep commitment to uncover the truth.”
Bob Butler, director of the NABJ’s western region and a lead CBP reporter, said members of the Project have “been told by more than one person that the work we did was at least in some way responsible for the DA’s office filing the indictments.”
“We uncovered evidence of conspiracy to kill Bailey that the police either discounted or ignored,” Butler said. “Our reporting has led to two separate investigations, the resignation of the police chief and the suspension of the case’s lead investigator.”
Retired journalist Mary Fricker, who is a member of NABJ and worked on several of the Project’s major stories, said she felt tragedy marked not just the end of Bailey’s life, but the lives of everyone else involved.
“It was just awful what happened to Chauncey,” Fricker said. “But look at the lives of the bakery people. Those lives didn’t have to go down that road. And the detective they suspended; outside his work on that case, all we hear is what a great man he is, a loving father, a good person. The whole thing makes you want to cry.”
While reporters Thomas Peele, Butler and Fricker took central roles in the journalistic investigation, each of the Project’s numerous contributors and collaborators were critical to its success, said Oakland Tribune Editor Martin G. Reynolds.
“The recognition the Project is receiving speaks volumes to the work of all the journalists and organizations involved,” Reynolds said. “We thank NABJ for its acknowledgment and are honored to have been selected for such a prestigious award. What has been most important throughout this process is the statement collectively made by the Bay Area journalism community by responding to the slaying of one of our own, and to do work to help bring those responsible to justice. That focus remains and the statement has been made.”
The Chauncey Bailey Project partners and supporters includes the Bay Area News Group-East Bay, parent group of the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times; KTVU-Channel 2; New America Media; the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education; the National Association of Black Journalists; IRE; San Francisco State University’s Journalism Department; the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley; the California Endowment; George Washington Williams Fellowship; John S. And James L. Knight Foundation; the Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Chapter; and SDX Foundation.