Chauncey Bailey Project

Commentary: Scant coverage for Bailey killing


When Rudolph Brewington, a Washington broadcast journalist turned government employee, saw an Associated Press story Thursday on the slaying of Oakland editor Chauncey Bailey, “I looked on CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post and Washington Times websites and didn’t see the story,” he told Journal-isms.

“I thought to myself based on my years as a journalist that if a white reporter had been killed, like Bailey, the news would be on EVERY website and outlet, so I called these organizations and asked if they saw the AP story (which was also on the Drudge Report), and all of them said they either didn’t know about the story or see the AP story.

“They said they’d take a look, but hours later only CNN put the story on its website. The Washington Post had the print story the next day in a 1”, 6-sentence blurb on the back page of the A section, and followed up on Saturday with another short blurb in its national news section.

“It seemed like the major white media as a whole didn’t respond to the shooting of a black journalist the way I KNOW they would [have] responded had it been a white journalist murdered (a la Daniel Pearl),” said Brewington, who is African American.

Brewington has a point. As of Sunday, the first targeted slaying of an American journalist in the United States since 1993 had yet to be mentioned on the ABC, CBS or NBC network news programs, according to a database search.

[On Monday, Barbara Levin, spokeswoman for NBC News, said the network sent George Lewis to cover the story and that it was reported Friday for the West Coast edition of “NBC Nightly News.” “The police made the connection very late in the day, so we did the piece for the western edition,” she said. In addition, she said Lewis reported the story at 7:20 a.m. Saturday on “Weekend Today.”]

CNN had several mentions throughout the day on Friday, including on “CNN Newsroom,” which interviewed reporter Jade Hernandez of KTVU-TV, the Fox station in the San Francisco Bay area; and on “Nancy Grace,” on which Grace spoke to media commentator Sabrina Lamb, a close friend of Bailey, and Martin G. Reynolds, managing editor of the Oakland Tribune. CNN’s “Newsroom” interviewed Paul Cobb, who as publisher of the Oakland Post was Bailey’s last employer, on Saturday.

On the Fox cable channel, “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” reported Friday on the raid on the Your Black Muslim Bakery and related buildings, which led to the arrest of Bailey’s accused killer. Van Susteren interviewed Henry Lee, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who covered the story.

The Associated Press moved stories on each development. Yet outside of California and Detroit, where Bailey once worked, in the mainstream press the story was largely relegated to brief items of a paragraph or less. The notable exception was the New York Times, which ran stories on Friday and Saturday by Jesse McKinley.

Brewington was not the only one questioning the paucity of coverage. “The white media would have run with it” had Bailey been white, said Paul Delaney, a former senior editor at the New York Times and founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists. “It’s extremely unusual for an American journalist to be killed in this country. The USA media jump to it, especially if in Iraq or Afghanistan or Mexico even. Comparisons are easy and obvious. Thus, if a white American editor had been gunned down, you bet it would have been a bigger story. There is no excuse other than race, Oakland and Muslims, all intertwined.”

Network spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment made over the weekend.

It should be noted that the journalist organizations of color also have yet to issue statements, and that not only black journalists see something askew here.

In Oakland, Martin Manley, chairman and CEO of Alibris, a global exchange for used, rare and out-of-print books, who is white, wrote Sunday on his blog:

“National media coverage of this murder has been muted. Isn’t that a little odd? A journalist is assassinated by Islamic extremists because of an expose he is writing. The New York Times ran [a] piece [Saturday] and another on Friday. CNN has covered the story. But NBC, ABC, and CBS have so far been oddly silent. (OK class: Daniel Pearl and Chauncey Bailey both wrote about violent, nutjob thugs who claimed to be Muslim. Both were murdered for their efforts. But only one will have his wife played by Angelina Jolie. Discuss.)”

There are also some who say privately that if Bailey had worked only in the black press, and not also at the Oakland Tribune, Detroit News and Hartford Courant, his slaying would have received even less coverage.

They make comparisons to the coverage of the 2006 death of retired New York Times reporter and editor David E. Rosenbaum, who had been beaten and robbed, though Washington police and emergency workers initially believed he had a stroke or seizure. Or to the murder of Don Bolles of the Arizona Republic by a car bomb in 1976. His death inspired a 23-part series that set out “to show organized crime leaders that killing a journalist would not stop reportage about them; it would increase it 100-fold,” as Investigative Reporters and Editors reminds us.

Television viewers know about the Memorial Day 2006 car bombing in Iraq that killed CBS soundman James Brolan and CBS cameraman Paul Douglas, and critically wounded CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier; and that in January of that year, ABC “World News Tonight” co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were injured in another Iraqi car bombing.

“The ethnic media colleagues have flooded NAM with questions,” Sandy Close, founder of New America Media, a collaboration of ethnic media outlets, told Journal-isms on Sunday. “The Sing Tao editor wanted a quote for their story on Friday. So did the Filipino media and Vietnamese media. NAM’s site led with Chauncey’s death and posted interviews on YouTube with him from our TV show on his series on the black press. All these media remembered Chauncey from our NCM TV show. We’ll be coming together to plan an appropriate tribute to him.”

A reader of the Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City gets it.

“Thank you for including the blurb on the assassination of Chauncey Bailey, editor of the Oakland Post,” Will Pearson of West Jordan, Utah, wrote in a letter to the editor published on Sunday.

“I am appalled at the audacity of this public murder and hope that it will not be overlooked nationally because of the undeserved bad press the Bay area receives. Journalists everywhere should be very concerned — not because their own lives might be in more danger, but because this offense flies in the face of the entire process of American free press and its patron constitutional amendment of freedom of speech.

“No personal or political reason justifies killings of reporters from any part of society — here or in foreign countries.”

He concluded, “Why couldn’t the killer just have written a letter to the editor?”

Funeral Mass Planned in Oakland on Wednesday

A funeral Mass open to the public will be celebrated for slain journalist Chauncey Bailey at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, 2245 82nd Ave. in Oakland, newspapers reported on Sunday.The church seats 500 and is known for its community organizing, the Rev. Jay Matthews, its pastor, told Journal-isms.

The Oakland Tribune added that an educational fund is being established for Bailey’s son, “a little 13-year-old boy who he used to always bring into the Oakland Tribune newsroom . . . he was very proud of his boy,” as Tribune Managing Editor Martin G. Reynolds said on CNN’s “Nancy Grace” show.

The boy graduated from middle school and lived with his mother in Southern California, but Bailey remained a doting father across the miles, the mother, who wished to remain anonymous because of the nature of the crime, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Meanwhile, “More than four dozen friends and city and county officials and religious leaders gathered on the sidewalk at 14th and Alice streets Saturday at the spot where Bailey was gunned down,” Henry K. Lee reported in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle. “Oakland Minister Keith Muhammad, representing the Nation of Islam, was present, as were two members of the Guardian Angels.”

These friends and local officials “pledged to let the passion of his reporting serve as a guiding light in their lives,” Lee wrote.

“They said they were heartened that the suspected gunman . . . was in custody, but at the same time passed out flyers to urge people to come forward with information that would help bring the alleged killer to justice.

“The event was also held as a ‘community mobilization’ to urge residents to contact police when they have information about killings.

“Speakers said fears about being a snitch need to be overcome and that the community must help police solve the city’s homicide crisis. Five more people have been killed in Oakland since Bailey’s slaying Thursday.”

A story Sunday by the Tribune’s Angela Hill and Harry Harris said that in Devaughndre Broussard’s confession to police, he told detectives he considered himself “a good soldier” when he shot and killed Bailey for writing negative stories about the bakery.

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