Chauncey Bailey Project

Commentary: Richard Prince’s Journal-isms


By Richard Prince, The Chauncey Bailey Project

“Former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV — who a prosecutor said terrorized Oakland — was convicted Thursday of three counts of murder for ordering journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men killed in summer 2007,” Thomas Peele reported Thursday for the Chauncey Bailey Project.

Bey IV’s co-defendant, Antoine Mackey, was convicted of helping confessed killer Devaughndre Broussard hunt down Bailey and also of killing another man, Michael Wills. The jury deadlocked on whether Mackey helped Broussard kill the third victim, Odell Roberson.

Bey IV and Mackey, both 25, face life in prison without possibility of parole. Judge Thomas Reardon has scheduled sentencing for July 8. Defense lawyers are promising appeals.

Bey IV, in a dark, pinstriped suit and trademark bow tie of his Black Muslim faith, stared straight ahead as the verdict was read. Mackey stared at the ceiling.

The jury of seven women and five men began deliberations May 23 after nine weeks of testimony from more than 75 witnesses.

Bailey, editor of the Oakland Post, was gunned down Aug. 2, 2007, on his way to work in downtown Oakland. Broussard told officials that Bey IV ordered the death to stop the journalist from publishing an article about the bakery’s financial troubles. ‘We gotta take him out before he write that story,’ Broussard said Bey IV told him when ordering Bailey killed.

Broussard accepted a plea deal in exchange for his testimony and is expected to be sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Broussard also confessed to killing Roberson, 31, on July 8, 2007. Bey IV ordered that killing, Broussard said, in retaliation because Roberson was related to a man convicted of killing Bey IV’s older brother.

. . . Bailey, 57, was the first journalist killed over a domestic story in the United States since 1976, when Don Bolles of the Arizona Republic died in a car bombing.

The jury of seven women and five men began deliberations in the Bailey case May 23 after nine weeks of testimony from more than 60 witnesses.

. . . After Bailey’s death, a coalition of local media, including the Bay Area News Group, joined in the Chauncey Bailey Project, an investigative group that looked into the case and the Oakland Police Department’s handling of it.

The group came together after a suggestion to the Journal-isms message board by Boston freelance journalist Kenneth Cooper on Aug. 7.

“I’m thinking of the example of Don [Bolles], the investigative reporter the Mafia killed in Arizona some years ago, and daily papers responded by sending their investigative reporters to finish up his work,” Cooper said in a separate email. “That was the start of Investigative Reporters and Editors. I mentioned this to Greg Moore, editor of the Denver Post, and he was intrigued. He was going to contact the National Newspaper Publishers Association about it.

“We can’t let black criminal enterprises around the country think they can whack reporters who are investigating them and get away with it.”

Retired reporter Mary Fricker, a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, had already urged her group to take action. The National Association of Black Journalists, the Maynard Institute, IRE and the Center for Investigative Reporting quickly agreed on Aug. 7 to discuss how they could work together to continue Bailey’s work.

Bryan Monroe, then NABJ president, announced during the Aug. 9 opening ceremony of the association’s convention in Las Vegas that the four groups would come together to continue Bailey’s work and his journalism.

Those efforts led to the Chauncey Bailey Project, which included several Bay Area journalism groups and journalism schools as participants and supporters.

“From the very first meeting that led to the creation of the Chauncey Bailey Project, there were two goals,” said Robert Rosenthal, executive editor of the Chauncey Bailey Project and head of the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting, in Thursday’s story.

“One was to continue Chauncey’s work and to make sure that when a journalist is murdered because of their work justice is served. There is no doubt that the work of the project helped keep law enforcement focused on this case, and revealed facts and evidence that may have never been disclosed. Today’s verdict is a reminder that journalists do make a difference and that their work is crucial to our democracy.”

Still, it was initially difficult for the Bailey killing to gain more than token coverage in the mainstream media. Some wondered aloud whether that was because all of the major figures in the case were black.

“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,” Journal-isms reported on Aug. 5, 2007.

“. . . 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.”

It became clear that even some members of the news media did not realize the significance of the killing of one of their own.

Some editorialists explained.

“When a journalist is ambushed and gunned down in broad daylight on a busy downtown street, our thoughts turn immediately to Russia, Latin America or some Third-World dictatorship,” the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times wrote in a Aug. 10, 2007, editorial headlined, “Killing of journalist an attack on liberty.”

“What we don’t think is the United States of America. But last week, that’s precisely what happened right here in Oakland.”

The Washington Post editorialized on Aug. 11, “this murder is a reminder of the need for reporting by professional journalists, even in an era when amateur video of war zones can be had at the click of a mouse. Aggressive journalism is still a vital part of every community’s defenses against corruption and crime. It can save lives.

“Chauncey Bailey died doing his duty as a reporter. That duty is not only indispensable in a democratic society; it’s also risky. Now that the police have raided the bakery, confiscating weapons and arresting six people in addition to Mr. Bailey’s alleged assassin, there is some hope for a safer Oakland. That would be the most fitting memorial for Chauncey Bailey.”

Dori J. Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, said, “Looking back, in those early months of the project, I doubt that any of us really believed we would see this day. We have a great deal to be proud of today. Not only did we help bring some justice for Chauncey and perhaps some peace for his family, we demonstrated a new model of journalistic collaboration and proved what a difference journalism can make.”

* Bob Butler blog: Chauncey Bailey Trial

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