Chauncey Bailey Project

IRE names fellowship in honor of Chauncey Bailey

 

(Pictured, l. to r.:  Honoring Chauncey Bailey at the 2023 IRE annual national conference were IRE President Mark Walker and Bailey’s sister Lorelei Waqia with Chauncey Bailey Project reporters Bob Butler and Thomas Peele.)

By Barbara Rodriguez, Investigative Reporters & Editors

Investigative Reporters and Editors is proud to announce it is naming its Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship in honor of Chauncey Bailey, a respected journalist who was covering his community of Oakland, California, when he was murdered in August 2007.

The Chauncey Bailey Journalist of Color Fellowship will continue IRE’s programming of offering guidance and support to journalists from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences who are working within the field of investigative journalism. The fellowship, first launched in 2018, is made possible by the generosity of IRE members and news organization sponsors.

“This is such an honor,” said Lorelei Waqia, Bailey’s sister, who attended the naming ceremony June 24, 2023, at IRE’s annual national conference in Orlando, Florida. “He was so passionate about his work and his craft. He was a seeker of truth. To me, journalism is not a profession, it’s a calling. I hope this empowers (young journalists) to continue their work.”

Bailey, editor of the Oakland Post, was investigating a local bakery’s troubled finances when he was gunned down on his way to work. The head of the bakery was convicted of murder for ordering the shooting and was sentenced to life without parole. The man who shot Bailey was sentenced to a reduced sentence of 25 years in prison in exchange for his testimony.

The effort by Bailey’s peers to finish his work is known as The Chauncey Bailey Project — a coalition that continues today, highlighting the journalism community’s commitment to uncovering the truth despite efforts to stop it.

“IRE honoring Mr. Bailey in this way is a testament to the importance of knowing you cannot kill a story by killing a journalist,” said Bob Butler, one of the founding members of the project and a recently retired journalist, who worked 42 years for KCBS Radio in San Francisco.

As IRE nears its 50-year anniversary, the organization and its membership are reminded of the risks that journalists take in covering their communities.

“Much like IRE rallied in its early days to finish Don Bolles’ work after he was murdered to try to stop his investigative reporting, Chauncey Bailey’s shocking death prompted dozens of journalists, editors and others to work together to investigate the shooting and finish his reporting,” said Mark Walker, board president at the time of the June 24 naming announcement.

“We recognize the importance of our mission to provide training and resources and to maintain a community of support for investigative journalists,” Walker said. “We continue Mr. Bailey’s legacy through this fellowship.”

Bailey was a well respected journalist who specialized in covering communities of color. His 37-year career in journalism, which included stints in Detroit and Oakland, exemplifies the type of tough investigative reporting essential to a journalist’s watchdog role.

“The work is difficult. It’s sometimes scary, but it needs to be done,” Butler said. “If you’re a young journalist and you want to do investigative work especially, it’s not easy. It’s not easy to go to a courthouse and sit there and go through documents for hours on end, but that’s what we have to do to hold people accountable.

“People who do wrong do not want that wrong to come into the light,” Butler added. “The best disinfectant for people like that is sunlight.”

Butler said the Chauncey Bailey Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship will help train young journalists in how to bring wrongdoing into the light, the way Bailey did.

Applications for the 2024 Chauncey Bailey Journalists of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship are now being accepted. The deadline to apply is Oct. 5. You can find the application and read more about the fellowship here.

To support this fellowship program, donations can be made at ire.org/donate. Please write “JOC Fellowship” in the tribute or note field.

To serve as a sponsor for the program, contact Anna Lopez, IRE Director of Partnerships, at anna@ire.org.

Rashika Jaipurier contributed to this story.

 



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