Honoring an Investigative Journalist

By Tram Nguyen Oct 11, 2007

photo credit: Maynard Institute for Journalism Education This summer, on an August morning just a few blocks from the ColorLines office in downtown Oakland, Chauncey Bailey was shot to death as he walked to work. The first journalist murdered within the U.S. in 14 years, Bailey had been the editor of the Oakland Post at the time of his death. Yesterday, in honor of Bailey’s memory, a group of Bay Area journalists announced what may become the largest collective journalism project in recent history–bringing together at least 18 journalism organizations and media outlets, both mainstream and ethnic–to continue the investigative work Bailey was pursuing when he died. The Chauncey Bailey Project investigative unit aims to pick up the threads of the story on Your Black Muslim Bakery, the Oakland family business embroiled in allegations of corruption and abuse, as well as implicated in Bailey’s murder. But beyond that, the project’s coordinators said they hope to honor the importance of public service journalism and to "reveal the broader issues that impact the lives of Oakland’s citizens." At the time of Bailey’s death, major news outlets barely carried the story. As one Black journalist commented on Richard Prince’s column, "I thought to myself based on my years as a journalist that if a white reporter had been killed, like Bailey, tnews would be on EVERY website and outlet…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)." In light of that shameful response, and the general malaise affecting the journalism industry, the efforts of the Society of Professional Journalists-Nor Cal and the Maynard Institute, among others, to give common cause and a mission for investigative journalists under Chauncey Bailey’s legacy is very important indeed –as Pete Wevurski, editor of the Oakland Tribune, said "the most important work any of us have ever done and ever will do."