Chauncey Bailey Project

Chauncey Bailey

Chauncey Wendell Bailey Jr., 57, was editor of the Oakland Post when he was gunned down as he walked to work downtown on Aug. 2, 2007.

Police believe that the leadership or associates of Your Black Muslim Bakery were involved, because Bailey was probing the troubled organization’s finances and related matters. Devaughndre Broussard, a 19-year-old handyman for the bakery, was charged with killing Bailey. Police say he initially denied involvement, then confessed, only to recant later. Broussard said the bakery’s CEO, Yusuf Ali Bey IV, had told him to “be a good soldier” and “take the fall.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists, which annually documents journalists’ deaths in the line of duty around the world, said that Bailey’s killing was the first in the U.S. since 1993. He left behind a teenaged son, his father, siblings and a fiancee.

Bailey’s job as editor-in-chief capped a long career in newspapers, community television and public policy. The position allowed to Bailey act on his passion: championing the black community. For 15 years he had been a constant presence in print, radio and television. He had attended Merritt College, gotten a degree in journalism from San Jose State University and graduated from a summer program for minority journalists at Columbia University in 1974.

As a young black man trying to break in the business during his college years, he was ambitious and journalistically ambidextrous — reporting for KNTV in San Jose and writing for the Bay Area’s black newspapers, the Post and the Sun Reporter. After Columbia, he worked as reporter and columnist in mainstream news organizations: The Hartford Courant, United Press International, the Detroit News and the Oakland Tribune. In between, he worked stints as publicist for a non-profit urban research and advocacy group in Chicago, as press secretary for U.S. Rep Gus Savage (D-Ill.) and as pubic affairs director and as a newscaster for KDIA Radio.

From Detroit to Oakland, Bailey was often described by editors, bosses and community members as dogged, irascible, prickly and strong-willed. Few worked harder than the energetic Bailey, Post publisher Paul Cobb said.

“He covered the news, but I never thought he thought of himself as being the news,” former Oakland mayor Elihu Harris said. “He loved the role of the journalist, the analyst, the pin that pricked the cushion, the irritant. … He relished the role that he played. He really was a community guy who wanted to get the news out.”

While at the Oakland Tribune, from 1993 to 2005, Bailey was also news director at the black-oriented Soul Beat Television. In 2003, he tried to buy Soul Beat but couldn’t raise the $2.5 million; he later quit. In late 2004, Bailey co-founded OUR TV — Opportunities in Urban Renaissance Television — on Comcast Cable (Channel 78), acting as executive adviser.

In 2005, Bailey was fired from the Oakland Tribune for conflict of interest, and he started writing freelance travel pieces for the Oakland Post. He was named editor in the summer of 2007, shortly before his death.

A month later, the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists named Bailey Journalist of the Year, and in February 2008 he was posthumously awarded the prestigious George Polk Award for Local Reporting.

Continuing the investigative work Bailey started, a consortium of news organizations and independent journalists came together to form the Chauncey Bailey Project, which so far has produced more than 130 articles. In March 2008, the project was awarded the 2007 Investigative Reporters and Editors’ Tom Renner Award for crime reporting, and it has received a special citation from the James Madison Freedom of Information Awards, based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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