Chauncey Bailey Project

Project reporters receive journalism awards

G.W. Schulz
G.W. Schulz

G.W. Schulz

Thomas Peele
Thomas Peele

Thomas Peele

Mary Fricker
Mary Fricker

Mary Fricker

The Chauncey Bailey Project

Mary Fricker, a veteran journalist, best selling author and core member of the Chauncey Bailey Project’s investigative reporting team, has won a the Norwin S. Yoffie Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists Northern California Chapter.

Also being honored by the society are two other Chauncey Bailey Project reporters, Thomas Peele with the Bay Area News Group and G.W. Schulz with the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Peele will received a Computer Assisted Reporting award for using freedom of information requests to create comprehensive databases for examining salaries of 188,000 public employees at more than 96 government agencies.

Schulz will receive a Professional Journalist award for using information obtained through 75 open-records requests to investigate waste, mismanagement and poor record keeping in the enormous effort to improve homeland security since 2001.

Fricker is described by former colleagues at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, where she worked for two decades before retiring in 2006, as a “pit bull researcher” and someone always willing to help and mentor others, especially fledgling reporters.

In her career, Fricker has won some of journalism most prestigious honors, including a George Polk Award and a Gerald Loeb Award, and she has been recognized for her work three times by Investigative Reporters and Editors, twice for her work on the Bailey Project.

Fricker’s 1989 book on the $500 billion savings and loan crisis, Inside Job, The Looting of America’s Savings and Loans, written with Stephen Pizzo and Paul Muolo, was a New York Times best seller and remains the seminal work on the issue.

“Reporters are made by the stories they cover,” Fricker said.  “I’m grateful that many good stories have come my way.”

None were more important, she added, than the stories surrounding the murder of Bailey, the editor of the Oakland Post, who was assassinated on a street corner in 2007. The man who killed him has testified before a Grand Jury that he was ordered to do so by the leader of the now defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery, which Bailey was investigating, to stop his story.

Fricker joined a coalition of Bay Area journalists who dubbed themselves The Chauncey Bailey Project and dedicated themselves to finishing Bailey’s work. Fricker coined the group’s motto, “You can’t kill a story by killing a journalist.”

She took a special interest in writing about the stories of women who were physically and sexually abused by bakery founder Yusuf Bey, who died in 2003. Fricker’s stories are gut-wrenching stories drawn from documents and interviews about women Bey began molesting when they were 10 years old and placed in the foster care of women he also abused.

Fricker also researched and wrote extensively about Bey’s shady business practices as well as those who succeeded him in his sect’s leadership.

In 2008, Fricker worked with Peele and other reporters to show deep flaws in how Oakland Police investigated Bailey’s murder and didn’t act on evidence that a conspiracy to kill him existed. In April 2009, two additional men, including the one who allegedly ordered Bailey killed, were indicted.

The Norwin S. Yoffie Award for Career Achievement is named for one of the founders of SPJ Northern California Freedom of Information Committee. It will be awarded at the committee’s annual James Madison Dinner in San Francisco on March 16 in San Francisco.

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