Chauncey Bailey: A Journalist “Willing to Face Risks”

Chauncey Bailey: A Journalist “Willing to Face Risks”

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August 2 came and went in Oakland, Calif. To some people it was just another day. But for me and others who remember what happened three years ago on this day, it was a day of reflection, grief and deep thought.

The day marked the third anniversary of the killing of Oakland Post reporter Chauncey Bailey. Bailey was gunned down on 14th and Alice streets in downtown Oakland at 7:30 in the morning, on his way to work. He was two blocks away from the Oakland Post newspaper when he was shot two times in the body and once in the face. I stood on the corner where he was killed, along with 20 of his friends and colleagues in a make-shift memorial on Monday, remembering Bailey and his work.

“It is appropriate to be out here remembering Chauncey,” said Walter Riley, an attorney for the Oakland Post. “He was a reporter who was very important to the Oakland community and he had a lot of unfinished stories to write.”

Born and raised in Oakland, Bailey had a 37-year newspaper journalism career with stints at the Detroit News, Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Sun Reporter and lastly the Oakland Post. He wrote about news within the African American community and showed how this community was connected to the larger society.

At the time of his murder, he was working on a series of stories dealing with the financial dealings of Your Black Muslim Bakery, a business owned by a small black Muslim sect. The bakery was in the process of being foreclosed on, because of financial improprieties and a legal fight between the heirs of the bakery’s owner.

I was glued to the television on Aug. 2, 2007, as the morning news of Bailey’s death was announced. I was saddened and questioned, “why Chauncey?” He was a good guy. A onetime co-worker, a writing competitor at a newspaper and a friend, he was a journalist’s journalist: Always writing, thinking through issues and probing on a story, until it was finally complete.

It was his probing into the financial dealings of Your Black Muslim Bakery that made Bailey’s life expendable. Devaughndre Broussard, a 19-year-old handyman at the bakery is the alleged perpetrator of Bailey’s killing, along with Yusuf Bey IV, the leader of the group, who allegedly ordered the hit on Bailey, because he didn’t like the news the journalist was reporting on. Both are being held in jail awaiting a trial date three years after Bailey’s death.

His death was the first killing of a journalist in the United States since 1992, when Manual de Dios Unanue, the editor of El Diario-La Prensa, was killed by a collection of drug dealers and businessmen, after he wrote several stories about drug and money laundering.

As shocking as Bailey’s death is, a journalist getting killed in the United States for reporting is a rarity, but it does happen. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, since 1992 there have been four journalists killed (including Bailey) in America. Around the world though, journalism is a dangerous profession. Since 1992, there have been 824 killings of reporters. This year alone, 12 reporters were killed in countries such as Iraq, Honduras, Mexico, Columbia, Pakistan and Nigeria, for reporting on drug dealing, government corruption, crime, and human rights abuses.

“Three out of the four journalists around the world that get killed did not get killed stepping on a land mine or in a war situation,” said “Frank Smyth, the Washington representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “They were murdered outright in premeditated assassinations. Not unlike, the facts suggest…the case of Chauncey Bailey in Oakland, California.”

Smyth said that in most of the reporter killings, 90 percent of the perpetrators get away with murder “because they feel they can, not unlike the way, the suspects in the Chauncey Bailey case appeared to have acted.”

While the Chauncey Bailey trial has not yet started, his death points to a number of things. In one sense, it’s another instance of a probable black-on-black killing and the veil of silence that takes place after a murder is committed. It also points to the risk reporters face when writing about crucial, critical and controversial issues, that no one else will touch. Bailey was willing to face that risk all of the time, and for that his life was taken.

Lee Hubbard is a reporter for the Oakland Post newspaper. He can be reached by e-mail at for any questions or comments on Bailey, his legacy and his death.