Remembering Slain Journalist Chauncey Bailey



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Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey was laid to rest Wednesday after he was gunned down on his way to work last week. Police have a teen suspect in custody and believe Bailey's death may be related to a story he was pursuing. Youth Radio reporter King Anyi Howell sends this remembrance.

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And now, from one coast to the other, Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey was laid to rest Wednesday. He was gunned down last week on his way to work. Police have a teen suspect in custody and believe Bailey's death may be related to a story he happened working on about a local business.

As the city heals from a burst of recent tragedies involving young perpetrators and young victims, Youth Radio reporter King Anyi Howell send us this remembrance.

KING ANYI HOWELL: Some people in Oakland are upset that Chauncey Bailey's murder investigation is giving so much media coverage while other numerous acts of violence here fall in to obscurity. But I'm not one of them. Chauncey Bailey dedicated his life to covering the news in his city and he did it with passion and conviction. When he became a headline himself, the least we could do was to return the favor.

Youth Outlook publisher Kevin Weston has worked in San Francisco Bay Area media since he was a teenager. He says Bailey was tenacious, prolific, and one of a fading generation - investigative journalist plugging away for an underfunded black press.

Mr. KEVIN WESTON (Publisher, Youth Outlook): Because it is so cash-strapped, you know, a lot of times, what you read in the black press is the stuff that's the good news. You only talk about, you know, the political class or the business class or, you know, the middle class. But then, if you're talking about the real problems that are in Oakland, especially if you're going to be talking about poverty, violence, drugs, police brutality, you know, those are more gritty. That's what I think he did so well, and I think it cost him his life.

Mr. JAMES EARL-ROCKEFELLER (Television Producer): Any time I seen Chauncey, he had a camera and a microphone, he had a tape recorder, or he had a pen and a pad. That was always Chauncey. He was always working on something.

HOWELL: TV producer James Earl-Rockefeller once engineered Bailey's news talk show on Soul Beat, the local cable network. That's how many young people in Oakland knew Bailey best. It was kind of a call-in town hall forum, where Bailey would weigh in on all manner of political and social issues in Oakland. Again, James Earl-Rockefeller.

Mr. EARL-ROCKEFELLER: You know, going back to "The Chauncey Bailey Show," I remember when the insurance thing first came out, when he said that you have to have insurance for your car. And this one cat called in, and he was like, well, man, that's just another reason for them to take black people car and this and that. And Chauncey was like, man, just get insurance. People used to call in, oh, Chauncey's a sellout. But I'm like, no, he's just real.

HOWELL: If callers got out of hand, Bailey deployed his technologically advanced video caller ID. It displayed the caller's image, he said, then a picture of a chimpanzee would pop on screen or a baboon or donkey. He didn't take himself too seriously, and he always got the last word while staying focused on giving his community a voice.

Kevin Weston says, this proximity to the community was Bailey's strength.

Mr. WESTON: If you were in the black press and you are in the community and you're dealing with issues, you're going to have to deal with the people. I don't know if a lot of young journalists even know Chauncey Bailey, but I think it's up to the folks that, you know, knew him and know what it means to actually do that kind of work that should, you know, keep that spirit alive.

HOWELL: And Weston says, one way to do that is to give busy reporting. He says there are plenty of stories in Oakland right now that young people should be telling, and that only we can tell.

Mr. WESTON: You know, who's telling the story of these murders or these young women that are out on the street, (unintelligible) these young men who are not able to get jobs or the awful public education that you have in Oakland. You know, who will - who's going to be able to break it down better than you all can? And really, to make money, you don't necessarily have to. So this is something that you have to have a passion for and that you feel like it's part of your calling.

HOWELL: As I listen to Weston talk, I wonder who is going to take on the task of local investigative reporting in an industry that, one, doesn't pay well, and two, could cost you your life. So it remains to be seen what influence Chauncey Bailey had on Oakland's young journalists. And who among my own generation will step up to take his place?

For NPR News, I'm King Anyi Howell.

CORLEY: And that report came to us from Oakland-based Youth Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.