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2009-04-17

Additional Murder Charges Expected in Killing of Oakland Journalist Chauncey Bailey

Guests

Robert Rosenthal, executive editor of the Chauncey Bailey Project. He is also the executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

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We take a look at the latest developments in the case of Chauncey Bailey, the Oakland Post editor who was shot to death in downtown Oakland in August 2007. He had been investigating possible links between a local bakery and several killings in the area when he was gunned down in broad daylight. After his death, a group of reporters banded together to form the Chauncey Bailey Project to continue his investigation and look into any role the bakery may have played in Bailey’s murder and at the role of the police in its investigation. We speak with the executive editor of the Chauncey Bailey Project. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

We end today’s show with the latest in a story that is being followed closely here in the Bay Area, the case of Chauncey Bailey. Bailey is the Oakland Post editor who was shot to death in downtown Oakland in August 2007. He had been investigating possible links between a local bakery and several killings in the area when he was gunned down in broad daylight.

After his death, a group of reporters banded together to continue his investigation into the Your Black Muslim Bakery and to look at any role the bakery may have played in Bailey’s murder and at the role of the police in its investigation. The group called itself the Chauncey Bailey Project. Since 2007, they have uncovered key elements in the case and have helped to move the investigation forward.

In the latest news that broke this week, the group is reporting that murder charges are now imminent against Yusuf Bey IV, the former leader of the Your Black Muslim Bakery, and another man for Bailey’s killing, under a plea deal reached with the only person arrested in the case.

Robert Rosenthal is the executive editor of the Chauncey Bailey Project, also the executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting that’s become the headquarters for the Project. He joins me here in San Francisco in the studios of Link TV.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

ROBERT ROSENTHAL:

Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN:

It’s good to have you with us. Explain how your Project got started and the significance of the story today. The front page of the San Francisco Chronicle says, “Chilling account of slaying.”

ROBERT ROSENTHAL:

Right. Well, the Project started in the weeks after Chauncey Bailey was murdered in August of 2007 when a group of journalists, really, were brought together, led by Sandy Close from New America Media and Dori Maynard from the Maynard Institute. They knew, personally knew, Chauncey Bailey. And they really — they brought a team of people together, journalists, to try and figure out why Chauncey was murdered, what he was really working on, and to show that when a journalist is murdered in this country, his fellow journalists will come together and try and solve the crime and bring to account the people who are responsible.

AMY GOODMAN:

Explain who Chauncey Bailey was, exactly how he died.

ROBERT ROSENTHAL:

Chauncey Bailey was the editor of the Oakland Post, an African American paper in Oakland. And he was a lifelong journalist. He had worked for the Oakland Tribune. He’d worked in Detroit. And he was really a community journalist at the end of his life. And he was very well known in Oakland. He had a TV show. And he was a journalist who had his fingers on the pulse of the community. He was the type of person who would challenge authority, raise questions.

And he was basically going to work one morning, August 2nd, and a masked gunman ran up to him with a shotgun and assassinated him. He was shot three times and killed on the spot. The gunman ran away, jumped into a white van. In the next few days, the gunman allegedly was arrested, the alleged gunman.

AMY GOODMAN:

So, when did the Chauncey Bailey Project, your investigation, start?

ROBERT ROSENTHAL:

Right. The Project started really within a few weeks, when a first meeting was held to try and figure out what to do. And it was very difficult at that time, because you brought together multiple news organizations who did not normally collaborate. And there was a decision, and part of the decision was no one news organization had enough strength and skill to put together the work. And it was very unique. People volunteered. People who had been laid off came forward. And we also worked with, you know, University of California Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley, San Francisco State. It was really a new model of how to work together on a project. And in part, it was inspired by the Don Bolles Project, the journalist who was murdered in 1977 in Arizona.

AMY GOODMAN:

So, what did you uncover?

ROBERT ROSENTHAL:

Well, over the course of the investigation, really some of the key findings were that the — it was clear from the outset to us that this was not a lone gunman, that there had been a conspiracy, and that over the course of the investigation, really, questions were raised repeatedly by us and also by the San Francisco Chronicle, who was not part of the Project, about the police work, the shoddiness of it, was there a conspiracy, relationships between certain police officers and the bakery itself. Past murder investigations were reopened. And what really — it sort of uncovered a very unprofessional and questionable police department in Oakland. The police chief eventually resigned. The officer who was the head of the homicide investigation this week was suspended. And the key work was really done in 2008. The Project made public a secretly recorded police video that really shocked the Bay Area. A website was created. So there was a lot of constant pressure, especially from the Project. Last year, we did fifty-six stories alone.

AMY GOODMAN:

Explain this key video of Yusuf Bey IV that you uncovered.

ROBERT ROSENTHAL:

We didn’t uncover — the video, just to be accurate, was first reported in the Chronicle. What the Project did was obtain it and make it public. It was put on multiple TV stations and on websites.

And the video was a secretly recorded police video of Yusuf Bey, who was at that time the leader of the bakery, basically bragging about the killing of Bailey. Also bragged about his relationships with the police, talked about how the murder weapon was used. And it really shocked people to see somebody talking — he described in the video how Bailey was shot and is literally showing his head jerk — Bailey’s head jerking back. And seeing that really led to an unraveling of the case, when that was first made public by the Bailey Project last year.

AMY GOODMAN:

The San Francisco Chronicle piece today, “Chilling account of slaying,” saying, “After striking a deal with prosecutors, Devaughndre Broussard described in detail how he carried out orders from the leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery to kill Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey, including specific instructions to fire enough rounds to make sure ‘it ain’t no coming back.’” So, Devaughndre Broussard has admitted firing the shots that killed Chauncey, now saying who the higher-up was that ordered it.

ROBERT ROSENTHAL:

Right. That all unraveled this week. A lot of that had been reported over the last eighteen months, but the details are now really coming out. And Broussard initially confessed, then he recanted. Now these events this week really point to the broader thing that we’ve been really working on and trying to prove. And in a sense now, the fact that there really was some form of conspiracy, you know, is being laid out. And in the weeks ahead, there’s an expectation that others will be charged.

AMY GOODMAN:

You’re the head of the Center for Investigative Reporting. Can you talk about what this means for investigative journalism more broadly? I’m looking here, reading from the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s in trouble. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is closed. The Rocky Mountain News has closed. We’re seeing newspapers all over the country going bankrupt and closing.

ROBERT ROSENTHAL:

Well, I think this — investigative reporting is really essential to American democracy. My background is in big newspapers, and I’ve decided to try and help be part of the solution. And I think, going forward, as we see newsrooms being winnowed down and newspapers shut, and it’s happening all over the country, groups of journalists who have lost their jobs, who believe in the power of the press and the role in democracy, are coming together to form new models.

And the Bailey Project, because of its collaborative nature, I think, is going to be a model going forward, because many newsrooms don’t have the resources on their own to do this, but when you can meld strengths, you can bring journalists together to do things and also tell a story not simply in a traditional way in a newspaper, but use new media to have a broader impact with the story, through using the internet, video, radio, obviously. And I think that’s a model that we’re going to see going forward in the future, where teams come together and really get a story out in multiple ways. And we’re trying to do that at the Center for Investigative Reporting.

AMY GOODMAN:

If Bey is convicted, will your work continue with the Chauncey Bailey Project?

ROBERT ROSENTHAL:

I think that we’re now really thinking about how not only to continue work focusing on Oakland, because that’s really the core of the story, which has many, many issues, as you know, and problems, but also try and do something around his legacy, in terms of media literacy, education, and do it — and take his assassination, really, his death, and turn it into something that hopefully will be beneficial to Oakland. So it’s not just doing the story, but also carrying forward sort of the — use who he was as a person who can talk about the power of the press.

AMY GOODMAN:

And this issue of journalists holding those in power accountable, you talked about the shoddy police investigation, what it meant when the Chauncey Bailey Project was there, around holding the powers that be?

ROBERT ROSENTHAL:

Yeah, I think that — I absolutely believe that without the continual pressure from the Project, as well as other media coverage, we would not be where we are today. I think they got somebody. Basically, they said he confessed. That would have been it. Done. And our belief that there was a broader story here, and I think that without the continual pressure of the press on institutions at a local level, state level, national level, it’s going to be a real problem for all of us.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Very important, the work that you have done. Robert Rosenthal is head of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

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