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Democracy Now and other coverage of Chauncey Bailey murder dramatizes need for Black media

by Mary Ratcliff / SFBayView
Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, interviews Robert Rosenthal, executive director of the Chauncey Bailey Project, her only source for Democracy Now’s coverage of the murder of Chauncey Bailey on April 17, 2009.
April 17, 2009

Today’s Democracy Now show dramatized the crying need for a Black community perspective in the news when host Amy Goodman reported on the latest developments in the case of Chauncey Bailey’s murder by interviewing ONLY a representative of the Chauncey Bailey Project, a coalition of mainstream journalists whose goal, according to their website, is “is to hammer home this point: ‘You can’t kill a story by killing a journalist.’”

Democracy Now, broadcast weekdays on 750 stations around the country, including KPFA, is to me an essential news source and I try never to miss it. While the show is generally respectful of the Black community, the lack of a Black perspective on this issue was painful.

Who else could Democracy Now have talked to? How about the person who worked most closely with Chauncey Bailey and knew more than anyone else what stories Chauncey was working on: Paul Cobb, publisher of the Oakland Post, where Chauncey was the editor.

Paul has said from his first utterance after Chauncey was killed that Chauncey had been investigating the Oakland Police Department. No one - certainly not the Chauncey Bailey Project team - followed up.

Paul also says Chauncey was looking into misconduct by Jerry Brown, the immediate past mayor of Oakland and currently the California attorney general. Again, no follow-up.

Both the Oakland Police Department and Attorney General Brown are investigating Chauncey’s murder; both apparently assume that Chauncey was killed to kill a story he was working on. But so far as I know, no one is considering the possibility that the stories Chauncey was writing about them - the OPD and AG Brown - may have given them a motive.

On Jan. 28, 2009, the Post published a front page story headlined “Police Chief Resigns” with the subheads “Chief Tucker: ‘We Made Mistakes’ in Bailey Case; Bailey Investigated Attorney General Brown, Police Corruption, Drugs and Murder” under the byline “Post staff.” Beginning with the eighth paragraph, the story reads:

“Former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, now the State Attorney General, is also [in addition to the OPD and Judge Henry Ramsey Jr., former Alameda County Superior Court judge and dean of Howard University School of Law] conducting an investigation into the Oakland Police Department’s handling of the killing of Bailey, who was editor of the Oakland Post.

“Brown is participating in the investigation, even though Bailey at the time of his death was investigating allegations of misconduct in the OPD, including murder, drugs, murder investigations, corruption and allegations of misconduct on the part of then Mayor Brown.

“Just weeks prior to his death, Bailey had written a story about Officer Bob Valladon. According to Post publisher Paul Cobb, Bailey reported that he had a ‘frightening phone call’ from Valladon that ‘scared me.’ He said it was the first time he had felt threatened by a police officer who warned Bailey to ‘not ask any more questions’ from him or his other officers.

“Bailey had also sought answers from Brown and City Attorney John Russo concerning Brown’s destruction of police and economic development records prior to his departure from the mayor’s office.”

In this story, Paul Cobb’s newspaper was implying that the OPD and Brown should be investigated as suspects in Chauncey’s murder, yet nearly three months later the investigation continues to focus solely on Yusuf Bey IV and Your Black Muslim Bakery.

Chauncey Bailey was probably the best known Black journalist in the Bay Area, yet his own Black newspaper is ignored by every agency investigating his murder. Justice for this Black journalist cannot be achieved by silencing Black journalism.

The Black public affairs show on KPFA that the Bay View has long championed could point out to a vast audience this critical disparity between the priorities of the Black press - both the Oakland Post and the Bay View, which has published many stories on this issue* - and those of the Chauncey Bailey Project, whose executive director, Robert Rosenthal, who happens to be white, was the only person interviewed this morning by Amy Goodman in her coverage of the Chauncey Bailey case.

By interviewing no one else or mentioning no other perspective on the case besides that of the San Francisco Chronicle, Democracy Now is implying that the Black press and the Black community has nothing significant to say about the murder of the Black editor of a Black newspaper. I wonder what Chauncey would say about that.

Ironically, Chauncey was fired after a dozen years as a staff writer for Oakland’s daily newspaper, the Tribune. Reportedly, Tribune management considered him too strong an advocate for the Black community. They also may have resented the fact that he wrote for a Black paper, the San Francisco-based Sun Reporter, during the years he was writing for the Tribune.

Democracy Now is implying that the Black press and the Black community has nothing significant to say about the murder of the Black editor of a Black newspaper. I wonder what Chauncey Bailey would say about that.

They also, I suspect, were uncomfortable with his frequent criticism of the Oakland Police Department. He often wrote about the OPD’s penchant for shutting down Black clubs and other venues. The Tribune is the lead medium in the Chauncey Bailey Project, which has not, unless I missed it, ever mentioned that the Tribune fired Chauncey.

A comment posted by a reader at the end of the Bay View story, “The Black Hole at KPFA,” which argues for a Black public affairs show on KPFA, asserts: “During the ‘70s there was a brief period of time when Black journalism was in vogue, but the White power structure did not want an informed and knowledgeable Black populace. And from the late ‘70s to the present the destruction and suppression of Black news in the media has been ongoing. KPFA is no exception. …

“So even in the nonprofit world of media [such as KPFA and Democracy Now], if the program or commentator is too raw or gets too close to the inconvenient truth that no one wants to look at much less deal with or presents a view that is not part of the mainstream (read: socially acceptable), then that program or commentator will not make it to the airways but BE BLACKED OUT!”

*Stories and videos at on the murder of Chauncey Bailey and the press coverage of it include:
Betraying the legacy of Chauncey Bailey
Chauncey Bailey on ethnic media
A journalistic critique of the Chauncey Bailey Project
One on one with Yusuf Bey IV: Part 1
One on one with Yusuf Bey IV: Part 2
Investigating the assassination of Post Editor Chauncey Bailey, Part 1
Investigating the assassination of Post Editor Chauncey Bailey, Part 2
Investigating the assassination of Post Editor Chauncey Bailey, Part 3
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Comments (Hide Comments)
by deanosor
I hate to ask such an obvious question, but was this story or its contents sent to Amy Goodman. I consider myself a fairly well-informed (white) person and i did not know anything about other possibilities for Bailey's assassination other than Your Black Muslim Bakery.
by c
yes - that's amazing. I used to know one of the major journalists years ago. The angle that the police had discussed this *beforehand* with Bey is pretty tremendous if there is anything behind it. The head of internal affairs at OPD was just fired??!! I have noticed that Jerry Brown as pretty ineffectual (or at least failed to make much impact in Oakland during good economic times). It seems really narcissistic for him to run for governor again. But without insider knowledge, it's difficult to know what effect he had on the police department. That's very interesting. The OPD has so many bad stories lately, even taking into account that BART police are a separate agency and this *is* something that the journalist mentioned above talked a lot about. Oakland police were handing Bakery members effective power to police certain blocks. How often do they do this with other groups? People living in downtown have anecdotally told me similar stories, and talked about strange businesses with few customers, such as hair salons, that are open until 10pm etc.
by big anon
This is just more bullshit from sfbayview. I talked to one the Chauncey Bailey Project reporters and they told me that Cobb won't turnover Bailey's notes. So if their is evidence to this absurd conspiracy theory, Cobb should put it in the public. Where's the evidence? This conspiracy theory is a blatant lie put out by JR Valrey to cover for the crimes of his pals at Your Black Muslim Bakery.

Secondly, the bayview's now notorious "writer" JR put out the ridicoulous claim that Yusef Bef was a victim of cointelpro. Sorry but several of the 13-14 year girls he was raping had actual offspring by this predator. The DNA evidence is right there. People also know these now women, if anyone bothers to look a little deeper.

As far as KPFA goes. I'm sure a black affairs program has merit. However this is just a lobbying campaign to get JR a show. The guy is a liar. He was on the phone with Yusef Bey IV the night before Bailey was murdered. What the hell is up with that. People should ask some hard questions to him.
by bell biv
I don't see how pointing out the lack of black or diverse media coverage can be construed as a lobbying campaign for someone not even mentioned in the article. Also, pointing out the "blackout" on Bailey's investigation into oaktown corruption is totally valid, and its fucked up to say that is merely to take heat off of Bef.
As soon as I heard about the murder of Chauncey Bailey, I immediately assumed the police or a police agent like someone from the Muslim Bakery, killed Bailey. It is always the police who have the motive, means and opportunity to perpetrate murder with no possibility of any penalty. The fact that Bailey was investigating the police and attorney general Brown is sufficient evidence that this was a police murder. This Muslim Bakery gang was allowed to exist despite the rapes and whatever else went on there because they were agents of the police. Any group that is serious about doing any good in this society, especially in the black community, is soon shut down by the police. THE NEED FOR INFORMATION IS ILLUSTRATED BY THIS FACT: This writer has lived in the Bay Area all my life, for as long as KPFA has existed, and has listened to KPFA for as long as it has existed and NEVER HEARD OF CHAUNCEY BAILEY before his being murdered. Of course, being white is one reason; not being the kind to go to meetings is another. On the other hand, if KPFA had a black workingclass DAILY program during PRIME TIME (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.), this writer would have heard of Chauncey Bailey. Since this writer has given up on KPFA doing the right thing, perhaps those who know what is going on in the workingclass black community can post news articles on this website which is much better than KPFA. You will note that I emphaszie workingclass: Yes, we have racism in this society, but it is the entire workingclass of all colors that is under constant attack from the capitalist class and its armed thugs, the police. The poorer a person is, regardless of color, the more likely that is so. In this country, the poorest sectors of the workingclass are mostly African-American and Latino, but not all are. We need to stress unity of the workingclass as well as the racism that is rampant. It should also be emphasized that having the Oakland Police and Attorney General, Democrat Jerry Brown, the prosecutor of the framed and tortured San Francisco 8, investigate the Chauncey Bailey murder is like the fox investigating the henhouse; it is a coverup. Amy Goodman's program caters to middle class Democrats like herself. She does not have a workingclass perspective and of course, cannot begin to know what being African-American is in racist USA. As to who runs this black workingclass daily primetime news program, if it is ever to exist on KPFA, it would have to be a collective as there is much to cover and no one person has the knowledge or time to do it all.
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