On August 2, a black man was shot in Oakland, California. He had just left a McDonald’s, and was walking to work. Another man, wearing dark clothes and a mask, walked up to him and fired three shells from a shotgun, hitting him in the chest. The victim died on the sidewalk.The victim was not an unlucky bystander. His death was unrelated to drugs. It was unrelated to gangs.
Words were the motivation, words that the victim wanted people to read and that the killer desperately did not want to be seen. The black man who was gunned down on the morning of August 2 was named Chauncey
Bailey. He was a journalist for the Oakland Post working on a story about a local organization called “Your Black Muslim Bakery.”
The man who shot him was named Devaughndre Broussard, and was employed by the bakery as a handyman. Broussard was arrested and then booked on August 4, following a police raid of several properties owned by the bakery.
Bailey had been writing stories about Your Black Muslim Bakery and their illegal activities, which included possible murders. As volatile as the stories were, they would not have been seen by very many people, compared to stories heard from more well-known media personalities such as Ann Coulter and Al Franken. While these knee-jerk columnists parade their empty writing as journalism, Bailey asked hard questions about his community. Bailey was known as a hardworking journalist, according to an article on CNN.com.
Journalism has been getting a progressively worse reputation, and it’s due in large part to the partisan bickering and political spin that is being passed off as competent reporting. The people who claim that journalism is little more than ambulance chasing don’t mention reporters like Bailey, because he disproved that stereotype.
Chauncey Bailey’s murder is a powerful, if tragic, reminder that journalism is still very much needed and not necessarily safe. Granted, not every story written by a journalist is as dangerous, nor are they all as dramatic. That doesn’t mean, however, that thoroughly researched, unbiased news can be tossed to the wayside along with the partisan bickering.
We do not have to look any further than Philadelphia for this type of stellar reporting. George Anastasia, a Philadelphia Inquirer crime reporter, became well known for his work on organized crime in the 1990s. His work went a long way in exposing misconceptions about the mob’st standards of honor and duty. As might be expected, Anastasia’s work earned him enemies. The FBI discovered that a mob member had put out a hit on Anastasia.
Anastasia is a dramatic example of journalism providing the valuable service that it does. His stories also show that it is possible to have bold headlines and shocking news without reducing
a story or the methods with which it is researched to grocery aisle tabloid standards. Journalism doesn’t get as much respect as it used to, and it may not deserve as much, either.
At the same time, Chauncey Bailey wrote the kind of stories that deserve recognition, and there are other journalists, print and bloggers, who are doing the same. Society still needs journalism, despite what the politicians, pundits and public may think.
Stephen Zook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org