On Saturday, March 5, 2022, the City of Oakland officially unveiled the commemorative plaque installed on 14th Street at Alice Street as Chauncey Bailey Way, in honor of veteran journalist Chauncey Bailey, who was shot and killed at the intersection 15 years ago for investigating a local news story. Over 100 family members, colleagues and friends attended the emotional memorial. The Maynard Institute’s co-executive director, Martin Reynolds spoke to the crowd about Bailey’s impact and the role of the Chauncey Bailey Project, the media coalition that formed to finish the stories Bailey had begun before he was assassinated.
Remembering Bailey’s passion for community storytelling
Bailey was born and raised in Oakland and began his career writing for the Oakland Post and San Francisco’s Sun Reporter, as well as reporting on-air for San Jose’s KNTV. Bailey established roots at the Detroit News where he worked for a decade as reporter and columnist before returning to Oakland. From 1993 to 2005, Bailey covered East Oakland and African-American community affairs for the Oakland Tribune.
Reynolds began his memorial service speech with his experience getting to know Bailey during their time working together at the Tribune:
“I first met Chauncey when I was an intern working at the Tribune back in 1995. He knew everybody, and yet he took time to help me, gave me thoughts, gave me guidance. Later, when I went into editing, he was a critical go-to reporter and an anchor for the coverage of the Black community. Which for Oakland, particularly at that time, was synonymous with our community. I recall his hosting a news show on Soul Beat and efforts to push for black ownership of broadcast outlets. It was a passion and it was one that I always respected and appreciated.
After Chauncey left the Tribune he was reborn as editor of the Oakland Post. I remember thinking how fortunate the paper was to get such a seasoned, knowledgeable and passionate editor who could also write and report. Seeing him out and about–and, you know, he was always out and about–he had this fire in his eyes. One that had been dimmed by the corporate upheaval and constant downsizing at the Tribune, along with the change of ownership and strife between management and reporters.
I can also say this– when Chauncey left the Oakland Tribune, the coverage that he provided, the perspective that he offered, was never replaced. There was no replicating his contribution, and I was happy for the Post and for him that he found a place where his skills could be valued and that this important publication was enhanced by his presence and his persistence.”
Threats to journalists and threats to democracy
Reynolds continued to describe the meaningful work of the Chauncey Bailey Project, the media coalition formed shortly after Bailey’s murder:
“The Chauncey Bailey project, as mentioned, was the second large-scale collaboration of American journalists from multiple news organizations coming together to investigate the slaying of an American journalist. The first was the Arizona Project and although many news organizations participated in that project, The Arizona Republic never published any of the stories. The Oakland Tribune would not make such a mistake.
It was the home of the Chauncey Bailey Project, and we received full support from our then VP of news, Kevin Keane and the Bay Area News Group manager, Pete Wevurski. And I also want to give a shout out to senior editor Mike Oliver and Michelle Maitre for their outstanding work, as well as Robert Rosenthal.
The kind of violence experienced when Chauncey was slain seemed unimaginable in this country in 2007. Around the world, journalism has been perilous, particularly in Mexico and in the Philippines and in other places around the globe. Killing Chauncey–it was a breach, a shock. And now, 15 years later, after the 2018 killings of journalists at The Capital Gazette in Maryland and the normalizing of threats to journalists during the Trump administration, such a slaying doesn’t feel so far away. Nor does the threat to our democracy. So often journalists extoll in lofty terms about the fourth estate. How you can’t kill a story because you killed a journalist. Following the investigation into those who killed Chauncey–and I will not utter their names–books were written, awards were won, people went to jail.”
Traveling down Chauncey Bailey Way
Reynolds closed by addressing Bailey’s son Chauncey Bailey, Jr. with hope that those who loved Bailey find peace in his memory while traveling down the newly commemorated street in downtown Oakland:
“But you know what happened? The most tragic thing that happened. A son lost a father. A father who loved him, brought Chauncey Jr. into the newsroom all the time. He showed us photos of you playing football. You were the apple of his eye, I’ll tell you that. And I will always remember your kind, sweet face. Those kind eyes. And I think of you when I think of your father.
I’m so happy to see this commemoration of Chauncey here. And thank you to the city officials and the family and to so many other folks who I’m sure are responsible for bringing this honor to fruition. Chauncey’s unique gift was his love of and relationship to the community and even members of the community who didn’t like him. In the end, you know, if you knew Chauncey you had an opinion of him.
He amplified the collective voice, and it was that voice–a part of our community’s voice–that was snuffed out when he was killed. May his memory ride along this stretch of street that bears his name. May those who loved him find peace. May the stories he told and the craft he practiced continue to travel with all of us down Chauncey Bailey Way. Thank you.”
Ongoing community storytelling with Oakland Voices
Oakland Voices emerged from a partnership between the Oakland Tribune and The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. In the same spirit of Chauncey Bailey, many of our correspondents join Oakland Voices because they want to reshape common misperceptions of their communities, portraying them instead as dynamic places where real people struggle, succeed, and thrive. Oakland Voices correspondent Brandy Collins wrote about the memorial ceremony. Read the article at Oakland Voices and subscribe to our newsletter for more information about the Institute’s programs.