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The Muckraker

Unusual partnership helps bring justice for Chauncey Bailey


Antoine Mackey, Yusuf Bey IV, and Devaughndre Broussard. Yusuf Bey was convicted of three counts of murder today. Image courtesy Carrie Ching/CIR.

The first meetings of the Chauncey Bailey Project in the summer of 2007 were unruly, sometimes angry and for many of the journalists in the room saturated with grief.

There were reporters and editors from across the Bay Area who knew Chauncey Bailey, had worked with him, and knew his young son.

There was also some fear. A journalist had been targeted, assassinated, shortly after breakfast one morning, as he walked to work. Why? From that moment on, other journalists in the Bay area wanted to answer that question and they wanted to make sure that those involved in killing Bailey were brought to justice.

Nearly four years after Bailey's killing, there is justice. Former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV — who a prosecutor said terrorized Oakland — was convicted today of three counts of murder for ordering Bailey and two other men killed in summer 2007.

From the beginning the Chauncey Bailey Project wanted to send the message that when a journalist is killed because of their work, other journalists will step forward and make sure there is accountability.

The best investigative reporting exposes, reveals and explains issues or situations that are frequently hidden from the public for a huge range of reasons. Investigative reporting is slow, often painstaking work. Leads are followed that go nowhere. Sources must be developed. Your facts must be iron clad.

The CBP project start was complicated. There were volunteers and staffers from many news organizations. There were differing values, competing platforms, and reporters working together who had been competing. But the CBP project was formed because no single newsroom in the Bay Area had the resources or staff to commit multiple people to the story over a long period of time.

But together the group could succeed.

The three key reporters on the project were Tom Peele, who was detached from the Bay Area News Group; Mary Fricker, a retired investigative reporter from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat; and Bob Butler, who had recently been laid off by KCBS radio. Three different reporters and personalities who formed a trusted and relentless reporting team right out of central casting.

They stuck with the story over nearly two years. One key factor in the success of the project was a commitment to the story and time. A key moment in the investigation occurred more than a year after Bailey was killed.

A source was ready to divulge key information to the reporters. But there was one stipulation and concern. The source feared that the reporters would leave the story and that the project's commitment would falter.

If you go away the story goes away, the source told the reporters. Without you, they were told, there will not be justice.

The reporters stayed on the story, there was commitment from the CBP, and they were committed.

There is a broader lesson in the success of CBP. In today's journalism world, collaboration is frequently essential. The CBP epitomized that. These verdicts and the work of the CBP are a powerful reminder that investigative reporting plays a crucial role in our democracy.

It's a form of journalism that is costly and time-consuming. It can be risky and it is hard work. But it's essential work that when done well protects all of us and those who really have no one else to protect their rights.

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


Lawyer for Your Black Muslim bakery leader smuggled hit list from jail

A former lawyer representing members of Your Black Muslim Bakery allegedly smuggled a hit list and other "unauthorized written communications" from Yusef Bey IV, who is being held in the Santa Rita jail on murder charges, according to an affidavit filed in Alameda County court on Tuesday.

On the alleged hit list was a list of witnesses who would testify against Bey IV in three murder cases, the Chauncey Bailey Project reports. Bey IV and associates are charged with ordering the assassination of Oakland-based journalist, Chauncey Bailey, and two other people in 2007.

Read the full post by Thomas Peele, on the Chauncey Bailey Project website:

Bakery leader’s lawyer smuggled witness hit list from jail, court records say

Chauncey Bailey Project reporters win McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage

Four reporters associated with the Chauncey Bailey Project will be awarded the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage on Wednesday, March 24, at the UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The reporters are Thomas Peele, Josh Richman, Mary Fricker and Bob Butler. The four wrote more than 100 stories about the group, the murder, and the police investigation.

Chauncey Bailey was editor of the Oakland Post, who was murdered in 2007 while investigating members of Your Black Muslim Bakery, headquartered in Oakland, California. The four reporters continued to tell the story despite obvious dangers.

The award is named after Ralph McGill who was regarded by many as "the conscience of the South" for his editorials challenging racial segregation. Richman and Butler said they were honored and humbled by the award. Peele said, "To win an award that memorializes the work of Ralph McGill is a high honor."

Detective Longmire cleared of misconduct in Chauncey Bailey case

The San Francisco Chronicle reported today that Sgt. Derwin Longmire, the Oakland police sergeant who led the investigation into the 2007 slaying of journalist Chauncey Bailey, "has been cleared of internal charges that he compromised the probe to keep the leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery from being implicated."

Longmire has been on paid leave for six months as an internal investigation looked into the state attorney general's conclusion that he had mishandled the probe of the Aug. 2, 2007, Bailey slaying. State investigators had found "Longmire's inquiry was 'inexcusably lacking' for allegedly failing to look into bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV's possible role in the killing," the Chronicle reports.

Oakland police officials apparently disagreed, and Police Chief Howard Jordan has ordered that he return to duty. Upon returning, he will serve a five-day suspension for minor problems with other homicide cases, the Chronicle reports.

Longmire's attorney Michael Rains told the Chronicle that Longmire "always believed that Bey had orchestrated Bailey's killing ... and did nothing to keep him from being charged. Any problems in the case were, at worst, caused by Longmire being 'sloppy and inattentive to detail.'"

Reporters at The Chauncey Bailey Project have reported extensively on the ties between Sergeant Longmire and the Bey family, some of whom were suspects in the murder case. An investigation by Thomas Peele, Bob Butler, and Mary Fricker last October found Longmire ignored evidence of Yusuf Bey IV's possible involvement in the Bailey slaying, and that he interfered on behalf of Bey IV in two other felony cases. See the CIR timeline of Longmire's ties to the Bey family and the mounting evidence connecting Bey IV to the Bailey murder here:

According to the Chronicle article:

Longmire and Bey IV had known each other for two years before the Bailey killing. Several police investigators interviewed as part of the state probe cited that friendship in faulting the decision to put Longmire on the case.

In a memo to [Police Chief Howard] Jordan, acting Capt. Sean Whent, head of the police internal affairs unit, said the state findings showed Longmire "deliberately did an inadequate investigation ... most likely due to a relationship" with Bey.

Even Jordan told state investigators in February that given Longmire's friendship with the bakery leader, "I don't see how you can form the conclusion that it's not affecting his ability to investigate the case thoroughly."

The Chauncey Bailey Project wins two ONA awards

The Chauncey Bailey Project won two awards at the 2009 Online Journalism Awards event in San Francisco over the weekend. The Project, a collaboration of two dozen news organization that fielded reporters, photographers, journalism students and editors to investigate the 2007 murder of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey, won the Knight Award for Public Service and the Investigative Journalism Award in the Small Site Category.

“We were all extremely proud to be a part of the Chauncey Bailey Project,” said Robert J. Rosenthal, who served as the Project’s executive editor and is executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). “It’s especially meaningful to be honored by your peers, and we are proud to be part of the team that investigated this story. We want to thank the Online News Association for shining a light on the importance of quality investigative journalism in America and congratulate everyone who worked so hard to deliver a story with such impact.”

The collaboration that grew out of Chauncey Bailey’s tragic death is an example of what a diverse group of journalists can do when they agree to collaborate. Soon after Bailey’s murder, Sandy Close of New America Media, Dori Maynard of the Maynard Institute and Linda Jue of the Society of Professional Journalists gathered the many journalists and media outlets that became the Chauncey Bailey Project. Their collective reporting appeared in more than 20 news outlets throughout the Bay Area over the course of two years and led to multiple charges of conspiracy to kill Bailey, investigations of the Oakland Police Departments handling of the homicide, and the suspension of the lead detective on the case.

The judges who awarded The Knight Award for Public Service noted that, “The reporting is good and relentless under what were obviously and literally dangerous circumstances,” and that, “The reporters didn't shy away from exposing both criminals and police. The Chauncey Bailey Project is absolutely exemplary -- a type of investigation that we wish more organizations could pursue. Its role is necessary, the reporting great.” In addition to The Knight Award for Public Service, the Project received a $5,000 cash prize from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

When explaining the best Investigative Journalism, Small Site award, judges stated that the Project was, “A tenacious and precise investigation of an institutional scandal that focuses on the murder of a journalist but explains much more about the community that created the conditions for his death.” The review continues, “…an exceptionally written and presented package….Strong photojournalism and timeline storytelling techniques… Outstanding ongoing effort two years hence.”

Lisa Pickoff-White, who joined CIR’s California Watch project in August 2009 as a multimedia producer, won a separate award for her student work at the Graduate School of Journalism at U.C. Berkeley. Pickoff-White won the Student Journalism, Small Team award for It Happens at Midnight. The judges stated, “It's fun, it's entertaining, it's creative… It as a fine example of how to tell an online story in multiple components.”

Pickoff-White was also one of more than two dozen U.C. Berkeley Journalism students who worked on the Chauncey Bailey Project.

The organizations that took part in the Chauncey Bailey Project were:

The Online Journalism Awards were launched in May 2000. They are administered by the Online News Association, in partnership with the University of Miami's School of Communication.


Chauncey Bailey Project a finalist in ONA awards

The Online News Association announced finalists for its 2009 Online Journalism Awards this week. The Chauncey Bailey Project, a collaborative multimedia reporting project by CIR, New America Media, The Maynard Institute, and the Bay Area News Group, among others, is a candidate in both the Investigative and the Knight Award for Public Service categories.

The awards will be announced at the ONA Conference in San Francisco on October 1-3, 2009.

Two years after Chauncey Bailey's slaying

 At a shrine for journalist Chauncey Bailey, mourners remember
his slaying two years ago this week.

On August 2, 2007, journalist Chauncey Bailey was gunned down on a sidewalk in Oakland, California. Within weeks a team of reporters and editors coalesced to form The Chauncey Bailey Project, a collaborative effort to continue Bailey's reporting on Your Black Muslim Bakery, a controversial Oakland group, and to investigate the circumstances of his death and the slow-moving police investigation.

Two years later, the relentless reporting by the team—led by Thomas Peele, Bob Butler, and Mary Fricker—has produced tangible results.

A nine-part series by The Chauncey Bailey Project, published this week, commemorates Bailey's death and reveals new details about his slaying and the motives behind it.

>> Read the series online.

Broussard talks to grand jury about Chauncey Bailey killing

As Devaughndre Broussard spent hours on Tuesday telling a grand jury details about the killing of journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men, his mother waited outside a closed door and said she still doubts her son pulled the trigger. Broussard’s secret testimony in a sealed courtroom in the basement of the Wiley Manual Courthouse is expected to continue Wednesday morning.

>> Read this story and more by The Chauncey Bailey Project.

Chauncey Bailey case investigator suspended

The Chauncey Bailey project reported today that Police Sgt. Derwin K. Longmire was suspended from duty Monday for his handling of the investigation into journalist Chauncey Bailey’s killing in August 2007.

A timeline produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting last fall chronicles Longmire's involvement with members of Your Black Muslim Bakery:

From the article:

Longmire has been under investigation by both the police Internal Affairs Division and the state Justice Department since last year for his handling of the Bailey case and his ties to the former leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery, Yusuf Bey IV, who is jailed and awaiting trial on a host of charges, including kidnapping, torture, real-estate fraud, and assault with a deadly weapon.

The Chauncey Bailey Project reported in October that Longmire failed to document in his case notes evidence that pointed to Bey IV’s involvement in Bailey’s killing. Evidence not documented included a tracking device report that showed Bey IV’s car was parked outside Bailey’s residence fewer that seven hours before Bailey was gunned down in downtown Oakland.

Longmire also never documented in his case notes the existence of a secretly recorded videotape on which Bey IV mocked and laughed about Bailey’s killing, said he hid the gun used in the assassination in his bedroom closet and bragged that he ordered an underling, Devaughndre Broussard, to confess to protect the bakery.

Broussard is the only person charged in Bailey’s death. Broussard confessed that he killed Bailey to stop him from “writing bad things about the bakery” and Bey IV, but he has since recanted. His trial is scheduled for next month.

>> Read the full article.

>> View the full timeline of Sgt. Derwin Longmire's involvement with members of Your Black Muslim Bakery.

Chauncey Bailey Project featured in New York Times

The investigative prowess of reporters and editors working on The Chauncey Bailey Project was applauded by The New York Times:

[The Project] has had a deep impact on the city’s public life, revealing a jailhouse videotape that suggested a wider conspiracy in the murder and which the police seemingly ignored, and helping force the resignation of the Oakland police chief, Wayne Tucker.

The group has said that much of its work is done, but it says it will not shutter the operation completely until the investigation of Yusuf Bey IV, a son of the founder of the bakery, has been completed.

Congratulations to reporters Tom Peele, Mary Fricker, and Bob Butler, and the many others who have contributed to the project.