At a time when virtually all of the news coming out of the newspaper industry is very bleak — the owners of the local Philadelphia papers are the latest to file for bankruptcy — here’s an inspiring story of local journalism and why it still matters:
When Chauncey Bailey, the editor of The Oakland Post, in California, was gunned down in broad daylight on a city street 18 months ago, it was not the end of his journalism. In some ways, it was a new beginning.
After his death, a group of reporters — some retired, some out of work — with support from foundations and the University of California, Berkeley, banded together to continue his investigation into a local business called Your Black Muslim Bakery and to look at any role the bakery may have played in Mr. Bailey’s murder and at the role of the police in its investigation.
The group, named The Chauncey Bailey 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.
Wire services can’t/won’t do this local investigative work. Bloggers won’t do it; they don’t have the time, financial incentives or support or attention span. TV journalists could do this type of work but are “culturally” disinclined to put in the effort these folks put in. NPR might do in-depth reporting but not on a local level.
This story illustrates why local journalism matters to communities and why journalism is a civic institution that must be preserved in some form to enable governments to function more transparently and legitimately.
Related: WSJ says it’s time for newspapers to ask readers for fees; “Information wants to be expensive.”