Lani Silver

I have been forlorn since August 2, 2007, when a man wearing a black mask assassinated, in broad daylight – the beloved Oakland, California journalist, Chauncey Bailey.  It was 7:25 a.m.  A nineteen-year-old Bakery handyman confessed to the crime. And then, he retracted his statement.


Bailey, the editor of the esteemed African American newspaper, The Oakland Post, was writing an expose about the criminal activities of the group that ran Your Black Muslim Bakery.


Last year, over 170 journalists around the world were murdered for their work.


As a proud board member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California, this story hit me particularly hard.  Journalists get murdered all the time in Turkey, Russia and Mexico. But in California!


I have been a journalism groupie all my life.  It was never the movie stars that did it for me.  From the age of thirteen, I read both San Francisco newspapers on a daily basis.  It was always the journalists I admired, and now several have been murdered for their work and others are in peril.  If Chauncey Bailey was murdered for a story he was working on, then could I too be murdered for a story I am working on?


I recently published an article for JO LEE on Burma. The junta will not like my piece praising Aung San Suu Kyi. Last month I aired a story on San Francisco’s KQED about a serious safety violation at a major supermarket chain. And I’ve consistently written things about George Bush and Dick Cheney that some would find objectionable.  Does a journalist then assume: Code red!


It is ironic that recent polls show that the field of journalism is ranking low on the credibility scale. This is exasperating.  Most journalists are doing a noble reporting on, and interpreting, the facts of our daily lives, on the frontlines, day after day, not for themselves, but for us.


So do us all a favor:  When you finish reading this article, pick up your phone and call your local newspaper and thank the journalists who work there.  Call the Oakland Post and ask how they’re doing.  And read up on Chauncey Bailey.



Lani Silver – Historian and Lecturer for American Program Bureau {Bureau of Mikhail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu & Betty Williams}. Lani is a noted oral historian who directed San Francisco’s landmark Holocaust Oral History Project, coordinating l,700 oral histories with Holocaust survivors.  She and her team discovered the story of Chiune Sugihara, ‘The Japanese Schindler’. She too, became Steven Spielberg’s first consultant and trainer for his Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation; 54,000 testimonies were completed.  Lani is currently the Director of the James Byrd Jr. Racism Oral History Project.


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