Yesterday’s murder of Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey (left) by a masked gunman brings to mind the best known killing of a journalist in the United States, the 1976 car-bomb murder of Don Bolles (right), an Arizona Republic reporter who was investigating the Mafia.
His murder shocked journalists nationwide. Nearly 40 reporters and editors from 23 newspapers as varied as Newsday and The Milwaukee Journal descended upon Phoenix to complete the story Bolles had been investigating. The thinking was that that mob might be able to kill one reporter, but it couldn’t stop 40 of them, backed by the nation’s biggest newspapers. The result was a blockbuster series of stories on organized crime in Arizona and how the Mafia was infiltrating the justice system. Here’s an Arizona Republic story about that effort, which was called the Arizona Project.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, which usually focuses its attention on murders of reporters overseas such as the beheading of Daniel Pearl, issued a statement yesterday expressing alarm over Bailey’s murder and calling on Oakland police to conduct a “prompt and vigorous” investigation. The statement included these two paragraphs:
- “Few journalists haven been killed in the line of duty in the United States in recent years, CPJ research shows. In 2001, freelance photographer William Biggart was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and Robert Stevens, a photo editor at The Sun, died of inhalation anthrax in Boca Raton, Fla.
“The last targeted assassination of a journalist occurred in 1993 when radio reporter Dona St. Plite, a Miami radio reporter of Haitian descent, was gunned down at a benefit. The period from 1976 to 1993 saw a total of 12 journalist killings. A CPJ report issued that year, Silenced: The Unsolved Murders of Immigrant Journalists in the United States, found that in all but one case, the victims were immigrant journalists working in languages other than English. Most received little or no national media attention.”