An interview with Post Publisher Paul Cobb and Attorney Walter Riley
by Minister of Information JR
MOI JR: How has the murder of Post Editor Chauncey Bailey affected Publisher Paul Cobb and the Oakland Post Newspaper?
Attorney Riley: (continued from Part 2) In addition to this, the second part is implying that certainly there is some impact on the Post. The editor of the Post was lost, the paper is, at this point, still reeling from various problems that it has had, because of outside forces acting on the paper.
I was involved with representing the paper in a criminal charge against the newspaper for some illegal dumping. The illegal dumping had occurred prior to Paul Cobb being involved with the paper, prior to him buying the paper, almost two years prior to Paul purchasing the newspaper.
The charges by the San Francisco District Attorney against the Post was for dumping ink in Hunters Point. Paul had nothing to do with that but he had to face criminal charges. He had to deal with the criminal charges against the Post, which subjected him to possible outrageous monetary fines. So we defended against that, and in the meantime there were financial problems because nobody wanted to support the newspaper. Investors at least, didn’t want to invest in a newspaper when it was a potential for outrageous fines, which could be in the millions of dollars for the paper being found guilty of dumping ink illegally.
And while I say Paul had nothing to do with it, Paul knew nothing about it. Paul was not aware of it at the time that he purchased the paper. And through the entire period of negotiations, he did not know that there was a possible charge for illegal dumping – and only became aware of it five days, I believe, after the closure of escrow. The District Attorney then sent someone to Paul’s office to serve warrants. And then defending against the criminal charge proceeded.
So the criminal charge was resolved maybe a month or so before Chauncey became the editor of the paper. And when the criminal charge was resolved, it looked like there was a chance for a respite from the paper’s troubles and then a chance for some growth, a chance for expanding, a chance for bringing in some more investors, and a chance for Chauncey to fly high as the editor of the newspaper.
So there was great hope and looking forward, and then Chauncey is killed in this horrible manner. And the paper is still reeling from that, because of the security problems that have resulted from that. The amount of investors has not come forward in the same way that we had hoped would come forward before.
But the paper is still moving forward. It is still struggling to come to the public as an important community resource. And the plan is that that will continue. At the same time, we’re still dealing with the aftermath of sort of a tightening of the financial resources that are available, because of the killing.
MOI JR: Is there anything that you want to add to that, Paul?
Paul: No, I think that he spoke accurately and eloquently about it. And we lost large sums of money fighting for two and a half years against the District Attorney of San Francisco Kamala Harris. And she finally dropped the charges after Walter Riley appeared in court and negotiated with her office. And they dropped the charges, and there was no fine.
The first announced possible fine was $18 million. That news hit all over the country. It was in every major national newspaper and all of the advertising journals and all the advertising agencies. A lot of people concluded that if a newspaper is going to have to pay an $18 million fine, then they are not going to be around much longer; therefore, “we advertising agencies should look elsewhere and not consider placing ads.”
It was a damper on our credibility, which made us look like criminals. It cost us $350,000 in 48 hours because investors who had come forward to invest in the purchase cancelled, and some even asked for their money back. So we started off with one arm tied behind us and with one leg in a cast. And we had to run a race, a sprint, in that condition. So that is how it began, and we limped along.
Chauncey came from the Tribune and assumed the role as travel editor and staff writer and struggled along with us. And that was the atmosphere and the climate of the newspaper over a two and a half year period where we lost all kinds of resources, but we managed to brave it out by people working in some instances for minimum wage, and some who volunteered.
And then Chauncey gets killed. And so since then, our paper has shrunk in size, and I made an announcement, I think after the funeral, that if we have to go down to four pages and a few copies, we will continue to come out as long as there’s breath, and if we can’t make it at that point, then we may have to consider trying to sell it or give it to someone who would carry on that tradition, but that’s basically the situation at the paper.
MOI JR: What do you think about the media coverage surrounding the murder of Chauncey Bailey and the journalist endeavors that are underway at the Oakland Tribune in regards to the murder of Chauncey Bailey?
Paul: Well, I think that it is impressive that we have seen international coverage, and the impact of Chauncey and the symbolism of killing the messenger resonated within the media all over the world. And that’s impressive and encouraging. And as we sort through the murky details of the circumstances of his death, some of the coverage is going to start appearing to be either confusing or leaving room for questions.
But I am encouraged that all of the local media is interested and want to cover it. I hope they focus on all of the issues and go behind the police report, and I hope that they ask questions. In the Tribune’s most recent coverage, and by the way by mentioning this I don’t want to imply that the Tribune has “been unfriendly to the Post” or in any way tried to undermine us, in fact quite the contrary.
Since Martin Reynolds has taken over as the managing editor, an unheard of, unprecedented rally of his efforts, and with him connected to media around the Bay Area, they have adopted us sort of as a foster child that needed immediate attention. And they have supplied us with content, some of my colleagues at the Tribune that were there when I was there as religion editor and columnist have supplied us with articles, and they’ve given us permission to print their stuff.
We’ve had a wonderful response from the Berkeley Daily Planet. They have offered to let us use content that is relevant for our newspaper, especially our Berkeley edition. And we’ve had a remarkable response from media in general.
In a most recent story that appeared on the release of the crime book, or the information from the police department, where the officer said that he had gleaned information from me in his interview that said that the representatives of the Berkeley Daily Planet had given Chauncey information about prior murders etc., that was not the case. The Tribune coverage did not include, I think, a thorough response from me or those at the Post.
We could have put that into context, because I think that an unfortunate impression could be drawn from that, that the police developed their theory or their conclusion about the Black Muslim Bakery connection from the interview I gave them three hours after Chauncey was killed, which was not accurate.
The Tribune coverage did not include, I think, a thorough response from me or those at the Post. … I think that an unfortunate impression could be drawn … that the police developed … their conclusion about the Black Muslim Bakery connection from the interview I gave them three hours after Chauncey was killed, which was not accurate.
And so part of what we plan to do is to talk to the media, to go on programs such as this, to try to expand the understanding of what really did take place in that interview. And I’m sure that the Tribune will – in follow up articles and stories – will include the broader picture of not what was only in the reports, but what was left out of the report and our version of what we told the officers.