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What White House Journalists Can Learn From the Chauncey Bailey Project: How to Journalistically Crowdsource the Trump/Russia Investigation

With President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, one thing has become apparent:  A truly independent investigation of any ties between the Russian government and the Trump presidential campaign will only be accomplished by the free press, for however long it remains free.

There is precedent for journalists coming together across a variety of platforms to conduct an investigation together and report on it:  The Chauncey Bailey Project.

Those of you who know me personally know of my brief interactions with the late Chauncey Bailey, a respected Oakland journalist who was killed investigating criminal activities of the Your Muslim Bakery in Oakland.  Journalists from television, print, radio, the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, the Center for Investigative Journalism, and the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism came together to pick up where Chauncey Bailey was stopped in his investigation by murder and to investigate his murder themselves.  They agreed on ground rules about sharing what they found and publishing across platforms.  Their work ultimately led to arrest and prosecution of Bailey's murderer.  In short, these journalists journalistically crowdsourced the investigation into the Your Muslim Bakery and Bailey's murder.

The importance of the Chauncey Bailey Project is that journalists didn't wait for the government to investigate Bailey's death.  It may have been the idea of a journalist being gunned down in America for doing his job that galvanized journalists from competing platforms and organizations to make sure justice was done and the truth was told.

I don't mean to trivialize Chauncey Bailey's murder, but the stakes with the investigation into the Russian connections to the Trump presidential campaign are at least as high as the stakes in the investigation into Chauncey's murder because of the potential for upending American democracy as we know it. Trump's attacks on the media, the intelligence community, and pretty much anyone capable of getting to the truth of the matter are highly disturbing. The firing of FBI Director Comey while the FBI was in the midst of investigating this very matter smacks of Watergate.  The Congress, unlike the Watergate Congress, is hopelessly compromised by the Republicans' intoxication with their own power.  The late Senator Howard Baker, a Republican from Tennessee who played a pivotal role in the Watergate hearings and was known as the "Great Conciliator,' would not claim these Republicans.  Or, he would woodshed them.

So instead of being mad about Sean Spicer hiding "among" the bushes of the White House or Trump's threat to end press briefings, White House journalists need to come together a la the Chauncey Bailey Project and do their own investigation of Russia's involvement in the Trump campaign and the 2016 American election.  The freedoms that still exist that allow them to do their work demand no less.

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