Jerry Ceppos, a distinguished editor and educator, died Friday following an illness. He was 75.
Ceppos was the one-time vice president of news at Knight Ridder and the executive editor and senior vice president of The San Jose Mercury News. Ceppos also made his mark in journalism education. He was the dean of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and was named dean of Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication in 2011.
According to reports, his wife, Karen Ceppos, said her husband died of sepsis following a serious infection.
Jerry Ceppos could claim he grew up as an editor. He edited his high school paper and edited his college paper at the University of Maryland, too. Upon graduation, he was a reporter and editor at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in New York. Three years later, he took an editing job at the Miami Herald, which began his long connection with what would become Knight Ridder newspapers.
As the vice president for news at Knight Ridder, Ceppos oversaw the second largest publisher of newspapers in the country at the time. In addition to the Mercury News, the group included the Miami Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Detroit Free Press, The Charlotte Observer, The Kansas City Star and 26 other daily papers.
Ceppos had the odd distinction of having been awarded the Society of Professional Journalists’ first Ethics in Journalism award for acknowledging flaws in the reporting process behind a Mercury News investigative series.
The Mercury News’ story about Ceppos included this passage:
In a journalism career spanning more than 50 years, Jerry Ceppos led The Mercury News when California’s Silicon Valley was exploding with innovation, including the birth of digital media that would ultimately undermine the traditional newspaper business. As an editor and later an educator, he drove a focus on the new technology and its remaking of society. He also championed diversity in the newsroom and the classroom.
“Jerry Ceppos was a wonderful journalist — talented, principled, industrious, committed to accuracy and fairness,” said Larry Jinks, former publisher of The Mercury News.
The paper won two Pulitzer Prizes while Ceppos was managing editor.
The Mercury News added, “Ceppos will be buried in Miami during a private family service. A public celebration of his life will be held later. Friends are asked to contribute to the Manship School or the charity of their choice.”