Jerry Ceppos, previous leading editor of San Jose Mercury News, dies at 75

Jerry Ceppos, who as a top editor of the San Jose Mercury Information led the publication as it became Silicon Valley’s newspaper of document all through the know-how boom of the 1990s, distinguishing himself with his moral clarity when the paper excelled as properly as when it fell quick, died July 29 at his residence in Baton Rouge. He was 75.

The bring about of death was sepsis, mentioned his spouse, Karen Ceppos.

Mr. Ceppos devoted fifty percent a century to the apply and training of journalism, paying out most of his job with Knight Ridder when it was the 2nd-most significant newspaper chain in the United States. He was an editor at the Miami Herald just before joining the Mercury News in 1981, rising to the position of running editor and then government editor from 1995 to 1999.

“He was a truly exceptional editor who reworked the San Jose Mercury News from what I’ll contact a respectable newspaper to, for the duration of his editorship, one particular of the 10 finest newspapers in the nation,” Bill Marimow, a former editor in chief of the Baltimore Sun and the Philadelphia Inquirer, explained in an interview.

Mr. Ceppos afterwards served as Knight Ridder’s corporate vice president for information, with a portfolio that included oversight of information operations at all the chain’s newspapers as well as its Washington bureau, from 1999 to 2005.

Mr. Ceppos’s tenure at the Mercury Information coincided with the phenomenal early advancement of the technology market in Silicon Valley. He regarded “the story of Silicon Valley … nothing at all fewer than Florence in the time of the Medicis,” journalist Michael Shapiro wrote in an short article about the Mercury Information revealed in the Columbia Journalism Evaluate (CJR) in 2011.

“When Jerry turned Government Editor, he understood how important masking the tech tale was to the paper, which include what was then the quite commencing of Washington’s curiosity in tech,” Rory O’Connor, who served at the time as Washington correspondent for the Mercury Information, wrote in an email. “Look at what’s occurring now to see just how perfectly he could see how significant that story would turn into.”

Less than Mr. Ceppos’s leadership, the Mercury Information made significant coverage in other places as nicely, winning two Pulitzer Prizes during his time as managing editor.

Three Mercury Information reporters — Lewis M. Simons, Pete Carey and Katherine Ellison — received the 1986 Pulitzer Prize in global reporting for a collection on the autocratic Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos and his enormous transfers of wealth overseas. The series was widely thought of to have aided precipitate his ouster shortly thereafter.

The Mercury News workers afterwards obtained a Pulitzer Prize for basic news reporting recognizing its protection of the Loma Prieta earthquake on Oct. 17, 1989, which killed 63 men and women in the San Francisco Bay spot.

He “really aided tutorial that protection,” Susan Goldberg, the performing city editor at the time and afterwards a successor to Mr. Ceppos as govt editor at the Mercury News, claimed in an job interview. In a significant-force, deadline-driven company that “sometimes isn’t regarded for the kindest people,” she additional, he was a supportive presence who “helped men and women truly feel assured in themselves and in their have capabilities.”

Mr. Ceppos later on guided the Mercury News by way of an uncomfortable episode next the publication in 1996 of a three-aspect investigative sequence dubbed “Dark Alliance,” which sought to connection the CIA to the crack cocaine epidemic in the United States. The article content, penned by reporter Gary Webb, implied the CIA realized that a drug ring with ties to anti-communist Nicaraguan rebels was peddling crack in Los Angeles in the 1980s and that the ring was directing hundreds of thousands of pounds in profits to the U.S.-backed “contras.”

Cocaine “was pretty much unobtainable in black neighborhoods right before customers of the CIA’s military brought it into South-Central in the 1980s at bargain-basement costs,” the report alleged. The on line version of the tale involved a graphic in which the CIA insignia was superimposed above the impression of a person smoking crack.

Yrs later, The Washington Article explained the collection as “the initially major journalism result in celebre on the recently emerging Internet.” Some Black leaders pointed to the Mercury News reports to accuse the CIA of deliberately distributing crack cocaine in African American communities. Various government investigations ensued.

Amid the furor, The Write-up, the New York Situations and the Los Angeles Situations posted experiences that forged doubt on aspects of the Mercury News’s reporting. Reporters for The Put up wrote that “the accessible information and facts does not support the summary that the CIA-backed contras — or Nicaraguans in common — performed a big job in the emergence of crack as a narcotic in popular use across the United States.”

Mr. Ceppos, who the CJR documented had been on health-related go away, in the end assigned an inner crew of journalists to assessment the newspaper’s handling of the tale.

“We oversimplified the complex concern of how the crack epidemic in The us grew,” he wrote in an open up letter to readers in 1997. “Through imprecise language and graphics, we developed impressions that were open up to misinterpretation.”

“I consider that we fell brief at every move of our method in the composing, modifying and creation of our do the job,” he even more wrote. “Several people below share that burden. … But in the end, the responsibility was, and is, mine.”

Doyle McManus, the Washington bureau chief of the Los Angeles Periods, explained to The Publish at the time that Mr. Ceppos’s column was “an extraordinarily tricky detail to do.”

“I give him significant marks for openness and candor,” McManus explained, “which is one thing newspapers really don’t have a really good report of accomplishing. We tend to bury our corrections in compact sort on web page 2.”

“He was a deeply ethical man or woman,” reported Carey, an investigative reporter who labored under Mr. Ceppos on each Pulitzer-profitable assignments as very well as on the inside assessment of Darkish Alliance. Mr. Ceppos’s carry out, he mentioned, was “characteristic of the way he was.”

Jerome Merle Ceppos was born in Washington on Oct. 14, 1946. His mom was a homemaker and later on a serious estate agent. His father had a bachelor’s degree in journalism but was unable to find a work in newspapering and built a living as the operator of a Jewish deli.

An uncle on Mr. Ceppos’s maternal facet was Sidney Epstein, a journalist who became editor and affiliate publisher of the aged Washington Star, the city’s afternoon newspaper.

Mr. Ceppos grew up in Silver Spring, Md., exactly where he commenced a newspaper in elementary school and edited the newspaper at Northwood Substantial. Soon after his graduation in 1964, he enrolled at the College of Maryland. He edited the newspaper there as nicely and received a bachelor’s diploma in journalism in 1969.

Following 3 several years as a reporter at the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, N.Y., Mr. Ceppos moved to the Miami Herald in 1972. There he did a stint as wire editor, with the endeavor of monitoring the barrage of incoming national and worldwide stories from wire providers.

Clark Hoyt, a previous public editor of the New York Times and vice president of news for Knight Ridder, recalled an experience with Mr. Ceppos during those early a long time of their career. Hoyt, then doing work as Washington correspondent for the Herald, transpired to be in the newsroom in Miami attending the tale meeting the place editors hashed out which stories to location on the entrance site. On the front of an early edition of the paper was an article about an accident near Lake Okeechobee involving a bus that overturned, resulting in the drowning deaths of some of the migrant staff on board.

An editor with what Hoyt described as a “volcanic temper” dismissed the account as a website traffic incident of minimal curiosity to visitors in Miami. It must not operate on the front site, the editor reported.

Mr. Ceppos, then in his 20s, realized of the deliberations and walked in on the assembly. In a “quiet,” virtually “hesitant” method, Hoyt recalled, Mr. Ceppos questioned the senior editor, “Have you examine this story?” It ultimately ran on the entrance webpage.

Listed here was a “young, junior person in the area,” Hoyt explained, who “knows that a miscalculation is about to be created and just does the ideal point. … I usually thought he experienced great judgment and fantastic braveness.”

Mr. Ceppos used nine years at the Miami Herald just before relocating to San Jose. At the Mercury Information as well as in his corporate job at Knight Ridder, he took major techniques to boost the range of the editorial personnel.

“To Jerry, variety in the newsroom was not just for display,” recalled Lori Aratani, a reporter who handles transportation for The Submit and who before labored at the Mercury News underneath Mr. Ceppos. “He truly believed that making a newsroom that mirrored the communities it included aided build belief and credibility.”

A calendar year soon after Mr. Ceppos remaining Knight Ridder, the chain was marketed to the McClatchy newspaper corporation. The Mercury News was later on marketed to MediaNews Team Inc.

Mr. Ceppos served as dean of the Reynolds University of Journalism at the University of Nevada in Reno and then, from 2011 to 2018, as dean of the Manship Faculty of Mass Interaction at Louisiana State College. He assisted start a university student information wire that served the two to teach aspiring journalists as effectively as to health supplement neighborhood information coverage with experiences on stories which include unsolved Ku Klux Klan killings from the civil legal rights era.

Survivors include his spouse of 40 decades, the previous Karen Feingold of Baton Rouge, and two youngsters, Matthew Ceppos of Reno and Robin Ceppos of Washington.

Mr. Ceppos was the editor of the 2021 ebook “Covering Politics in the Age of Trump.” His final printed newspaper report was a reminiscence of his large university newspaper adviser, Mary Lee Ruddle, who died months before he did at 95. She was the particular person, he wrote, who, when he was a “geeky teenage boy,” gave him the self-confidence to ship him on his way.

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