Gerald M. Sass, senior vice president of The Freedom Forum, is the 12th winner of the Ida B. Wells Award, based at Kansas University, for exemplary achievement in the hiring and advancement of minorities in the news media.
"Jerry Sass has worked passionately and effectively on behalf of diversity in the communication media work force," Samuel L. Adams, KU associate professor of journalism and Wells award curator, said. "While much activity to increase minority inclusion in the media is now popular, it was not in the early 1970s, when Jerry Sass demonstrated exceptional courage and began this cause."
"Jerry Sass has played a pivotal role in bringing about systemwide changes to ensure the hiring and advancement of minorities in the news media," Charles L. Overby, president and chief executive officer of The Freedom Forum, said.
The award will be presented at 7 p.m. July 28 during the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists in Atlanta. That conference is in conjunction with UNITY '94. Sass will receive the award and deliver the Wells Award address. U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders also will speak.
The Wells Award honors individuals who have worked to hire and promote minorities in American news media. The award is given in honor of Ida B. Wells Barnett, a pioneer black publisher and anti-lynching crusader during the late 19th and early 20th century.
A bust of Wells, created by KU sculptor Elden C. Tefft, symbolizes the award, which is given in alternating years at the meetings of award sponsors NABJ and the National Conference of Editorial Writers. KU's William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications also is a sponsor.
Sass joined the Gannett Rochester Newspapers as personnel director in 1966 and in 1971 was named director of personnel for Gannett Co. Inc. He joined the Gannett Foundation in 1977 as director of education programs.
In 1974, Sass, working with Gannett's John C. Quinn, secured funding from the Gannett Foundation that enabled a team of minority journalists to save the Summer Program for Minority Journalists.