Former Merc editor Jerry Ceppos (right) starts next month as the dean of the University of Nevada-Reno’s journalism dean and guess who shows up? The alt-weekly in Reno, The News and Review, did a profile of Ceppos and most of it is about the late Gary Webb, the Merc reporter who in 1996 wrote a three-part series that alleged the CIA was involved in urban America’s crack cocaine epidemic.

Ceppos originally defended the story after it had been attacked by federal officials, the Washington Post and NY Times. A few months later, Ceppos backtracked on it. Webb (left) was banished to a Merc bureau in Cupertino and later left the paper. Webb died in 2004 from two gunshot wounds to the head that a coroner ruled as a suicide. The alt-weekly’s profile overlooks Ceppos’ 24-year career at the Miami Herald, Merc and as vice president/news for Knight Ridder. The profile notes, however, that Ceppos plans to push “ethics education and critical thinking” as j-school dean. (Photo credits: Reno News and Review, book jacket for Webb’s “Dark Alliance”)

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One Comment

  1. It’s unfair to attack Ceppos for Webb’s story. Ceppos stood behind Webb for several months until it was clear that the evidence did not support Webb’s conclusions. Webb claimed that an editor (not Ceppos) altered his lede to say that the CIA was to blame for the crack cocaine epidemic, but the body of his story clearly shows that was the idea Webb intended to impress upon readers. Perhaps the only criticism one can make of Ceppos is that he pushed his newsroom too much — that he was happy Webb was going after the CIA in a way that The New York Times wouldn’t. Perhaps Webb’s story was wrong, but the Times has made significant errors too. Remember Jayson Blair?

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