He was born in Webster, New York. He was a farm boy in the 1930's. Later, he moved to Rochester.
He was born on May 3, 1932.
He attended a private Catholic high school in Rochester. After, he attended Niagara University. He got a bachelor's in social sciences. He received his master's at the University of Chicago.
He got accepted to Cornell University through a fellowship. But, he was married with a second child on the way. He never completed his dissertation.
His first job was at General Dynamics working in human resources. He was there for 6 years.
General Dynamics was a major government contractor. They were reviewed annually.
In 1966, he began working with Gannett as a personnel director for the Rochester newspapers. In 1971, he was moved to corporate staff.
He says he had major responsibilities in areas he wasn't familiar with. He did a lot of journalism school recruiting and working with editors.
His mentor was John Quinn, who he says was dedicated to bringing diversity across the Gannett company. Sass carried this dedication to his recruiting. He says it was a great challenge and he enjoyed it.
Priorities of the Gannett foundation wanted to be changed; they wanted a study to be done on journalism education to see where priorities lay. Sass volunteered to conduct the survey.
He did the survey in 1973 and made a report to the foundation.
Back then, language for diversity was "support for minorities."
The foundation was recruiting a director of education, and Sass got the job.
The first diversity efforts were at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The first one was at Howard University in 1974.
They also helped with HU's career conference. He says it was a great program with seminars and interviewing.
He says news editors were the gatekeepers. They were deciding for society what should and shouldn't be covered. If you can bring a mix into the newsroom that reflects the population, you're much more likely to present a more valid picture.
The newspapers and wired services had a built-in pipeline. In order for change, the both ends of the pipeline had to be looked at.
Unconventional sources of journalists were brought in. He mentions the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
Recruitment was encouraged at HBCUs. Developing sources took time.
They also helped journalism schools with scholarship programs and summer workshops.
He calls John Quinn the "conscious of Gannett." He was able to get support from editors and succeed in recruiting.
He says white males dominated the journalism industry.
He talks about his interest in diversity. He mentions a paper he did, "The Common Good" that was on equity and fairness.
He says he had college experiences that provided him insight. One was when he was a senior at NU and was applying to graduate schools.
When he got a graduate scholarship to the University of Chicago, his education was questioned because he had gone to NU.
Back then, diversity was an issue of race. Newsrooms wanted black reporters to cover civil unrest.
He mentions HBCUs that Gannett was working with. He says at one point they were working with the National Black Media Coalition.
When Gannett got involved with the Institute for Journalism Education (IEJ), they had a broader concept.
In the mid 1970's, Hispanics were targeted. Gannett was introduced to the California Chicano News Media Association (CCNMA). He says it was a fascinating experience for him.
He says journalism schools deserve credit for bringing more women into the newsroom.
Women in management was another issue. Newsrooms weren't ready for women to take leadership roles.
He thought of grants as "venture capital investments."
He talks about the concept of change. You need risk and push.
He goes back to the pipeline concept. He says civil unrest affected newsrooms.
Minority students didn't have support from their parents to become reporters.
He was involved in getting grants approved for minority programs.
When they were forming the doctoral program at North Carolina, they took professionals and put them through a rapid course. He says there was always a mix.
Half of the awarded scholars were minorities. "Virtually everything we did had some element of diversity in it."
He estimates tens of millions of dollars awarded over those years.
He talks about his experience with John Quinn trying to keep a program alive. Robert Maynard became another mentor to Sass.
Quinn and Sass were told the program was ending at Columbia University because goals had been met. Sass wrote a proposal to keep the program alive.
Sass says he went to 14 consecutive graduations for the program.
Going to graduation was a chance for him to "recharge his batteries." He says the enthusiasm was contagious.
Training editors was just as important as training reporters.
ASNE had a goal of reaching a certain percentage of minorities in newsrooms. Sass says it was unusual that they set a numerical goal.
The annual survey was the first step and he says there was some reluctance from editors. They didn't want to publicly go on record about their newsroom statistics.
In 1979/1980 ASNE started a program on regional workshops.
ASNE eventually hired a full-time staffer responsible for promoting minority programs.
Sass thinks that the majority of newspapers had good intentions and gave good effort. But running a newspaper isn't like running General Motors.
He had little involvement in the radio and broadcast industry. He says radio and television were ahead of newspapers in the 1970's.
He talks about the Federal Communications Commission. License renewal was an important factor. Newspapers weren't subject to this.
He helped with the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). "Just the presence of an organization like that, I found very appealing."
When minority organizations were recognized and invited, the equation was changing.
Groups like NABJ were a great recruiting tool for prospective high school and college students. And for having someone to relate to.
There was pressure. He got a call from a colleague who had a suspicion that he was creating unions at the summer workshops.
"We were putting power into the hands of some people that didn't have power before." When a mix is changed, there's going to be abrasiveness. If you're successful, you'll manage the abrasiveness.
His first visit to a CCNMA meeting was exciting. He talks about the first proposal submitted.
CCNMA had everything it needed but money, and he wanted to see the organization stretch. He says working with CCNMA was one of the high points of his career.
He says CCNMA gave birth to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ).
The formation of NAHJ. He says CCNMA didn't see themselves expanding as a national organization.
After 1982, steering meetings began. He went to a Los Angeles meeting with a $50,000 check.
Other organizations and foundations came in to help with funding. He says NAHJ exceeded his expectations in terms of the growth of membership.
He recalls being in D.C. and seeing the dedication from everyone. Seeing them out there was an extraordinary thing.
He says it was a major turning point because you could see accomplishments being made.
The formation of Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). He says there was a significant population.
An agreement to go national was made. He says the last convention he went to was large and in Honolulu.
AAJA launched their first overseas affiliate in Hong Kong. He spoke at one of the meetings.
There was always a push to do better and not just settle with the status quo.
There was a Native American Publisher's Association. A member was looking for funding and Dow Jones became their primary funders.
There was a split in leadership and the association became the Native American Journalist Association (NAJA).
His joined AEJMC to help his recruiting position at Gannett. He tried his best to get involved in AEJMC programs.
In the 1970's, AEJMC was primarily a white male organization. The foundation gradually began to fund more programs in AEJMC.
AEJMC joined forces with the accrediting council to have a requirement that reflected diversity. It was a long period of evolution for AEJMC.
He mentions accomplishments made by Asian American journalists.
AEJMC has divisions such as Minorities and Communication (MAC). They also have commissions on gays, lesbians, and transexuals. "There's visibility for virtually every piece of the population."
The Freedom Forum decided to try a geographic presence in the western United States. They chose Felix Gutierrez to lead this.
Sass first met Gutierrez through CCNMA. He says he had great talent and a gift for understanding people and helping to develop them.
He talks about the formation of the Media Study Center at Columbia University. The idea was to bring scholars and media professionals together so they could work together on projects.
He wrote a proposal and then looked at universities for a home base.
He talks about a journalism educator at the University of Oregon. This person became the executive director for the media center and had great progress in journalism education.
Today, the program is gone.
In 1990, he chaired a program called "FF." This led to the change of programs at the Freedom Forum. One of the recommendations from a committee he was on was the possibility of a museum.
He didn't think a museum could exist without the exit of programs like the Media Study Center.
He talks about the creation and building of the museum.
He talks about money and spending numbers of different programs.
He wasn't part of the eliminating process since it happened after he retired in 1997. He says it had to be difficult.
Sass is concerned about diversity in journalism. Traditional news outlets have diminished their importance. Most young people get their news online.
He is also concerned that everyone is becoming a journalist with blogs and such. Information coming through isn't always true.
How can we need maintain diversity when there is fewer and fewer major outlets for news.
Journalism schools have made good progress in diversity. He would like to see more diversity in Ph.D. candidates.
He sees unusual trends in society. He talks about individual freedom.
Young graduates have more opportunities. There is more diversity in terms of race, gender, and sex. We have a long way to go, but many doors have been opened.
He talks about diversity outside of journalism.
He talks about newspaper cuts. We have to look at what's going to emerge from the internet.
He talks about a quote from a colleague. There has been progress in law, but putting the spirit of those laws in the heart of the American people is challenging.
There's a survey on the First Amendment, and 29% of the American population cannot name a single First Amendment freedom. And 40% of the populations thinks the First Amendment goes too far in protecting individual expression.
Media literacy is an issue journalists have to keep in mind.
He will always be grateful to everybody who supported his career. He had a talent for seeing talent in others.