‘Trailblazer’ and ‘Guardian Angel,’ Jo Ann Ross Picks Up Stanton Award

Jo Ann Ross, Paramount Global advertising chairman, picked up the Center for Communication’s Frank Stanton Award for Excellence in Communication in New York November 2. The award is named for Center for Communication founder and former CBS president Dr. Frank Stanton. 

Jo Ann ross

Jo Ann Ross (Image credit: Paramount Global)

Speaking on behalf of Ross were Gina Yashere, comedienne and co-showrunner on Bob Hearts Abishola; John Halley, president, Paramount Advertising; and George Cheeks, president and CEO, CBS. 

“Thank you, Jo Ann, for letting us use your living room for this event,” Yashere said of the grand ballroom at 583 Park Avenue. 

In September, Ross shifted to the chairman role at Paramount, with Halley moving into the president post. Halley shared about meeting Ross for the first time in 2019, when Bob Bakish, Paramount president and CEO, introduced them. Bakish said, “I’d like you to meet your new COO of advertising,” to which Ross responded, “I don’t need a COO of advertising.”

“What you see is what you get with Jo Ann,” Halley said, using terms such as steady hand, sharp wit, trust, wisdom and integrity to describe her. If Ross were an emoji, he added, it would be three hearts, and two steak knives. 

Next up was Cheeks, who called Ross an innovator, a trailblazer and a visionary. 

He spoke about taking on the president role at CBS amidst COVID-19 in March 2020, and the “full-blown panic attack” he had just before starting. “Little did I know, I had a guardian angel,” Cheeks said. “Jo Ann was there from Day One.”

Stepping onstage, Ross called Cheeks “a steadfast companion, friend and mentor.”

She said she was humbled, and honored, to get the award. “I’m overwhelmed by all the nice things that were said about me,” added Ross. “I’m not sure they’re all true.”

Ross mentioned Paramount’s “Content for Change” initiative, designed to combat racism, bias and stereotypes on and off screen. She spoke of “mentoring and developing the next generation of leaders.”

“It’s always been really important to me,” said Ross, who is part of the B+C Hall of Fame

Ross oversees advertising sales for networks that include CBS, BET, Comedy Central, CMT, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network and Smithsonian Channel, along with Paramount Plus. She was promoted to the president’s role in late 2019 following the merger of CBS and Viacom

Ross had one final word for aspiring media professionals in the audience. “Don’t change who you are,” she said.

The Center for Communication is a nonprofit that promotes diversity in media by educating and empowering students seeking to enter the industry. Past Stanton award winners include Tina Perry, Soledad O'Brien, Rita Ferro and David Nevins. ■

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.