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Michael Parks, Reporter Who Rose to Lead The Los Angeles Times, Dies at 78


Michael Parks, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning overseas correspondent for The Los Angeles Times who went on to grow to be the highest editor on the paper, one of many nation’s largest metropolitan dailies, died on Jan. 8 at a hospital in Pasadena, Calif. He was 78.

The trigger was a coronary heart assault and kidney failure, his son Christopher mentioned.

Mr. Parks reported from around the globe from 1970 to 1995, first for The Baltimore Sun after which for The Los Angeles Times. In his time overseas, he chronicled a number of the most important geopolitical occasions in trendy historical past, together with the warfare in Vietnam, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the unraveling of apartheid in South Africa.

While he was in Johannesburg for The Times, the white-minority authorities introduced in late 1986 that it was expelling him after he had been documenting the brutal segregationist coverage of apartheid for 2 years. As the nation lurched violently towards historic change, Mr. Parks was the fifth correspondent that 12 months to obtain an expulsion order.

The Times determined to enchantment; the story of the Black majority’s insurrection towards white rule was too vital to not cowl. In early 1987, Mr. Parks and editors from Los Angeles met in Cape Town with three authorities ministers to plead their case.

The ministers introduced out bins containing 242 articles Mr. Parks had written in 1986. Every one was annotated, with every slight towards the white regime duly famous. No doubt, the ministers mentioned, Mr. Parks had solid South Africa in a detrimental gentle.

And but the ministers couldn’t discover a single error in any of the 242 dispatches. In a uncommon transfer, they reversed the expulsion order and allowed Mr. Parks to remain.

His meticulous reporting was rewarded once more a couple of months later with the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in worldwide reporting for what the Pulitzer committee known as his “balanced and comprehensive coverage of South Africa.”

“He was a student of liberation struggles,” Scott Kraft, who adopted Mr. Parks as The Times’s bureau chief in Johannesburg, mentioned in a telephone interview.

Mr. Kraft, now a managing editor at The Times, mentioned that because the scholarly Mr. Parks launched him to his sources, he might see that lots of them, notably the exiled leaders of the African National Congress, loved discussing political philosophy and technique with him.

“He had been in other world capitals with civil conflict, and he really understood the philosophical basis of liberation movements,” Mr. Kraft mentioned.

And one other factor: “He never dressed like a swashbuckling correspondent,” Mr. Kraft added. “He always wore khakis and a blue blazer so that no one could mistake him for a participant.”

Michael Christopher Parks was born on Nov. 17, 1943, in Detroit, the oldest of seven kids of Robert J. and Mary Rosalind (Smith) Parks. His father was a instructor within the Detroit public colleges, his mom a homemaker.

Michael went to the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, the place he majored in classical languages and English literature and graduated in 1965. The 12 months earlier than he graduated, he married Linda Katherine Durocher, a classmate, who grew to become a librarian. She survives him.

In addition to his son Christopher, he’s additionally survived by one other son, Matthew; two brothers, Thomas and James; two sisters, Mary Elizabeth Parks and Mary Constance Parks; and 4 grandchildren. A daughter, Danielle Parks, died of leukemia in 2007.

After school, Mr. Parks grew to become a reporter at The Detroit News after which labored briefly for the Time-Life News Service in New York. He helped begin The Suffolk Sun, a newspaper on the East End of Long Island, in 1966 and after two years landed a job at The Baltimore Sun as a authorities reporter in Annapolis, Md.

His first abroad task got here in 1970 when The Sun despatched him to Saigon to cowl the ultimate American fight in Vietnam.

He then served as Moscow bureau chief; Middle East correspondent, based mostly in Cairo; and Hong Kong bureau chief. In 1979, he opened The Sun’s bureau in Beijing. He was one of many first American reporters to be based mostly there after China and the United States established diplomatic relations.

The Los Angeles Times employed him from The Sun in 1980 and saved him in Beijing as bureau chief. From there, he served as bureau chief in Johannesburg, Moscow and Jerusalem. He moved to Los Angeles in 1995 to grow to be deputy overseas editor, managing the paper’s 27 overseas correspondents.

After a 12 months Mr. Parks was promoted to managing editor; in 1997, at 53, he was named the highest editor, overseeing an editorial employees of 1,350 individuals and an annual finances of $120 million.

During his tenure, the paper elevated its circulation, expanded its protection areas, gained 4 Pulitzers and began to diversify its employees.

“He was a terrific foreign correspondent himself,” Dean Baquet, the manager editor of The New York Times and a former editor of The Los Angeles Times, mentioned in an e-mail. “And as editor, he preserved The Los Angeles Times’s role as a major voice in international coverage.”

But it was a tumultuous interval. The Chandler household, which had owned the paper for a century, put it up on the market.

In addition, one of many largest scandals within the paper’s historical past erupted when The Times devoted all the challenge of its Oct. 10, 1999, Sunday journal to the opening of Staples Center. In a quiet profit-sharing deal, the paper had break up the promoting income from the journal with the middle, the topic of its protection — a flagrant battle of curiosity that undermined the paper’s integrity and outraged the employees.

The writer, Kathryn Downing, took the blame. Mr. Parks mentioned he didn’t know in regards to the profit-sharing deal till after the actual fact. But the debacle occurred on his watch, and a few criticized him for not doing something as soon as he did study in regards to the deal, like publishing an article disclosing it to readers. In a protracted investigative report by The Times in regards to the matter, printed on Dec. 20, 1999, Mr. Parks mentioned he had “failed” in his job as gatekeeper and expressed his “profound regret.”

The Tribune Company purchased The Times in 2000 and put in its personal workforce, together with a brand new editor, John Carroll.

Mr. Parks then started a two-decade second profession on the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He taught and served two stints as director of the journalism college, increasing its worldwide reporting applications and its deal with creating experience in protecting various communities. He retired from Annenberg in 2020.

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