Michael Parks, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning overseas correspondent for The Los Angeles Occasions who went on to change into 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 Solar after which for The Los Angeles Occasions. In his time overseas, he chronicled a few of the most important geopolitical occasions in fashionable historical past, together with the battle in Vietnam, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the unraveling of apartheid in South Africa.
Whereas he was in Johannesburg for The Occasions, 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. Because the nation lurched violently towards historic change, Mr. Parks was the fifth correspondent that 12 months to obtain an expulsion order.
The Occasions determined to enchantment; the story of the Black majority’s insurrection in opposition to white rule was too essential to not cowl. In early 1987, Mr. Parks and editors from Los Angeles met in Cape City with three authorities ministers to plead their case.
The ministers introduced out bins containing 242 articles Mr. Parks had written in 1986. Each one was annotated, with every slight in opposition to the white regime duly famous. Little question, the ministers mentioned, Mr. Parks had solid South Africa in a damaging mild.
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 just a few months later with the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in worldwide reporting for what the Pulitzer committee referred to as his “balanced and complete protection of South Africa.”
“He was a scholar of liberation struggles,” Scott Kraft, who adopted Mr. Parks as The Occasions’s bureau chief in Johannesburg, mentioned in a telephone interview.
Mr. Kraft, now a managing editor at The Occasions, mentioned that because the scholarly Mr. Parks launched him to his sources, he may see that lots of them, significantly the exiled leaders of the African Nationwide Congress, loved discussing political philosophy and technique with him.
“He had been in different world capitals with civil battle, and he actually understood the philosophical foundation of liberation actions,” Mr. Kraft mentioned.
And one other factor: “He by no means dressed like a swashbuckling correspondent,” Mr. Kraft added. “He all the time wore khakis and a blue blazer in order that nobody may 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 trainer within the Detroit public colleges, his mom a homemaker.
Michael went to the College 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.
Along with 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 faculty, Mr. Parks grew to become a reporter at The Detroit Information after which labored briefly for the Time-Life Information Service in New York. He helped begin The Suffolk Solar, a newspaper on the East Finish of Lengthy Island, in 1966 and after two years landed a job at The Baltimore Solar as a authorities reporter in Annapolis, Md.
His first abroad task got here in 1970 when The Solar despatched him to Saigon to cowl the ultimate American fight in Vietnam.
He then served as Moscow bureau chief; Center East correspondent, based mostly in Cairo; and Hong Kong bureau chief. In 1979, he opened The Solar’s bureau in Beijing. He was one of many first American reporters to be based mostly there after China and america established diplomatic relations.
The Los Angeles Occasions employed him from The Solar in 1980 and stored 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 change into 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 price range of $120 million.
Throughout his tenure, the paper elevated its circulation, expanded its protection areas, gained 4 Pulitzers and began to diversify its employees.
“He was a terrific overseas correspondent himself,” Dean Baquet, the manager editor of The New York Occasions and a former editor of The Los Angeles Occasions, mentioned in an e-mail. “And as editor, he preserved The Los Angeles Occasions’s position as a serious voice in worldwide protection.”
Nevertheless it was a tumultuous interval. The Chandler household, which had owned the paper for a century, put it up on the market.
As well as, one of many largest scandals within the paper’s historical past erupted when The Occasions devoted the whole challenge of its Oct. 10, 1999, Sunday journal to the opening of Staples Heart. In a quiet profit-sharing deal, the paper had cut 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 very fact. However 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 Occasions 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 remorse.”
The Tribune Firm purchased The Occasions in 2000 and put in its personal crew, together with a brand new editor, John Carroll.
Mr. Parks then started a two-decade second profession on the College of Southern California’s Annenberg Faculty for Communication and Journalism. He taught and served two stints as director of the journalism college, increasing its worldwide reporting packages and its give attention to growing experience in protecting numerous communities. He retired from Annenberg in 2020.