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

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A Pulitzer winner, helium covered the Vietnam War, the illness of the Soviet Union and the extremity of apartheid successful South Africa earlier moving The Times’s newsroom.

Michael Parks successful  the newsroom of The Los Angeles Times successful  1997, the twelvemonth  helium  was named the paper’s apical  editor. He had reported overseas for the insubstantial  for galore  years. 
Credit...Edward Carreon

Katharine Q. Seelye

Jan. 14, 2022, 7:12 p.m. ET

Michael Parks, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning overseas analogous for The Los Angeles Times who went connected to go the apical exertion astatine the paper, 1 of the nation’s largest metropolitan dailies, died connected Jan. 8 astatine a infirmary successful Pasadena, Calif. He was 78.

The origin was a bosom onslaught and kidney failure, his lad Christopher said.

Mr. Parks reported from astir the satellite from 1970 to 1995, archetypal for The Baltimore Sun and past for The Los Angeles Times. In his clip abroad, helium chronicled immoderate of the astir important geopolitical events successful modern history, including the warfare successful Vietnam, the illness of the Soviet Union and the unraveling of apartheid successful South Africa.

While helium was successful Johannesburg for The Times, the white-minority authorities announced successful precocious 1986 that it was expelling him aft helium had been documenting the brutal segregationist argumentation of apartheid for 2 years. As the state lurched violently toward historical change, Mr. Parks was the 5th analogous that twelvemonth to person an expulsion order.

The Times decided to appeal; the communicative of the Black majority’s rebellion against achromatic regularisation was excessively important not to cover. In aboriginal 1987, Mr. Parks and editors from Los Angeles met successful Cape Town with 3 authorities ministers to plead their case.

The ministers brought retired boxes containing each 242 articles Mr. Parks had written successful 1986. Every 1 was annotated, with each flimsy against the achromatic authorities duly noted. No doubt, the ministers said, Mr. Parks had formed South Africa successful a antagonistic light.

And yet the ministers could not find a azygous mistake successful immoderate of the 242 dispatches. In a uncommon move, they reversed the expulsion bid and allowed Mr. Parks to stay.

His meticulous reporting was rewarded again a fewer months aboriginal with the 1987 Pulitzer Prize successful planetary reporting for what the Pulitzer committee called his “balanced and broad sum of South Africa.”

“He was a pupil of liberation struggles,” Scott Kraft, who followed Mr. Parks arsenic The Times’s bureau main successful Johannesburg, said successful a telephone interview.

Mr. Kraft, present a managing exertion astatine The Times, said that arsenic the scholarly Mr. Parks introduced him to his sources, helium could spot that galore of them, peculiarly the exiled leaders of the African National Congress, enjoyed discussing governmental doctrine and strategy with him.

“He had been successful different satellite capitals with civilian conflict, and helium truly understood the philosophical ground of liberation movements,” Mr. Kraft said.

And different thing: “He ne'er dressed similar a swashbuckling correspondent,” Mr. Kraft added. “He ever wore khakis and a bluish blazer truthful that nary 1 could mistake him for a participant.”


Credit...Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Michael Christopher Parks was calved connected Nov. 17, 1943, successful Detroit, the oldest of 7 children of Robert J. and Mary Rosalind (Smith) Parks. His begetter was a teacher successful the Detroit nationalist schools, his parent a homemaker.

Michael went to the University of Windsor successful Ontario, Canada, wherever helium majored successful classical languages and English lit and graduated successful 1965. The twelvemonth earlier helium graduated, helium joined Linda Katherine Durocher, a classmate, who became a librarian. She survives him.

In summation to his lad Christopher, helium is besides survived by different son, Matthew; 2 brothers, Thomas and James; 2 sisters, Mary Elizabeth Parks and Mary Constance Parks; and 4 grandchildren. A daughter, Danielle Parks, died of leukemia successful 2007.

After college, Mr. Parks became a newsman astatine The Detroit News and past worked concisely for the Time-Life News Service successful New York. He helped commencement The Suffolk Sun, a paper connected the East End of Long Island, successful 1966 and aft 2 years landed a occupation astatine The Baltimore Sun arsenic a authorities newsman successful Annapolis, Md.

His archetypal overseas duty came successful 1970 erstwhile The Sun sent him to Saigon to screen the last American combat successful Vietnam.

He past served arsenic Moscow bureau chief; Middle East correspondent, based successful Cairo; and Hong Kong bureau chief. In 1979, helium opened The Sun’s bureau successful Beijing. He was 1 of the archetypal American reporters to beryllium based determination aft China and the United States established diplomatic relations.

The Los Angeles Times hired him from The Sun successful 1980 and kept him successful Beijing arsenic bureau chief. From there, helium served arsenic bureau main successful Johannesburg, Moscow and Jerusalem. He moved to Los Angeles successful 1995 to go lawman overseas editor, managing the paper’s 27 overseas correspondents.

After a twelvemonth Mr. Parks was promoted to managing editor; successful 1997, astatine 53, helium was named the apical editor, overseeing an editorial unit of 1,350 radical and an yearly fund of $120 million.

During his tenure, the insubstantial accrued its circulation, expanded its sum areas, won 4 Pulitzers and started to diversify its staff.

“He was a terrific overseas analogous himself,” Dean Baquet, the enforcement exertion of The New York Times and a erstwhile exertion of The Los Angeles Times, said successful an email. “And arsenic editor, helium preserved The Los Angeles Times’s relation arsenic a large dependable successful planetary coverage.”

But it was a tumultuous period. The Chandler family, which had owned the insubstantial for a century, enactment it up for sale.

In addition, 1 of the biggest scandals successful the paper’s past erupted erstwhile The Times devoted the full contented of its Oct. 10, 1999, Sunday mag to the opening of Staples Center. In a quiescent profit-sharing deal, the insubstantial had divided the advertizing gross from the mag with the center, the taxable of its sum — a flagrant struggle of involvement that undermined the paper’s integrity and outraged the staff.

The publisher, Kathryn Downing, took the blame. Mr. Parks said helium didn’t cognize astir the profit-sharing woody until aft the fact. But the debacle occurred connected his watch, and immoderate criticized him for not doing thing erstwhile helium did larn astir the deal, similar publishing an nonfiction disclosing it to readers. In a long investigative report by The Times astir the matter, published connected Dec. 20, 1999, Mr. Parks said helium had “failed” successful his occupation arsenic gatekeeper and expressed his “profound regret.”

The Tribune Company bought The Times in 2000 and installed its ain team, including a caller editor, John Carroll.

Mr. Parks past began a two-decade 2nd vocation astatine the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He taught and served 2 stints arsenic manager of the journalism school, expanding its planetary reporting programs and its absorption connected processing expertise successful covering divers communities. He retired from Annenberg successful 2020.

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