January 24, 2022

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

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

The cause was a heart attack and kidney failure, his son Christopher said.

Mr. Parks reported from around the world from 1970 to 1995, first for The Baltimore Sun and then for The Los Angeles Times. In his time abroad, he chronicled some of the most significant geopolitical events in modern history, including the war 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 government announced in late 1986 that it was expelling him after he had been documenting the brutal segregationist policy of apartheid for two years. As the country lurched violently toward historic change, Mr. Parks was the fifth correspondent that year to receive an expulsion order.

The Times decided to appeal; the story of the Black majority’s rebellion against white rule was too important not to cover. In early 1987, Mr. Parks and editors from Los Angeles met in Cape Town with three government ministers to plead their case.

The ministers brought out boxes containing all 242 articles Mr. Parks had written in 1986. Every one was annotated, with each slight against the white regime duly noted. No doubt, the ministers said, Mr. Parks had cast South Africa in a negative light.

And yet the ministers could not find a single error in any of the 242 dispatches. In a rare move, they reversed the expulsion order and allowed Mr. Parks to stay.

His meticulous reporting was rewarded again a few months later with the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in international reporting for what the Pulitzer committee called his “balanced and comprehensive coverage of South Africa.”

“He was a student of liberation struggles,” Scott Kraft, who followed Mr. Parks as The Times’s…

Katharine Q. Seelye

2022-01-14 19:12:44

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