In memory: Michael Parks, 78

Michael Parks at our 2013 tinted lens conference.

Michael Parks died on January 8, 2022 at the age of 78. He was a distinguished foreign correspondent and won the Pulitzer Prize. He taught at USC for two decades and served as director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism for seven years. Parks and his work in Asia are celebrated here, including in China just when American journalists were able to set up shop there for the first time.

“Michael was an extraordinary journalist, educator, leader, colleague and friend,” said Willow Bay, Dean of USC Annenberg. “His remarkable life and career is a testament to the fact that journalism is not just a job, but a calling. Michael has shared his deep knowledge and experience with all of us, and we will always be better off because of it.

“Unlike so many of his peers who assumed that the glory days of journalism were in the rearview mirror, Michael deeply believed that journalism had a bright future, and he saw it every day through the experience of his students,” said said Bay. “He was personally invested in them as individuals – and, therefore, deeply invested in the future of the industry.”

The parks started with the Baltimore Sun in 1968, reporting on Maryland politics. He began his brilliant career as a foreign correspondent in 1970. The Sun sent him to cover the Vietnam War. He was then sent to Moscow and Cairo. He returned to Asia in 1975 as the Sun’s Hong Kong bureau chief. He covered the post-war exodus from Vietnam, tensions and a border war between Vietnam and China, the start of the post-Mao era in China, and the warming of ties between China and the United States. . He wrote extensively on China’s modernization drive and the 1978-79 criticisms of Maoist policies and officials. In an April 1979 article, however, Parks detailed how China’s rulers then mastered such criticism. He wrote: “Reacting to the ‘West is Best’ mania that seemed to be taking over Beijing, Shanghai and other cities, China’s leaders are reminding the country that Western-style democracy is inferior to communism and that human rights are a “bourgeois slogan”. and capitalism is characterized by decadence, not by progress.” Over the next five years, first for the Sun then for the Los Angeles Times, Parks reported from Beijing, writing extensively about the push-pull between easing and reaffirming controls. It reports on the reassessment of Mao by the new leaders of the Communist Party. In October 1979 he wrote that it was a challenge to repudiate Mao without repudiating the party. It’s always like that. A year later, Parks reported on the trial of Mao’s widow and others labeled “ultra-leftists” by the new rulers.

Parks discussed some of this work in two episodes of our Assignment: China series. In the “Openingepisode, Parks spoke about the impact of Deng-era economic reforms on Small towns and villages of China. In “The 1980sepisode, Parks explained that he followed China shifting political winds partly by looking to see if Premier Zhao Ziyang was wearing a Western tie.

In addition to covering Party politics and campaigns, Parks has written about tensions with the Soviet Union over its invasion of Afghanistan, with the United States over arms sales to Taiwan. Many stories explored early American investments in a variety of industries and the growing Chinese market for American products. But it also delved into everyday life, documenting the struggle young Chinese have engaged in to find some privacy for romance. Parks has worked to show some of China’s great diversity. A series of articles focused on life in Xinjiang. Parks noted the obvious military presence, but also the reopening of mosques and bustling markets. Parks’ own photos illustrated these stories and many more.

The parks also covered the Los Angeles-China routes. One of its many front-page stories began: “What started three years ago as a lark for Dr. Jordan Phillips – a vacation in China… – has turned into one of the programs most effective interpersonal relations between the United States and China. Parks explained that Phillips, a specialist in gynecological laparoscopy, then made many trips to China, demonstrating the technology in hospitals in more than forty cities. With his wife, Phillips started a nonprofit organization to ship medical books to China, brought in other specialists to teach, and branched out to organize a series of performances by the California Chamber Symphony, made up of 40 members. Parks detailed efforts by Los Angeles officials to forge ties with Beijing and one of her latest stories from China reported on celebrations in Beijing to mark the women’s team’s gold medal success. Chinese volleyball at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

From Beijing, Parks went to run the Times bureau in Johannesburg, South Africa. His reporting on opposition to apartheid and the efforts of the white minority government to stifle them earned him the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on international affairs. The Times then sent Parks to head bureaus in Moscow (where he was part of the team covering the collapse of the Soviet Union that was a Pulitzer finalist) and Jerusalem. In 1995 Parks returned to the United States, eventually taking over as editor of the Time in 1997.

Already known as a great mentor, Parks came to USC in 2000 and taught there until his retirement in 2020. As Dean Bay previously noted, Parks was a generous mentor. He was a longtime supporter of the US-China Institute, regularly speaking at meetings we held with students and scholars from Chinese universities and mentoring USC students interested in reporting to the US-China Institute. ‘foreigner. As well as serving as director of the Annenberg School of Journalism, Parks has helped nurture a number of projects, including Alhambra Source, an online community news service in English, Chinese and Spanish, and specialist journalism programs. on health and the arts. Parks has set high standards as a journalist and educator and as a citizen of the world.

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