Parks was born in Detroit. He is both an educator and journalist who has written on various political events around the world throughout his career. Today he lives with his wife in Pasadena, California. The couple has three children.
Parks began his career in journalism with The Detroit News, in the capacity general assignment reporter. Next, he joined the Time-Life News Service as a correspondent. Thereafter he was part of the original team that started The Suffolk Sun, then becoming its Assistant Copy Editor. In 1968 he took on a position at The Baltimore Sun.
In 1980 Parks joined the Los Angeles Times team. A decade-and-a-half later he became Deputy Foreign Editor and thereafter, Managing Editor. From 1997 and 2000, he took the helm as editor-in-chief. During his time in this role, the newspaper received a further four Pulitzer Prizes. In addition he managed over 1,350 people, being in charge of a $120m+ budget. Further, with Parks in this position circulation of The Los Angeles Times grew to 1,170,000 (16 percent). Their website was also under his leadership.
In 2000, Parks joined the faculty of USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The following year he became interim director at its School of Journalism. By 2002, Parks he had garnered the title School Director, a position he held until 2008. However, he was also interim director between 2013 and 2014. Under the umbrella of USC Annenberg, Parks was the force behind the establishment of cutting-edge core curriculum training students on how to write stories that can be printed in a reporting fashion. And he helped the school bolster its global reporting programs and focus on developing expertise in covering disparate communities.
Furthermore, Parks showed educational interest in his work at The LA Times, playing a keynote role in the launch of “Reading by 9” – an initiative to facilitate in all Southern Californian children reading at grade level by the end of Grade 3. This was in conjunction with an editorial advocacy for the endorsement of a new city charter and educational reform for LA, electing a new school board.
Parks has a Bachelors in Classical Languages and English Literature from the University of Windsor in Canada.
Parks was a juror for the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) Writing Awards, the Gerald Loeb Award, the Pulitzer Prize and the Selden Ring Award. He was the recipient of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his “balanced and comprehensive” coverage of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid.
Parks has been a member of the Western Selection Committee for the German Marshall Fund Fellowships and the South African Selection Committee for the Fulbright Fellowship. He is also a member of: the American Society of News Editors, Council on Foreign Relations, Pacific Council on International Policy, International Press Institute, Asia Society, and the Society of Professional Journalists.
According to Ernest J. Wilson III, Dean of USC Annenberg, “Michael Parks is a real star. His extraordinary wisdom and experience will be invaluable to our students, faculty and staff.”
When Parks won the Pulitzer for International Reporting, the jurors praised “his balanced and comprehensive coverage of South Africa.”