A Great Editor and a Great Man'

January/February 1999

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A Great Editor and a Great Man'

Courtesy Michael Melford/Newsweek

Whenever a big news story broke late in the week, Maynard Parker had a favorite phrase: “scramble the jets.” That meant Parker, a onetime Vietnam War correspondent who went on to be the editor of Newsweek, had decided to tear up the magazine and put together a new cover package. He’d dispatch troops of reporters around the globe, buy up the best photos and add new pages to showcase the results.

Born in Los Angeles, Parker went east after Stanford and picked up a master’s degree at the Columbia School of Journalism before joining Life magazine. He served as an Army officer in Thailand and then rejoined Life as a correspondent in Hong Kong. Parker went to Newsweek in 1967, led its coverage of the Vietnam War for six years and then moved to New York, where he held a series of editing posts.

As the magazine’s top editor, Parker was sometimes understated. Confronted with a clumsy sentence, he’d write simply, “Say better pls.” He also proved to have an instinctive news sense -- and a gut appreciation for mounting public interest in so-called soft news. After he died, rival Time magazine praised Parker’s “fingertip feel for the kind of cultural, social, family and health trends that transcend last week’s headlines and become next week’s dinner-table conversation.”

More than a thousand people turned out for Parker’s memorial service in New York, including Newsweek staffers from around the world.“For Maynard, there was no line between the professional and the personal,” says Ann McDaniel, a Newsweek managing editor who was a close friend of Parker’s. “Your ability to report, edit or write a good story was important to him, but no more so than what happened in your life outside Newsweek. All that made him a great editor and a great man to work for.”

Parker also was passionate about Stanford. He served on the board of directors of the Stanford Alumni Association from 1991 to 1995, including one year as chair. SAA President Bill Stone, ’67, MBA ’69, remembers a Saturday meeting when a fax of possible cover images sent to Parker was inadvertently photocopied and distributed to the entire board. The editor soon found himself fielding unsolicited suggestions from his colleagues. Unperturbed, Parker gave a brief seminar in magazine sales -- then quickly chose a cover that, 24 hours later, was hitting newsstands.

Parker is survived by his wife, Susan Fraker; their two sons, Nicholas and Hugh; Francesca, his daughter from a previous marriage; and his father, C.N. Parker.

© Stanford University. Stanford, California 94305.