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Arizona Republic publisher joins ASU as first Sue Clark-Johnson Professor

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December 18, 2017

Arizona Republic Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish, an award-winning journalist and media executive, will be the inaugural Sue Clark-Johnson Professor in Media Innovation and Leadership at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University announced today.

Parrish will step down from her post as president and publisher of Republic Media, which operates the Arizona Republic, and La Voz as part of the USA Today Network, and join the Cronkite School on Jan. 1. 

“I’m thrilled to be joining the most innovative university in America to partner internationally on reimagining the future of media,” Parrish said. “I’m incredibly grateful to and proud of the talented team at Republic Media, but this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

The new Sue Clark-Johnson professorship honors the late pioneering media executive who served as president of the newspaper division of Gannett Co. and earlier as Arizona Republic publisher. Following her 41-year career in the news industry, Clark-Johnson served as a professor of practice at the Cronkite School from 2010 until her death in January 2015. 

The professorship is supported by a new endowment created by Clark-Johnson’s husband, Brooks Johnson; Louis A. “Chip” Weil, another former Arizona Republic publisher and close friend of Clark-Johnson; APS, where she served as a board member; the Gannett Foundation; and 34 other friends and colleagues from around the country. 

ASU President Michael M. Crow said earlier this year that the professorship is designed to “carry on Sue’s values and vision and preserve her extraordinary legacy.”

Brooks Johnson wanted the professorship to reflect his wife’s passion for journalism, the news industry, leadership and innovation.

“She believed providing people the information to make informed choices could bring about real, positive change,” Johnson said when the endowment was announced in January.

At Cronkite, Parrish will teach, write, speak and collaborate on how to preserve and grow a robust free press in the digital age.

“Sue Clark-Johnson was a giant in the news field for decades — leading, innovating and breaking down barriers for women such as Mi-Ai Parrish,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “I can’t think of a better person to serve as the first Sue Clark-Johnson Professor than Mi-Ai, a world-class journalist and industry leader who followed in Sue’s footsteps as Republic publisher. 

“In her new role, Mi-Ai will be the kind of global thought leader who will make a real difference to the news industry, inspire the next generation of great journalists and carry on Sue’s remarkable legacy.” 

Before joining the Republic in 2015, Parrish served as publisher of the Kansas City Star for four years and publisher of the Idaho Statesman for five years. Like Clark-Johnson, Parrish has been a trailblazer. She was the first female publisher of the Kansas City Star, the first minority publisher at the Republic and the first Korean-American publisher of a major metropolitan daily newspaper in the U.S. 

A 1992 graduate of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, Parrish started her journalism career as a reporter at the Virginian-Pilot and then served in editorial leadership positions at the Republic, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and San Francisco Chronicle.

A two-time Pulitzer Prize juror, Parrish was named one of the 100 Most Important Minority Journalists of the last century by UNITY: Journalists of Color, the 2016 Asian Corporate and Entrepreneur Leaders’ Corporate Leader of the Year, and the 2017 Athena Businesswoman of the Year.

She also speaks around the country on leadership, innovation and the First Amendment.

Last year Parrish won the USA Today Network award for best opinion writing for a powerful column she wrote on the backlash — including death threats — in the wake of the Republic endorsing its first Democratic presidential candidate in the paper’s 125-year history. 

John Zidich, president of domestic publishing at Gannett whom Parrish succeeded as the Republic’s publisher, also was a good friend of Clark-Johnson and a former member of the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees.

“Sue would be thrilled to have a quality person, editor, publisher and community leader such as Mi-Ai as the first in this chair,” Zidich said. “She would also be proud of Mi-Ai’s ties to the Republic and Gannett. This is another win for the Cronkite School and journalism.”

Parrish serves as vice chairwoman of the Banner Health Foundation and secretary of Greater Phoenix Leadership. She also serves on the boards of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Poynter Institute, Sandra Day O’Connor Institute, Arizona’s Women’s Forum, the American Cancer Society and the Cronkite School.

The Sue Clark-Johnson Media Innovation and Leadership Professorship is the seventh endowed faculty position at Cronkite. The others include: the Knight Chair in Data Journalism (held by Pulitzer Prize winner Sarah Cohen of The New York Times); the Weil Family Professor of Journalism (held by former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr.); the Frank Russell Chair for the Business of Journalism (held by former Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editor-in-Chief Julia Wallace); the Donald W. Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism (held by former syndicated columnist Andrew Leckey); the Donald W. Reynolds Endowed Visiting Professor in Business Journalism (held jointly by former CNN Wall Street correspondent Susan Lisovicz and former Boston Globe Spotlight Editor and Pulitzer winner Walter V. Robinson); and the Adidas Distinguished Professor of Global Sport (held by international sports consultant Kenneth L. Shropshire).

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