California’s news publishers are honoring the memory of trailblazing journalist and former Voice of OC Civic Editor Tracy Wood with the Mark Twain Award.

The award, presented since 2010, honors those from the writerly world: editors, writers, cartoonists whose journalistic work, either regional or statewide in nature, challenged the status quo.

“No one challenged the status quo more than Tracy Wood,” said Voice of OC Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Norberto Santana, Jr. 

“Tracy’s life example – showcasing the importance of free citizens standing up to defend their freedom and quality of life – continues to inspire us all every day. She reminds us all that it’s up to citizens to defend in peacetime what soldiers defend during war. And it’s a job none of us can shy away from.”

Wood began her career at the Los Angeles City News Service in 1965. But it was the job she took with UPI in New York that would be life changing. In 1972 she successfully lobbied to be sent to Vietnam as a war correspondent, one of a small cadre of female reporters who covered the Vietnam war. 

She was the only US news reporter present in 1973, when John McCain and other US prisoners of war were released from the Hanoi Hilton.

In the years after the war, she worked as an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, winning a Pultizer as part of the team coverage of the Rodney King Riots in 1993. She went on to lead an investigative team at the Orange County Register and serve as editor of Ms Magazine.

Wood also was part of the Voice of OC founding team in 2009 and worked as both a reporter and editor until her death in 2020.

Wood’s coverage of the county’s health care insurance agency for the poor and elderly, known as CalOptima, became noted for its ability to protect residents and hold officials accountable. Her journalism on complex topics such as political fundraising, officials’ expense reports, park poor cities and DNA contracts at the District Attorney’s office were all recognized by her colleagues with a string of awards.

As an editor, she mentored an entire newsroom on the fundamentals of accountability reporting and strong citizenship.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.