The Legacy of Tracy A. Wood

Tracy’s Story Tributes The Fellowship Her Work

Scott Wood

Tracy was one of the very few people I have known who was absolutely certain about what she wanted to do in life from a very young age.  She always wanted to be a reporter, and as a child, with me as her helper, started a neighborhood newspaper that she printed off on a small, hand-cranked mimeograph machine.

She wrote features for the local (Fanwood New Jersey) weekly newspaper while still in high school and co-edited the Scotch Plains Fanwood High School newspaper.  She went to the University of Missouri for the Journalism program and, when the family moved to Southern California in the mid-1960s, joined the staff of The City News Service in Los Angeles.  

Back in the sixties I do remember one of her more exciting City News assignments because she borrowed my car (an old Triumph TR-2 with bad brakes) to be part of the press pool meeting Gov. Reagan  who was arriving at the Long Beach airport.  The report I heard is when she arrived she scattered the pressers across the tarmac while she frantically pumped brakes trying to stop my old roadster. It wasn’t too long after that she joined UPI and went up to Sacramento to cover the legislature.

Tracy liked a good story.  And she was never afraid to go after it.

[Tracy’s brother.]

Jurate Kazickas, Denby Fawcett, Edie Lederer, Laura Palmer, and Tad Bartimus

News that Tracy Wood had died hit many people hard; especially those of us who were her co-authors in War Torn, Stories of war from the women reporters who covered Vietnam (Random House 2002)

None of us knew she was so sick; Tracy was very private. Our hearts break that we were unable to support her or tell her how much she meant to us before she died. When we spoke last February, Tracy talked only of the Voice of OC and its pioneering public service journalism which made her exceedingly proud. But that was so Tracy – modest and professional. The OC’s  beautiful obituary summarized her remarkable career, including the 1993 LA Times team Pulitzer Prize along with her many other journalism awards.  

Tracy and I didn’t know each other in Vietnam— we were there at different times–  but we bonded years later, during the many months of writing our respective chapters in War Torn and presenting at televised panels (including the Newseum and PBS) on the challenges women faced covering the war.  

As she wrote in her book chapter, “Spies, Lovers and Prisoners of War,” when her editor said he’d “feel bad if anything happened to you” she realized that [It wasn’t] “overt sexual discrimination. Not conviction that women couldn’t do the job. Something much harder to fight: well-meaning men in positions of authority who honestly believed it was more important to protect women from risks than encouraging them to reach for the stars.” Tracy was determined not to sacrifice her ambition to a boss’s paternalism and did not back down. Then, with quiet resolve, she persisted to do the exceptional journalism that proved a woman could cover the war as competently as generations of men always had. 

Tracy’s War Torn chapter is filled as well with lively anecdotes, reflecting her dry humor along with gripping behind the scenes stories of some of her journalist coups for UPI, including coverage of the release of US prisoners in Hanoi which she had tenaciously negotiated with the North Vietnamese to cover. It’s doubtful that the legendary CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite would have been able to be there himself without her having painstakingly won the trust of the North Vietnamese. But as she wrote in War Torn, she needed CBS, too:  “I had the visa, Cronkite had the plane.”

She also wrote about her own struggles dealing with the devastation and mystery of war.

“I’d come to Vietnam afraid that I would be afraid. Too afraid of death to be a good reporter. Too afraid to do anything. Would I fall apart?…What about inside? How could you see violent death and not be crushed? How did you prepare to learn firsthand about human beings deliberately killing one another? I didn’t know.” 

And then, after seeing her first combat casualty, “Now I knew. “

“I learned, as had thousands of unschooled Americans before me, how easily the human body is shredded by small bits of steel….Fear disappeared,  along with spirituality. Something hard inside took their place. Death was nothing huge or dramatic or frightening. It was small and absolute.  

I didn’t want to die. But once the mystery was gone, I took comfort in its finality. Or at least, for years afterward, that’s what I believed.”  

Her sharp eye never missed even the most tender details:  “I discovered that a child raised in the midst of garbage and death still will smile at a glimpse of his mother’s face.”  

Tracy was our point person in the complex negotiations with network and cable companies to bring War Torn to a television audience while accurately portraying our lives as war reporters. The meticulousness she brought to her reporting was continually reflected over the years in keeping up with the intricacies of negotiating a Hollywood deal; a process that is still underway.

Of the nine authors, three predeceased Tracy  – Ann Mariano, Kate Webb, Anne Morrissy Merick. The rest of us – Tad Bartimus, Denby Fawcett, Laura Palmer and Edie Lederer – and myself, Jurate Kazickas, are still living and working – in Hawaii, Philadelphia and New York. 

Tracy was class act, a gentle soul, and consummate journalist who won the love, respect and admiration of her colleagues. She mentored and inspired the younger reporters she worked with, especially women, to follow in her footsteps with the excellence she made look so easy.

She will be dearly missed. 

[This tribute was submitted by the co-authors of War Torn (Jurate Kazickas, Denby Fawcett, Edie Lederer, and Laura Palmer) a book composed by women war correspondents, including Tracy.]

Norberto Santana, Jr.

Tracy Wood was my hero.

Working alongside her as a reporter was awe inspiring. 

Watching her work as an editor made you realize how good a story could really be with the right guidance and help.

Tracy truly loved the hunt for good stories.

That – along with.a deep devotion to the open government movement that came out the 1970s Watergate era – connected us on a daily basis for over a decade. 

She lived out the journalistic motto, “Comfort the Afflicted and Afflict the Comfortable” with absolute fearlessness. 

Every day.

Everything about her was admirable and inspirational. Historic. 

A comicbook hero come to life. 

As good as a reporter she was, Tracy was an even better person. 

Always kind. Always positive. A selfless collaborator as a colleague. A fearless newsroom leader who always set an example. 

Few could keep up with her pace.

Like me, she was a legislative and investigative reporter — meaning that she liked to file daily stories.

And she also brought combat experience.

Tracy loved to publish. To move the ball. 

From early on, she recognized the potential raw power of nonprofit news and the coming revolution in news delivery, encouraging me to think of myself on the level of any publisher she had ever worked with…and she worked with some historic publishers. 

Her confidence helped boost me as an editor and publisher, areas where there isn’t a lot of diversity or mentorship. 

She also got me used to taking calls as an editor and publisher from powerful places, in foul moods over reporters being reporters. 

I still remember the first week we started publishing at Voice of OC getting phone calls from the district attorney’s office about Tracy’s method of seeking public records — going directly to the agency during business houses and requesting records (as allowed by law).

It sent a message that became a hallmark for our newsroom. 

We’re not here to make insiders happy. We’re here to inform the taxpayers what’s going on. And we’re not afraid to defend our rights. Or ruffle feathers. 

Tracy brought old school values and journalistic heft to our newsroom yet also adapted really well to the digital era, always saying it reminded her of her first experiences with wire services as we file fast and often. 

She also shared a deep admiration for veterans and the battles they wage on behalf of freedom, seeing it as a journalists’ solemn duty to uphold at home what so many die to protect, the rule of law.

Whenever one of us legislative reporters would talk about the politics of policy decisions, as if it had to be that way, Tracy would push back reminding us to expect more of our institutions.

She always insisted that it was up to citizens to stay on top of holding their government accountable.

That was the real lesson of history to take in, she advised. 

Stay vigilant. 

That’s what stuck in my head the afternoon that Scott Wood called me to tell me that Tracy had passed a few days earlier from the cancer she so gracefully battled for so many years.

It was the start of the coronavirus pandemic In Orange County and I was literally walking into a press conference on this new disease that would soon dominate our world. 

After the presser, I raced home and wrote it up as fast as I could – hearing her in my head advising me to file as fast as possible to beat the competition.  

Then I wrote Tracy’s Obit. 

That whole day, I could clearly hear her voice in my head, advising me to stay focused on the story. To stay focused on the battle. To not lament normalcy. 

That was what Tracy Wood was all about: Grace under fire. 

While I can easily say I’ll really miss being able to see my friend every day, in many ways, it feels like Tracy has never left.

Given her work with students and apprentice reporters at Voice of OC, there’s not a day that goes by that we don’t attack some jargon term or bad public policy that one of our staffers doesn’t repeat a Tracy tip.

Her encouraging laugh remains in my head every day, behind every column. 

Saying…

Go get em, Kiddo.

[Norberto worked with Tracy at Voice of OC, he is Voice’s publisher and editor-in-chief.]

Jurate Kazickas

What I remember most about Tracy is her professionalism, dignity and humility. 

Of course she was an excellent journalist, committed to fairness and truth and thorough in her investigations. 

She loved a news scoop as much as anybody but she did not insist on sole credit; she knew the best stories were a group effort.  

Tracy was the lead contact for us, War Torn  co-authors, in our negotiations for a possible TV series based on the book.  In her modest way, she was persistent in getting up dates,  bringing us to a consensus, and always following through. 

I can still hear her soft voice on numerous phone calls, frustrated sometimes with the ways of Hollywood, but always determined to do her best for us.  

She often told me how much she loved working with The Voice of Orange County, knowing she and her team were making a real impact.  It was journalism at its best and it made her happy and proud.

[Worked as a reporter in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, a fellow contributor to the War Torn book, a former reporter in New York and Washington, and an author of several books on women’s history.] 

Noah Biesiada

Of all the staff at Voice, I worked with Tracy the shortest time. I was hired in July 2019, but it would be another few months before she was assigned to work with me on my first investigative series. 

At first, I’m pretty sure she was questioning why I’d been chosen as an intern. I can recall quite a few times where she didn’t seem to understand what I was missing in her instructions, but over time I figured out how to keep pace, and from there most of our conversations were focused on how to keep growing the story and summarize it. 

After three months of reporting and another few weeks of editing, a three-part series of stories on the Orange County Great Park ran, outlining the billion dollar tax plan built to finance the county’s largest civic construction project. 

I thought it was the most important story I was going to work on that year. Despite numerous attempts to have us retract or edit the articles, we never issued one change. Tracy had bulletproofed them. 

Tracy passed the day after the last article in the series was published, the same day our coronavirus coverage started. Between school and work, it was another few months before I gave myself a chance to reflect on my time with her.

Looking back, I realized we never actually met in person. We spoke over the phone at least twice a week for months, but she telecommuted the rest of the time. She was the first person I spoke with purely online before a year defined by that method, but our conversations still stand clearly in my mind. 

Despite that limited time, I can’t think of a day that goes by where I don’t use something she taught me. I will never include another obscure acronym in a draft, or include the word “that,” in nearly every other sentence. She was one of my earliest mentors, and I never walked away from one of our conversations without at least one new piece of advice or a new tactic to try.

In the year since, I’ve reported on topics I never dreamed I would end up covering, stretching from the county’s education system to debates on how to handle an asphalt plant in resident’s backyards. I don’t believe any of those pieces could have had the effect they did without the lessons I learned from her. She gave me a foundation to build on that I will use the rest of my career.  

I can’t think of a better way to honor Tracy than a fellowship program. She trained a new generation of reporters in this county who fight for public involvement, transparency and open government in every piece they write, and I consider it a privilege to count myself among them. She was an incredible teacher and person, and will be forever missed.

[Noah worked with Tracy at Voice of OC, he is a Voice reporting fellow.]

Bob Page

Tracy was a pro’s pro.

She had to fight her way past some sexist editors in UPI’s hierarchy in New York to get them to send her to Saigon.  She was determined, and UPI won because of it.

Only Tracy could get the Vietnamese to give her a visa to Hanoi.  No one else in our shop or any other got it.

My memories are strong and every time I walk past the wall where it is hanging I think of Tracy,   Thanks Scott for allowing me to have this endless memory of your sister and wonderful lady.

[Worked with Tracy at United States Press International, former UPI vice president.]

The Reverend Canon Mark Shier

I knew Tracy for over 30 years, as a friend and as her parish priest at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fullerton.

Tracy and I would talk regularly about our shared values and encourage one another in persevering in sometimes disappointing situations. She was a life-long Episcopalian, regularly attended services at St Andrew’s, and we both took encouragement from our church’s theology that the world is a gift from God, that the gift is of infinite value, that everyone has a vocation to take care of it and its inhabitants, and that we were singularly fortunate in knowing this.

I particularly valued her intelligent, no nonsense view of reality in general.

She died early in the covid crisis and was one of the first funerals we could not do. I miss her a lot. Kudos to your work in bringing light into Orange County situations.

The Reverend Canon Mark Shier knew Tracy through St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fullerton.

Theresa Sears

Tracy had an extraordinary life. I was very fortunate to work and learn from such a legendary journalist. She was a model for all of us at Voice of OC.  She reminded us that “Fighting government corruption is the responsibility of voters, a free press and honest leaders. It’s a never-ending battle but the stakes are democracy and hope for the future.”

[Theresa worked with Tracy at Voice of OC, current Voice of OC Involvement Editor.]

Laura Palmer

Tracy was a consummate journalist; a reporter’s reporter who was dogged and meticulous in her reporting, and worked harder than almost any other journalist I’ve known. 

Those are skills, and enviable ones, but they can be learned. Tracy’s grace as a writer was a gift, both to her and the millions of readers who were moved, informed, and motivated to act or advocate, because of what she wrote. 

“I learned, as had thousands of unschooled American before me, how easily the human body is shredded by small bits of steel. I discovered that a child raised in the midst of garbage and death still will smile at the glimpse of his mother’s face.”

Those two perfect and evocative sentence are from War Torn, a book in which nine women who were reporters in Vietnam wrote about why we went and how it impacted us.

Tracy and I were both reporters in Vietnam at the same time, but we moved in different circles and weren’t friends. But I like, every reporter I knew, paid attention to what she wrote. 

I came to really know Tracy in during the writing of War Torn and its aftermath. She helped spearhead our team during the book’s consideration for a TV series or documentary—which sadly, never happened. She did the thankless work of keeping us on track with negotiations, contracts, and payments.  

And yet — Tracy was as deeply private a person I’d ever met. She’d hate that I was writing this and be annoyed you’re reading it. I hear her saying from beyond the grave, “But it’s not about me.”

Sorry, Tracy, this time, it is. Those of us who knew you and loved you want others to know you, too. 

Tracy took tremendous pride her work. Full stop. It was at the center of her life. She lived and breathed journalism because a free press isthe lifeblood of our democracy, which depends on citizens who are informed and care.        

But her pride in her work was independent of her ego. Her integrity, honor, and discipline were the scaffolding on which she built her career. 

I am not alone in wishing I knew Tracy was sick and dying. I will always wish I had a moment to tell her how much she mattered, how admired and loved she was, and how she inspired so many of us to always, always, always, strive for the truth and tell it in the best damn way we know how.

[Laura Palmer worked with Tracy in Vietnam, where Palmer worked from 1972 to 1974. She authored “Shrapnel in the Heart: Letters and Remembrances from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” After her career as an author and TV news producer, Palmer is now an Episcopal priest and a chaplain at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.]

Nick Gerda

It’s such an honor to have known Tracy Wood. She embodies the best of this profession – and of humanity. Tough and fearless, yet humble and a great listener. And beyond generous in teaching others.

I’ll never forget one of the first times we spoke. I was an intern trying to get police records out of a reluctant city hall that was giving me the runaround. She showed me how to fight for the public’s right to know – with persistence, professionalism and relentless curiosity.

When an official told me they’d get back to me and I could come back another time, Tracy advised me to let them know I’ll just keep waiting in the lobby for the records.

When officials quietly changed my request to narrow what they’d turn over, Tracy rightly said to not let that go – and to take it right to the top.

“Those ‘mistakes’ are a very big deal,” she told me. “You need to tell the city manager that someone altered your request.”

Tracy encouraged me to press for transparency “the right way.”

“Nicely, politely but showing them you know the law and you’re not going away,” she said.

And she was there for me if I ran into more roadblocks, telling me to call if I needed “anything at all.”

Needless to say, the city forked over the records.

Tracy’s encouragement meant a lot to me as I started my career. And I’m beyond grateful to have worked with her – and learned from her wealth of experience and generosity – in the years that followed.

Tracy, your spirit will live on in the countless lives you touched and colleagues you mentored. May we do you proud.

[Worked with Tracy at Voice of OC, current Voice reporter.]

Adam Elmahrek

I remember as the junior reporter at Voice of OC, in the early 2010s, I accompanied Tracy on reporting trips to local government offices. She did something journalists rarely do anymore — she asked for records in person. She kept a copy of the Public Records Act with her on these trips and would read it out loud for huffy and defiant bureaucrats. When they told her producing the documents would take time, she would politely say that’s OK, we’ll just work right here in the lobby. More often than not, she got what she needed that same day. It was truly awe-inspiring to watch, and to this day I still use the Tracy Wood method for obtaining records. 
Tracy was an incredible mentor, always gracious and wise. She never shied away from asking a question that would anger someone powerful but served the public interest. There has never been a more fearless or talented investigative reporter, and every day her memory serves as an inspiration to fight for the truth.

[Worked with Tracy at Voice of OC, current investigative reporter at the Los Angeles Times.]

Sonya Quick

Tracy was such a wonderful mentor to me and so many other journalists who have had the pleasure of working with her.

Her balance between the elements of her work are what I remember most.

She was patient, but impatient and hard-charging when necessary.

She was fast, but took her time when accuracy was critical.

She pushed me to be a better journalist. She was a kind friend. She was patient and caring when I would carry my months-old baby girl along to news meetings. She would ask me the toughest question in the room.

I miss her dearly.

We lost her right at the beginning of the pandemic touching down in Orange County. A time when we needed her voice most of all with news breaking every hour.

Thankfully we had the opportunity to take her lessons in and all we can do now is echo her sentiments in our mind’s as we continue our work in earnest.

[Worked with Tracy at Voice of OC, current Voice digital editor.]

John Arthur

Big loss. One of the investigative greats. And a really nice person.

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles Times, former Times managing editor.]

Spencer Custodio

Tracy Wood, one of the first women combat correspondents during the Vietnam War, cut through corruption, jargon and confusion with a seemingly simple approach: what does this mean? 

Wood, who investigated and reported on corruption up and down the Golden State, took the time later in her career to teach the invaluable lessons she’d learned over the years. 

She had the uncanny ability to get people talking and keep them talking while she took shorthand notes. 

And she was fearless.

I remember she tried chasing down youth soccer organization representatives in a dark Fullerton alleyway after it was discovered the treasurer embezzled money. 

They ran from her. 

Her writing speed was unparalleled at Voice of OC and she took me under her wing to show me the tricks.

I soon learned the seemingly simple “what does this mean” approach wasn’t easy.

It requires being a quick study and learning various things in different fields — knowing your beat and sourcing up.

Wood was the skipper of the newsroom — often editing while giving pointers on how to cover things.

And she wanted the stories filed fast.

She also hated jargon and long-winded explanations.

Altercations are fights.

Low-barrier homeless shelters means walk-up shelters. 

Face masks and face coverings are simply masks.

And a community benefit credit is a subsidy.

Wood took her time to help many young reporters craft not only their reporting, but writing. 

Simple sentences written in an accessible way, effectively and accurately told the story, she always said.

And never back into your lede.

“Just start the damn story. Don’t back into it,” Wood reminded me multiple times.

Her eyes would light up when a reporter would bring up some interesting findings at a city hall, like when we were covering the Angel Stadium land deal or the 2016 election night car crash involving a former Fullerton city manager who had been drinking. 

The only other time Wood’s eyes would brighten like that was when we talked about our cats. 

In 2017, we were coming back from a journalism conference in Arizona and she made me stop the rental car a good 50 feet from the driveway when she saw my cat.

“Wow, that’s a beautiful cat!” Wood exclaimed, cautioning me not to run him over.

She was also patient and kind.

When I was still painting houses and businesses as an intern, she would call me to check in.

“You okay, kiddo? It’s hot out there,” Wood would often say to me. 

Wood’s experience and lessons are unmatched by any classroom lesson or college course.

I’ll never forget my mentor, my editor and my friend, Tracy Wood.

[Spencer worked with Tracy at Voice of OC, current Voice reporter.]

Julie Leopo

Tracy was a woman always searching for the truth. Through her tough reporting and editing, she set precedents in the newsroom to young journalists like myself. I miss her presence dearly.

[Worked with Tracy at Voice of OC, current Voice director of photography.]

Denby Fawcett

Tracy Wood was a fearless war correspondent. She never let the difficulty of any news story stop her.

During the Vietnam War, she calmly excelled while others scrambled. Most famously, when other reporters were exploring every possible path to get to Hanoi to cover the release of the American prisoners, Tracy went directly to the North Vietnamese to ask for permission and they agreed to help her. She was the only U.S. reporter there when John McCain and other POWs were released from the Hanoi Hilton in 1973. And three weeks later, even more famously she was the only reporter the North Vietnamese had granted a visa to cover the release more American prisoners of war in Hanoi, a trip that ended up with Walter Cronkite and thirty other journalists from major U.S.newspapers and television networks tagging along on her visa. 

Tracy was bold and self-confident but she was also humble and kind. She loved to work and she loved helping new reporters find their feet in a world that was becoming increasingly complex to cover.

She was on the job the day before she died, editing a series she had been working on with a reporting intern.  There was no stopping her. There was too much important news to be covered. Right up until the end.

[Worked as a reporter in Vietnam from 1966-67 and again 1972-73, a fellow contributor to the War Torn book. Presently a columnist for the nonpartisan news agency, Honolulu Civil Beat.]

Brandon Pho

Tracy had an immeasurable influence on my early reporting career, with her no-nonsense and timeless, old-school approach to demanding answers, transparency and the truth. She came from the old guard but her methods — eliciting answers from subjects out of silence, and planting two feet firmly on the ground when demanding records or access to meetings — stand the test of time. She truly leaves a lasting legacy.

[Brandon worked with Tracy at Voice of OC, he is a Voice reporter]

Dean Hill

I was a cub reporter for United Press International’scLos Angeles Burreau in 1968 when I met Tracy, already a legend for her work for UPI in Vietnam. She was amazing and generous and mentoring to such a beginner as I was. … I met Tracy the night Robert Kennedy was assassinated. UPI had sent Tracy from Sacramento to LA to help with coverage of the Primary. Then RFK was shot and it was all hands on deck. I spent the next 24 hours or so helping Tracy and shadowing her. She was awesome to work with and so generous to this green kid. That was the beginning of a long friendship based on our shared UPI heritage. I had fun with her when she joined the Times and I joined the Times. Heck Tracy was a baseball fan she had a team in first Rotisserie league I ran when I was in OC.

[Worked with Tracy, former UPI reporter and Los Angeles Times writer.]

Kim Murphy

Many of us learned at the feet of the great Tracy Wood. And the last time I talked to her just a year or two ago, she was bringing that same grit and drive to shedding light on the continuing shenanigans in Orange County. It was a wonder in the old days to see how panicked she could make the politicians of SoCal when she let them know she “just had a few questions.”

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles times, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and a former Times national and foreign editor.]

Edith “Edie” Lederer

Tracy and I had been fierce competitors covering the California legislature in Sacramento in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She worked for United Press International and I worked for the Associated Press.

We were both transferred to Saigon in 1972 to help cover the Vietnam War and our wire service rivalry continued as we competed for the big story. But it was “War Torn” that really brought us together and kindled a friendship.

We kept in touch by phone and met several times when I visited Los Angeles. Tracy loved journalism and her talent as a reporter helped The Los Angeles Time win a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of riots in the city in 1992. She was equally talented as an editor and loved nurturing young journalists, especially in their investigative reporting.

I miss her phone calls, her advice, and our reminiscing about “the good old days” in Sacramento and Vietnam, but I am sure she is still hard at work in that great newsroom in heaven with so many of the reporters and photographers we knew and loved.

[Worked as a reporter at the same time as Tracy in Sacramento and in Vietnam, fellow contributor to the War Torn book.]

Jean Merl

Tracy was a wonderful friend, colleague and journalist. I loved working with her at the L.A. Times. She was at once both warm and driven. I learned a lot from her while enjoying her company immensely.

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles Times, former Times editor and reporter.]

Eileen Padberg

When real politics was the discussion in Orange County in the ’70s and 80’s, I was a Republican political consultant that always seemed to be sideways with the OC Republican Party.  I was pro-choice, pro – ERA and pro-women, all the things that the OC Republican Party hated.   The OC Chair was always on my case with stupid little insipid remarks.  Tracy was the political reporter for the LA Times then, and she often interviewed me for one thing or another.  She was always fair.   There was a particular story she was working on that she was forced to back down on about some of the ethics and character traits of some of the illustrious Republican activists.  I supported her, but it did no good of course.

[Interviewed in the past by Tracy, a political consultant at Nelson-Padberg Consulting.]

Thy Vo

I feel so fortunate to have known Tracy Wood. Tracy was an indefatigable journalist and corruption fighter whose experience and dedication to public service was a gift to our small newsroom. She instilled in all of us the importance and seriousness of our role in fighting for transparency in government. If a quiet and introverted person, Tracy was also intense, biting and funny. She didn’t tolerate bullshit or excuses. She was also gracious, kind and generous with her mentorship. Her encouragement helped me get past the paralysis of my chronic shyness and insecurity, and the sexism I encountered as a young female reporter. If a government official was foolish enough to underestimate a quiet young woman, Tracy told me, it would be at their peril. And that was Tracy’s style; she didn’t need anyone’s approval or audience to do the right thing or the difficult thing.

[Worked with Tracy at Voice of OC, former Voice reporter.]

Claire Spiegel Brian

Such a fighter. But also honest, kind, ethical and very supportive of fellow journalists in the trenches. God bless her!

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles Times, former Times investigative reporter.]

Nancy Wride

I loved this woman. Nobody was as kind and faithful to a cub reporter as she was to me.

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles Times, former Times reporter.]

Stu Spencer

Tracy was a good human being and a real pro in her chosen profession.

[Interviewed in the past by Tracy, a political consultant who ran Ronald Reagan’s gubernatorial campaign and co-founder of Spencer-Roberts.]

Michael Stockstill

Grown men all over California would feel a shiver run down their neck when informed by their secretary that Tracy Wood was on the line.

Tracy was the lead investigative reporter for the LA Times for many years and as such was often on the track of political intrigue, corner cutting and outright malfeasance at the hands of business and political movers and shakers. Tracy was relentless in her pursuit, but fair in stating the facts. 

Jeffrey Perlman

I first met Tracy in February, 1976, when I came to the L.A. Times  Orange County Edition from the Riverside Press-Enterprise, where I had been a politics reporter.  After a colleague drove me around OC so I could get to know it better, Tracy took me to lunch the next day. “Fasten your seatbelt,” she said. “You’re about to have the ride of your life.” She was referring to a series of investigations of politicians the paper had embarked on, periodically snaring a new target. Technically, I was supposed to be a court reporter, covering trials. But Tracy figured out that this put me in close proximity to the Grand Jury, which was indicting elected and non-elected officials right and left. Never before had I covered a grand jury, but Tracy mentored me. We worked together on many stories about crooked politicians.

When I first arrived, I had no idea who Tracy was. But in short order I learned that she was one of the first women to cover the war in Vietnam. Also, she was partly responsible for California’s law requiring public bodies to have open meetings for all but personnel and legal matters. I held her in awe. But she always brought me back to Earth with conversations about our families and friends. She genuinely cared. For example, when my first wife and I started having marital issues, Tracy offered wise counsel. Whenever I was sick, she called to check on me. If my car was being serviced and I needed a ride, she transported me. She was that kind of friend.

Most people, however, did not know the playful side of Tracy, because on the outside she was all business. She liked practical jokes. One night we were sitting with a couple of colleagues at Reuben’s in Santa Ana waiting for the Grand Jury to indict a county supervisor. I had an excellent relationship with the prosecutor involved in the case. But so did Joe Cordero, a rival from the Orange County Register.  Tracy cooked up a plan to lure Cordero, who was sitting a few tables away from us, to the restaurant’s phone to get an incoming call from a fake prosecutor—me.  But when I called in, the waitress simply took a note for Joe: “Meet me in garage underneath the courthouse in 10 minutes.” Cordero went for it. He skiddadled. We laughed ourselves into tears.

Both of us, at different times, transferred to the Los Angeles office. But we hardly saw each other because we worked on different floors. I was helping with the paper’s online efforts, while Tracy was doing what she always did best—investigating. About four years ago she took me to lunch again, this time in Santa Ana, near the Voice of OC office. She had taken a  buyout and had ended up a VOC. I had retired for medical reasons. But Tracy didn’t skip a beat. She greeted me with:

“Time is running out, Jeff. So, when are you going to do some real journalism?”

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles Times, former Times political editor and reporter.]

Mary Kernodle

Tracy and I became friends at St.Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fullerton. She was the discussion leader of St. Andrew’s Book Club; having Tracy leading the discussions was a bonus. She wrote her personal story during the Vietnam War in the book, WarTorn Stories of War from the Women Reporters who Covered Vietnam, 1966-1975.  We discussed each chapter, but particularly hers; I wanted her to marry the army captain she was in love with, but that didn’t happen.

[A friend of Tracy’s in Fullerton.]

Ted Rohrlich

A truly great reporter. A model of integrity and an all-around class act.

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles Times, former Times reporter.]

Tad Bartimus Wariner

Tracy was with UPI and I was with AP in Saigon in 1973-74. We were each of us the only female staffer in our respective bureaus. We competed head-to-head and she was a formidable competitor. We were not friends, merely nodding acquaintances, when we were in Vietnam, but I always found her very pleasant when we ran across one another on stories. Once she even helped me out with a Jeep ride (or was it the other way around? Not quite sure)… anyway, I remember us both being in the same Jeep to catch the same plane back to Saigon from Hue. She was highly regarded by our mutual sources and I knew to never let my guard down in my reporting for fear I would get a rocket from NY asking for a matcher to one of Tracy’s pieces.

In the intervening years Tracy and I became warm acquaintances when we would meet up occasionally at events. She was a charming person and so dedicated to her work. I tried to read her stories in the OCR whenever I could and followed her editing career. She was a sensitive, perceptive reporter and I am sure she was an excellent editor. She was a great listener and didn’t rush to judgment. I was shocked, as so many were, when she died, and have regrets that our paths didn’t cross more often and that we won’t see one another again.

[Worked alongside Tracy in Vietnam, Tracy with UPI and Tad with the AP.]

Claudia Luther

Tracy was a wonderful colleague and friend — we got to know each other well when we were part of the Times’ Sacramento bureau in the early ‘80s — the first women reporters ever in a bureau that soon also had its first woman as chief in Narda Z. Tracy and I worked on many good stories together and also had a lot of fun times. I last ran into Tracy at LAX and she told me about her work at Voice of OC — by then many years had passed but she was just as passionate about her work as ever and raved about her staff at Voice. I feel shocked to hear that she has passed. My condolences to her friends, staff and family.

Tracy wasn’t just a trail-blazing and persistent reporter who broke great stories and led the way for many of us, she was also a funny, serious, delightful, and thoughtful friend. She and I were the first women reporters in The Times’ Sacramento Bureau, and I learned a lot from her. She would so love being honored in this way.

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles Times, former Times editorial board member and reporter.]

Leslie Berkman

I remember when Tracy first walked into the newsroom at the LAT in Orange County. I was thrilled no longer to be the lone female news reporter there and to hear about her experiences covering the Vietnam War. In Orange County, Tracy enthusiastically dug into difficult stories and discovered gems. What an inspiration! It is wonderful to know that she never retired and dedicated her later years to helping a new generation of local reporters get their start.

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles Times, former Times reporter.]

Deborah Hastings

Many a night spent with her in LA and Sacramento. Many conversations since. A guiding light and true friend. Much love to you, Tracy Wood.

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles Times, CBS Interactive senior editor and former Times reporter.]

Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor

I will never forget sunny mornings after church at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fullerton, talking politics and the state of the world and church with Tracy.

When she worked at the Los Angeles Times, she often crossed paths with my motrher, the late Jean Sharley Taylor Lescoe. Times associate editor until her retirement in 1987, Jean, like Tracy, was a pioneer in what had been a male-dominated field.

By the late nineties, journalism’s business model had already begun to change. Tracy was then at the Orange County Register. She had strong views about how our freedom depended on a skeptical media and well-informed electorate and wondered what would happen as editorial staffs continued to shrink nationwide. It was just like her to devote her considerable talents and energies to Voice of OC, which was and remains a exciting response to the still-urgent question, “Whither American journalism?”

Tracy was sharp, funny, direct and free of cant. She had a reporter’s unblinking eye and discerning temperament. I trust she’ll remain an inspiration to all, and especially women, who devote themselves to this most vital of vocations.

The Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor knew Tracy through St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fullerton, Taylor is the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese Of Los Angeles.

Marcia Dodson

This is so sad. She was such a powerhouse as a journalist.

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles Times, former Times reporter.]

David Cay Johnston

Tracy Wood was dogged, fearless, kind and principled in equal parts. A life well lived. So sad to learn her journey is over.

[Worked with Tracy at the Los Angeles Times, former Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and business writer, and an author.]

Hosam Elattar

She covered war. She covered riots. She was a badass.

It saddens me that I never got a chance to be mentored by her, to pick her brain on stories but I know her legacy lives on at the Voice of OC and I know that the lessons she passed on to my colleagues are in turn being passed on to me.

I learn from her through them and through the stories she wrote.

I’m proud to say I work at the same news publication that Tracy did. That is truly the highest honor.

[Worked with Tracy at Voice of OC, current Voice reporting fellow.]