Relaunching an Icon  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   September 2002

Relaunching an Icon   

Ms. magazine’s new editor, investigative journalist Tracy Wood, plans to make investigative reporting “the big thing” at the feminist publication.

By Kathryn S. Wenner
Kathryn S. Wenner, a former AJR associate editor, is a copy editor at the Washington Post.     


Ms. magazine, the iconic feminist publication that has undergone several incarnations in its 30-year history, relaunches next month with a seasoned investigative journalist at the helm.

Tracy Wood, who took over as editor in June after five years as investigations editor at the Orange County Register, was a young UPI reporter in Vietnam when Ms. first hit the newsstands. When she started reading it in the late '70s, Wood says, "like everybody else I was a fan."

Wood, who will only give her age as "mid-50s," says investigative reporting will be "the big thing" at Ms. The magazine's goals, which she says mirror those of feminism, are "very straightforward and very universal. Talking about equality. Nothing complicated. Social, economic and political equality."

The Feminist Majority Foundation, a not-for-profit advocacy group, purchased the magazine last year from a group whose board members included Ms. cofounder Gloria Steinem and former Editor Marcia Ann Gillespie. Ad-free since 1990, the new version of Ms. will be supported by membership fees (which include subscriptions), donations and advertisements from "nonprofits that support some of the same things, women's issues," Wood says.

Steinem, now a consulting editor, says Ms. "has always been a remedial magazine. It is doing what the rest of the media do not.... It comes to your house and brings facts and a community and resources and discovers new fiction writers, new poets, and it's always been very, very important for its investigative work."

Wood plans to hire a global editor who can develop a worldwide network of freelancers, plus a Washington editor who will cover major political events affecting women and monitor issues at the state level.

And she's willing, if she feels it's needed, to include views that differ from the magazine's position on controversial issues such as abortion. "I think everybody wins through knowledge," Wood says. "Is Ms. going to change its position on abortion? No. Absolutely not. Is there room for discussion of different points of view? I believe that reasonable people always should be open to discussing different points of view."

Former coworkers say Wood has what it takes to lead Ms. "She always made us feel like we had the potential within us; we just had to tap into it," says William Heisel, one of the reporters on an award-winning Register series Wood spearheaded about the sale of body parts. "She is a wonderful example of someone who became a success in journalism because of her talent, and happened to be a woman [who] went into environments where women weren't welcome and really soared."

###