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Obituaries : Andrea Ford; Former Times Reporter : Journalism: Writer was ‘passionate about her work and her beliefs,’ one editor recalls.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Andrea Ford, an award-winning former Times reporter who covered the O.J. Simpson murder trial and other high-profile criminal cases, has died in Detroit, relatives said Saturday.

Ford, 49, arrived in Detroit on Tuesday from Jamaica, where she had been living, to seek medical treatment and died Thursday, said her brother James Johnson. She had complained of a problem related to her heart, Johnson said, but the cause of her death has not been determined.

A former board member of the National Assn. of Black Journalists, Ford was an outspoken advocate of ethnic diversity in newsrooms and frequently challenged her colleagues and editors to develop better approaches to covering minority communities.

“Andrea was passionate about her work and her beliefs,” said Leo Wolinsky, Times managing editor for news. “She was able to provide readers with a unique perspective, particularly in the urban areas where she concentrated. She was never afraid to express her point of view, even when it was not popular.”

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While covering the Loma Prieta earthquake in the Bay Area in 1989, Ford exposed as lies some scurrilous police reports stating that residents of a predominantly black Oakland neighborhood robbed quake victims as they escaped from a collapsed freeway. Those residents had actually worked tirelessly through the night to aid victims, Ford reported.

“She had a great eye for detail and often saw things other people didn’t see,” said Times Vice President Janet Clayton, editor of the editorial pages.

Ford won a Times Editorial Award in 1995 for her work on the team covering the Simpson trial, and the National Assn. of Black Journalists named her Journalist of the Year for that coverage.

She became a familiar face on national television during the Simpson trial with her regular appearances on CNN’s morning news and the Larry King show, where she won high marks from viewers for her perceptive analysis of daily developments.

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Ford was born in Detroit, where she earned a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University. She joined the Detroit Free Press staff in 1979, working as a writer, copy editor and assistant city editor.

She moved to the Times Orange County edition in 1988 and joined the Metro staff as a court reporter the next year. She was a part of teams covering high-profile trials ranging from Heidi Fleiss’ to the Reginald Denny beating case.

Ford covered the trial of a grocer who was convicted of killing teenager Latasha Harlins, and helped cover Nelson Mandela’s trip to Los Angeles shortly after his release from prison.

On one of her last major assignments, she accompanied a group of students from Los Angeles’ Crenshaw High School to Ghana in 1996 and wrote movingly about their experiences.

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Ford left The Times in 1997 and moved to Jamaica, where she wrote free-lance articles and ran a small business. Friends said she married Paul Henry, her second husband, in 1997 and adopted a daughter, Toni-Anne. In addition to Henry and the child, she is survived by two sons, Ethagbe and Chinua, three brothers and a sister. Services are pending in Detroit.

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Staff writer John L. Mitchell contributed to this report.


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