Susan Ager, a native of Detroit, has distinguished herself for four decades with bold magazine stories and 500-word columns about what William Allen White called “the sweet, intimate story of life.” Of Polish-Catholic descent, she pioneered coverage of Michigan’s gay community, its struggle for human rights and the terrible cost of HIV. Encouraged by her father’s mantra, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” she was curious from an early age, writing a neighborhood newsletter, then editing her high school newspaper.
First in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, Ager became editor-in-chief of the Michigan State University student newspaper, only the second woman in its history. After internships at her hometown Dearborn Heights Leader, the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit Free Press, Ager covered politics and state government for the Associated Press in Lansing. Later, at the AP in San Francisco, she was the lead writer on the City Hall assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and gay supervisor Harvey Milk. She left AP for the San Jose (California) Mercury News, and for the long-form journalism she believed could touch readers more deeply.
She enjoyed a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan. Later, at the Detroit Free Press Magazine, she wrote compelling profiles and became deputy editor of the magazine and then the Free Press writing coach. She coached at papers around Michigan and across the country while writing a thrice-weekly column for 16 years. She won a National Headliner Award twice, a National Journalism Writing Award, and other national, state and local honors.