columnist, Detroit Free Press
Talented, committed, courageous and humane are words that describe Susan Watson. She has performed many roles in life—reporter, editor, columnist, labor activist and community advocate. Watson was one of the first women columnists and the first woman editor at the Detroit Free Press. During the past 35 years, she has become a leader in gender and race issues in journalism, serving as a role model to women who wanted to be journalists in a male-dominated industry.
Born in Detroit, this University of Michigan graduate began her career in 1965 as a general assignment reporter covering welfare, real estate redlining and discriminatory pricing by auto insurers. A decade later, Watson became assistant city editor and special projects editor, organizing investigations on public schools, health care programs and government fraud. She also coordinated and edited the award-winning series, “Blacks in Detroit.”
Watson has received numerous awards for her work, including several AP and UPI awards for columns and the Heywood Broun Award for her year-long investigation into the abuse of developmentally disabled youths in a state facility. She also was honored with the Knight Ridder National Excellence Award in News/Editorial and given three Emmys for local television commentary. She is a member of Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
Currently, Watson is editor of The Detroit Teacher, a bi-weekly publication of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, a position she took following the 1995 Detroit newspaper strike.
Watson’s work did not stop in the newsroom; she found time to give back to the community, speaking with student and neighborhood groups. Whether it was on a weekend or after regular office hours, Watson found time to contribute to and tutor Detroit Public School students.
Susan Watson’s work and community commitment have made her an admired journalist and a respected human being.