After a career spent chasing stories, seasoned journalist and School of Journalism alumna Susan Ager ’75 was inducted into the Journalism Hall of Fame on April 15 at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Center.
“I am so humbled and honored to be among such great journalists I’ve looked up to all my life,” said Ager.
Where It All Started
Long before she was a columnist for the Detroit Free Press or a freelancer for National Geographic, Ager was developing her reporting skills right here at ComArtSci. She said two professors, in particular, had quite the impact on her future trajectory: George Hough, who valued in-depth and enterprise reporting, and Mary Gardner, who never settled for anything less than perfection.
“They were tough and had tough standards,” said Ager. “[Gardner], as I recall, would give you an F if you misspelled anyone’s name. I have never made that mistake in my entire career, because of her.”
Thanks to her professors’ strict grading in the classroom, Ager was able to not only make a living, but to excel as a journalist. Her induction into the Hall of Fame is only one example of her professional excellence — she’s made an entire career of great reporting, starting when she became the second woman in the State News’ history to lead as editor-in-chief.
According to Ager, her insatiable curiosity about the human condition and people’s behavior is the reason she has found such success in her career. It has pushed her to dig deeper, ask more questions and ultimately uncover the best stories.
“I like meeting strangers. I like hearing stories. I like telling stories,” said Ager. “Stories are the currency of our lives, the way we grow close to each other.”
Ager said hearing hundreds of these life stories and being able to share them with the world has been the highlight of her journalistic career.
“I’m grateful for the trust those people instilled in me to get it right, or as close to right as I could in describing their challenges and obstacles,” said Ager.
According to Ager, becoming a great journalist is all about practice. Students should exercise curiosity on everyone they meet — ask questions of strangers, friends and family members — and then practice telling stories off the page.
“Tell your friends the stories you hear, and watch for looks of boredom on their faces,” said Ager. “Practice telling stories so no one gets bored or confused.”
And above everything, Ager said your reputation is vital, so do everything in your power not just to get the job done, but to get it done well.
“When you’re working for pay, always do more or better than what’s expected of you,” said Ager. “Never tell a lie, in print or in person. Integrity is essential.”
By Kaitlin Dudlets