MEET SUSAN

Susan J. Demas Head Shot

Why I Write

Writer. Entrepreneur. Mother. Journalist. Public Speaker. Political Analyst. Those are all just words to describe me. What you need to know, most of all, is what drives me to fulfill those roles. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was seven, scribbling down observations about people and events in ratty spiral notebooks. My mother always told me that my unique ability to understand people and feel what they were going through was both a gift and a curse. 

I struggled for many years to make ends meet, especially before my first child was born. I wondered if I’d ever be able to contribute anything of value, something to make the world a better place. I found my calling in journalism, honing my craft for the last fifteen years. Being a writer has always been who I am. But now it’s also what I do. 

I have an insatiable curiosity to investigate what’s going on in Michigan and the world. I believe in speaking truth to power and following Mencken’s rule to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I’ve taken on the Old Boys Club in politics (and political journalism) and won, always preserving my integrity. All this has given me a distinctive voice and fearless style to communicate with people why things are happening and what can be done.

What I Do

I am a journalist, editor, ghostwriter, speechwriter and researcher. I’ve been through a lot of upheavals in journalism, but I’ve learned that always means new opportunities –– if you’re willing to assume some risk. That’s never been a problem for me.   

Since 2013, I’ve been the CEO of Susan J. Demas Communications and the sole owner of Inside Michigan Politics, a biweekly newsletter analyzing political and policy trends for several thousand readers. I was able to parlay my experience in building up a successful freelance writing business since 2007 –– while working as a full-time editor and reporter –– with clients including authors, public figures, magazines, nonprofits and universities. 

I am the only Michigan journalist to have been named to The Washington Post's list of “Best Political Reporters,” The Huffington Post's list of “Best Political Tweeters” and The Washington Post's list of “Best Political Bloggers.” In 2006, I became a Knight Foundation fellow in “The Fourth Estate and the Third Sector” program for nonprofit organizations, finance and media through Marshall University in Huntington, W.V.

My work has run in or on more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets including NBC News, CNN, The Daily Beast, Forbes, The Economist, National Public Radio, the Australian Broadcast Corp., Al Jazeera, The New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, Roll Call, The Atlantic, The Hill, Guardian U.K., Chicago Sun-Times, Bloomberg News, Reuters, The National Journal, Slate, Boston Herald, Seattle Times, Toronto Sun, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Chicago Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, (St. Paul) Pioneer Press, Des Moines Register and Michigan Public Radio. I am a regular panelist on WKAR's "Off the Record." 

In 2010, I helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, which investigates and fact-checks political ads and speeches. The award-winning project is run by the nonpartisan Center for Michigan.

I started my journalism career at the second-largest newspaper in Iowa, The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette, where I reported on the 2004 Iowa caucuses. In 2004, I reported from the U.S. Army Base at Ft. Dix, N.J., on National Guard units training for the Iraq war and wrote a continuing series for several publications until their homecoming in 2006.

I have reported women’s issues, Middle East affairs, politics, health care, human services, nonprofit organizations and business issues for five newspapers across the Midwest, including the Saginaw News, Battle Creek Enquirer and Jackson Citizen Patriot. Most recently, I served as Deputy Editor for Michigan Information and Research Service, where I covered national and state politics.

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About My Column

I started writing a political column ten years ago –– even though no one particularly wanted me to. Nobody read about politics anymore, various cranky editors told me (repeatedly.) And besides, why would anyone care what a twentysomething woman had to say about tax policy or health care reform?

I ignored all the naysayers. I’ve always tried to be a thoughtful, independent progressive voice (others have assigned their own, less flattering labels.) And I found that my columns did connect with readers. People liked hearing from someone who cared about issues and told stories that were often overlooked, even though I didn’t have gray hair. And lots of readers who didn’t like my perspective seemed to enjoy getting riled up anyway.

Today, I am a syndicated political columnist, appearing in The Huffington Post, Salon, Dome Magazine, Deadline Detroit and Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire. My columns have also run in the Detroit News, Battle Creek Enquirer, Lansing State Journal, Impact, PennLive, Real Clear Politics, MLive and its eight papers.

 

Who I Am

In October 1976, I was born to a Republican CPA father and a Democratic teacher mother in Skokie, Illinois (yes, where the Nazis marched –– how’s that for some hair-raising local history to learn in kindergarten?) When I was twelve, my family moved to Northbrook where I would become editor of the high school literary magazine and a champion debater, to the surprise of absolutely no one. My brother now is a personal trainer and basketball coach, as he clearly got the monopoly on athletic talent.

I attended the University of Iowa, where I conducted research for a 10-year National Institute of Health agricultural health and cancer study through the College of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology. I majored in the highly marketable majors of English and History, concentrating on 19th and 20th century American literature and the French Revolution (if anyone asks, Lefebvre’s The Coming of the French Revolution is my favorite tome), and minoring in Women’s Studies. I also completed graduate coursework in Sociology, focusing on women’s and family issues.

I’m now 39 and live in Okemos, Michigan, with my political consultant husband, Joe DiSano, and our two funny, whipsmart children. I'm an avid travel photographer, as my house will attest (Joe snorts my motto is: "Leave no wall uncovered" and has questioned why we even bothered painting inside.) You can usually find us hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains when it’s warm out, or strolling around The Henry Ford and other museums when it’s not. Regardless of the weather, you have a decent chance of interrupting us watching one of the “Star Wars” movies on any given night.