Internet sensation, food columnist is awarded the Al Neuharth Aw - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Internet sensation, food columnist is awarded the Al Neuharth Award for 2012

"It's an overwhelming honor," Marilyn Hagerty, a columnist said. "It's an overwhelming honor," Marilyn Hagerty, a columnist said.

A Grand Forks, North Dakota woman with her own newspaper column became an Internet sensation earlier this year when her review of the city's new Olive Garden Restaurant went viral.

Marilyn Hagerty, who is 86-years-old, works at the Grand Forks Herald, and she's still writing five columns a week.

This week she was presented an award to honor her career, the 2012 Al Neuharth Award For Excellence In The Media at the University of South Dakota.

"It's an overwhelming honor," Marilyn Hagerty, a columnist said. 

Nearly eight months ago, on March 7th, it was just like any other work day for Marilyn Hagerty. She was writing a food review for her "EATBEAT", column in the Grand Forks Herald Newspaper.

The article just so happened to be about the newest hot spot in town, the Olive Garden.

"In Grand Forks that was pretty big news. We've been waiting for that Olive Garden for years, there have been rumors," Hagerty said.  

She calls it an innocent review with a little bit of flair, describing the ambiance, service and how the Chicken Alfredo, was "Warm and comforting on a cold day."

"I tried to tell people what it tasted like, what it cost and what the place was like and how the service was," Hagerty said.

Soon after her review printed in the paper, some critics were calling it "Pathetic", and "Weird". Others found it humorous, and cute. The article instantly went viral. But Hagerty was oblivious to the national attention she was getting. That day she had other plans.

"I don't have time for all this crap, I've got to go to bridge club," Hagerty said.

After some critics tore her review apart, people from all over the country flooded her inbox with words of support, including well-known food personality, Anthony Bourdain.

Al Neuharth says most of his awards go to journalists who have drawn national interest and Hagerty did just that.

Al Neuharth, a founder, USA Today said, "If you want to have a following, you have to be interesting."

For Hagerty, she appreciates the millions of people who have read her article, but the support from her friends and family have been the most rewarding.

"The most fun is the support that I've had my friends in Grand Forks and people who read the Herald and the nice notes I get from little towns all around Grand Forks," Hagerty said.

Marilyn says she happily accepted an invitation from Anderson Cooper to go to Olive Garden soon.

Hagerty says the award represents all journalists working in a medium sized market and plans to write for the grand forks herald until they let her go.

Six decades ago, Marilyn went to USD with Neuharth.

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