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Girl Talk
To write like Marilyn ...
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

October 09. 2012 11:00AM
I had the pleasure of taking in the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media program last week at Aalfs Auditorium, Slagle Hall on the campus of the University of South Dakota. A friend, Barb Fish, had two tickets and an open passenger seat, so when she entertained the offer, I eagerly accepted.

It was the award’s recipient, Marilyn Hagerty, which piqued my interest. At 86 years of age and officially retired since 1991, Marilyn continues to write five columns weekly for North Dakota’s Grand Forks Herald. And after nearly seven decades in the business, it’s not a job Marilyn told the USD crowd, but rather a joy.

While nearly 70 years in the newspaper industry would be reason enough for Marilyn to be recognized for the elite honor, her claim to fame was a column, Eatbeat, she wrote about the Olive Garden’s opening in Grand Forks.

“All in all, it is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks. It attracts visitors from out of town as well as people who live here,” she wrote in her March 7, 2012 column.

That specific column garnered national attention for her earnest commentary on the Italian eatery’s menu and décor. In fact, the article created interest beyond her readers in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, when it went viral. Olive Garden devotees and detractors nationwide, and even renowned food personality Anthony Bourdain took notice of her column. Actually, they poked fun at her opinion of the Olive Garden.

But it’s actually Marilyn who’s getting the last laugh. Cited an “overnight” Internet sensation, Marilyn’s column generated more than 1 million hits online. That notoriety landed her appearances on NBC’s “Today” and Anderson Cooper’s syndicated talk show. And now, the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media, is like icing on the cake for Marilyn, a woman who’s certainly dotted her I’s and crossed plenty of T’s in her career.

While nearly 40 years separate us, I feel as though Marilyn and I have several commonalities. We’ve both pursued journalism careers and write weekly columns. But unlike Marilyn, I probably won’t last 70 years in this industry. After nearly 30 years in the business, I personally know and respect the challenges she faces in writing her columns week in and week out. Trust me, it’s not always easy.

As the program neared its end Thursday, a young woman in the audience asked Marilyn if she would’ve done anything differently in her career.

“Golf,” she answered, noting that it wasn’t her game.

And that’s yet another similarity Marilyn and I have, although I’ll keep plugging away at both my weekly columns and my golf game.
Community organization needs
This week’s needs at the Brandon Area Food Pantry are paper plates, napkins, pudding and Jello snack packs, pancake mix and syrup, homestyle Bakes, pasta and rice side dishes. The BAFP continues to have an ample supply of canned vegetables. Before donating, please check the expiration date, as expired food items cannot be distributed. Monetary donations are always appreciated.

The BAFP is located at 406 Main Ave., and is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. To donate to the food pantry or for more information, call 582-7001.

The Brandon Lions Club also wants your aluminum cans. Proceeds from the sale of aluminum funds requests to the Club for vision and hearing impairment needs.

The Lions Club collection shed is located in the Sunshine Foods parking lot.

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