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Published August 10, 2012, 09:08 AM

Marilyn Hagerty to be honored with journalism award

Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert, Larry King ... and Marilyn Hagerty?

By: Jennifer Johnson, Grand Forks Herald , INFORUM

Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert, Larry King ... and Marilyn Hagerty?

The Herald columnist, best known on the Internet for her review of the Grand Forks Olive Garden, will join some famous names in American journalism Oct. 4 when she receives an award from her alma mater the University of South Dakota.

The university said Thursday that it will honor her with the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media. She’ll be the 26th person to be so honored.

Hagerty was the award committee’s unanimous choice, said Jack Marsh, chief operating officer of the Al Neuharth Media Center at USD. The fact that she, like Neuharth, is in her 80s and extremely active in journalism makes her a perfect choice for the award, Marsh said.

Hagerty, 86, and Neuharth, 88, the founder of USA Today and the award’s namesake, go a long ways back when she was his boss at The Volante, the school paper.

He told the Herald Thursday that he remains an ardent admirer of his old editor.

‘Two giants’

“Here’s two giants in journalism, one who has served in a community newspaper and another one who has made an impact in the whole industry,” said Marsh. “They’re two years apart in age, and they’re both still active columnists.”

Neuharth still writes a column for USA Today. Hagerty writes five columns each week for the Herald. She began writing for the Herald in 1961 as a full-time features reporter and has won a number of other awards, including 22 Minnesota and North Dakota AP writing awards.

It was one of her Eat Beat restaurant reviews that went viral in March, passed on from website to website. Afterwards, Hagerty appeared on talk shows such as Anderson Cooper and Good Morning America. She is now working on a book with Anthony Bourdain.

Hagerty was traveling Thursday and could not be reached.

‘Bright, talented’

In the 1940s, she and Neuharth were classmates at USD.

Neuharth said he was looking for a career in radio but didn’t succeed as a play-by-play announcer. He walked into the offices of The Volante and Hagerty hired him as a sports writer.

“I think she was a pretty serious and straightforward person who really thought part of her job with The Volante staff was not just putting out the paper, but teaching her staffers what journalism was all about,” he said.

She was an “extremely bright and talented journalist” who had a knack for helping the younger journalists on staff, he said. At the time, it was a female-dominated organization because of the men’s absence at war, but when they came back, she did a terrific job of making them feel comfortable but useful, he said.

“One of the things I remember about her very well is that she felt strongly that The Volante was a students’ newspaper, and not the administration’s newspaper,” he said. “She didn’t feel that she had to do anything to satisfy the president, the university or the faculty because it was a student newspaper, and that’s not always the case at student newspapers.”

After graduation, the two regularly kept in touch by exchanging Christmas cards and the occasional letter.

Neuharth said he was surprised her Olive Garden review got the kind of attention it did. “But I was not surprised that she handled it the way she did, and captured the flavor of what it meant in Grand Forks.”

He’ll be presenting the award to her himself in October at USD’s campus in Vermillion.

Call Johnson at (701) 780-1138; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1138.