USA Today founder honors ND Olive Garden reviewer

Associated Press Modified: October 3, 2012 at 6:16 pm •  Published: October 3, 2012
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — He's the founder of the country's largest newspaper. She's known for her earnest review of an Olive Garden restaurant in North Dakota that went viral on the Internet.

Six decades after they worked together at the University of South Dakota's student newspaper, Al Neuharth, 88, and Marilyn Hagerty, 86, are reuniting.

Neuharth, the founder of USA Today, on Thursday will present his one-time editor at USD's Volante student newspaper with the 2012 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media. The award honors Hagerty's contribution to journalism, including her now-famous feature story about the grand opening of an Olive Garden in Grand Forks, N.D.

The earnest review about the town's newest Italian restaurant became an Internet sensation, catapulting Hagerty to instant celebrity among foodies. She flew to New York to appear on "Good Morning America," CNN and "The Today Show." Her son, a writer for The Wall Street Journal, penned a column about her for the paper. And celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain praised her.

"I'm delighted that she has become so famous, deservedly," Neuharth said, pointing out that Tom Brokaw is the only other South Dakotan to win the award. Past recipients also include Katie Couric, Walter Cronkite, Larry King and Tim Russert.

Hagerty was born and raised in South Dakota before moving to North Dakota in the 1950s. She began working at the Grand Forks Herald at a feature writer in 1961. Although she officially retired from the job in 1991, she continues to write five columns a week for the paper.

In her now famous column, she deftly reviewed the chicken Alfredo, crisp greens and "two long, warm breadsticks" at the chain restaurant.

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