Wick Communications

Sincerity in the flyover states

In journalism on March 16, 2012 at 8:10 am

Have you heard of Marilyn Hagerty? She is in her mid-80s and has been working for the Grand Forks Tribune since before John F. Kennedy was president. She writes several columns a week and her writing seems to me to be punchy, grammatically correct, focused on the lives of local readers and the sort of thing all of our papers would love to have.

That hasn’t stopped her from becoming the target of some mean-spirited snark on the Internet.

The subject of all the giggles is Hagerty’s review of a new Olive Garden in her hometown. It ain’t Watergate, but let’s face it, people want to know when a new restaurant opens in town. We wrote a similar story about a new restaurant ourselves just last week.

But some folks just can’t handle a writer who is sincere. About two-thirds of regular online commenters hate nothing more than that. If you can’t roll your eyes, why bother rolling your mouse, right?

Thankfully, a whole lot of us see the value of work like Hagerty’s. The har-de-har tweets and the winking alt-weekly references have now been counterbalanced by some very sweet support, some of it from readers who grew up trusting Hagerty. These are the people we know. People in places like Roanoke Rapids, N.C., and Wasilla, Alaska, appreciate earnest local journalism and they are largely too polite to make fun of an octogenarian grandmother. They think the new chain restaurant is deserving of a chance. Some of us don’t have dozens of neon-lit eateries from which to choose. We appreciate what we have. Maybe that is why we are nice to our neighbors and still pick up newspapers to find out what they are up to.

This isn’t Marilyn Hagerty’s first rodeo. (Her son is a writer for the Wall Street Journal, by the way.) She might be surprised by the way her latest restaurant review went viral on the Web, but she isn’t about to let the fame or infamy change her approach. …

The Grand Forks Herald noted the excitement in its own story. The writer spoke with Hagerty’s daughter, Gail Hagerty of Bismarck, who said she urged her mother to read the Facebook comments about her review. To which, Marilyn Hagerty said:

“I told her I’m working on my Sunday column and I’m going to play bridge this afternoon, so I don’t have time to read all this crap.”

Thank you, Marilyn, for your honesty and straight-forward approach to informing folks in your community. Don’t let the haters get you down. Please pass the breadsticks.

Clay

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