You’ve no doubt come across one of the many articles about Marilyn Hagerty, the 85-year-old food critic from Grand Forks, North Dakota, who shot to (temporary) Internet stardom with her earnest, positive review of the Olive Garden.
Bloggers brought attention to this because they couldn’t believe that someone would offer glowing, non-ironic praise to the Olive Garden. Readers paid attention to it because of the story’s quaintness: old people aren’t terribly represented on the Internet because they tend to a) not be very technically savvy and b) don’t care about much beyond pictures of their grandkids (and possibly cats).
Then the mainstream media started paying attention to Mrs. Hagerty, and I think it’s for more than just the obvious reasons (this is an extremely cheap, easy story to cover). I believe every journalist wants to eventually retire to work for a small-town paper doing something low-key like food reviews, obituaries, or helping with the sports scores. Such a retirement would allow a reporter to continue contributing to the profession they love and share their experiences with the next generation. I believe every reporter whose done a segment on Mrs. Hagerty hopes that he someday gets to be her.
However, given the collapse of the newspaper industry, this is the kind of retirement that most reporters, consciously or not, realize they won’t be able to enjoy. (Perhaps not even her son, who works for The Wall Street Journal and wrote this lovely piece about his mom on Monday.) Attention to Mrs. Hagerty is a kind of pre-nostalgia for a world that won’t exist when we’re her age.