VHS Grad Wins Award For Story On MyVeronaNJ


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George Donnelly, a 2023 graduate of Verona High School, has won the 2024 Excellence in New Jersey Local News Award from the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University for a story he wrote for MyVeronaNJ last year.

As part of his senior Capstone, Donnelly researched and wrote about slavery’s role in Verona’s early history. The feature, “Slavery In Verona? Yes, Here Too,” looked at both slaves that were lent to Verona property owners around the time of the American Revolution by the Doremus family that founded Cedar Grove, and at the slave holdings of later residents.

Donnelly established that Dr. Christian Bone, who is often recognized as a founder of Verona’s pre-Civil War economy, owned slaves and used their labor to both dam the Peckman River near the current waterfall in Verona Park and operate his milling business. A millstone once used there (pictured above) has been put in the center of town near H.B. Whitehorne Middle School, but there is no sign that identifies its historical significance or its relation to slavery.

“It’s an incredible honor to have been selected as one of the recipients of this award,” said Donnelly, who is now enrolled at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). “Writing the article was an incredible opportunity, which has inspired me to continue doing journalistic work in the future. Furthermore, receiving this highlights the importance of the work being done by researchers like Dory Vanderhoof and his team to communities across the state.” Goline “Dory” Vanderhoof is a direct descendant of the Doremus family who has preserved their records, some of which are 300 years old.

MyVeronaNJ.com’s editor, Virginia Citrano, submitted Donnelly’s story for the Center for Cooperative Media award. It was one of 85 submissions received by the center, the most in the history of its awards program. Ten journalists were recognized by the Center but Donnelly was the only student journalist to be honored.

“MyVeronaNJ has been a supporter of the VHS Capstone program since it began almost a decade ago,” Citrano said. “I held our student interns to the same standards I used with the reporters I led at Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. They wrote many great stories, but it is safe to say that none were as complex as the one that George readily took on. He spent hours on the phone with Dory Vanderhoof and more hours pouring over maps and archives to understand what slavery was like in northern New Jersey. This award is very well deserved.”

The Center for Cooperative Media was founded in 2012 in response to downsizings in New Jersey news publications. It coordinates statewide and regional reporting, researches best practices in local journalism, and technology to help small newsrooms. It operates within the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University.

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