Johnstown Independent

Jeffery M. Donahue

A journalist's life: Fair, accurate, passionate

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Friends and family remembered Jeffery M. Donahue last week as a loving husband and doting father and grandfather.

Co-workers and people he met in the course of a long career as a reporter and editor recalled his fairness, accuracy and passion for a job to which he devoted 35 years.

Donahue suffered a heart attack and died Feb. 18 at Grant Medical Center in Columbus. Services were held Feb. 21 in Zanesville.

At the time of his death, he was special projects editor for ThisWeek Community News and also worked as a beat reporter, recently covering the city of Bexley.

Donahue worked two stints at ThisWeek -- from 1995-99 and from 2003 until his death. He served as editor of the Grove City Record for several years and was instrumental in establishing what is now ThisWeek Marysville News, for which he went on to direct award-winning coverage of that city's annual bike festival and of a continuing controversy surrounding the Hi-Q Egg Farm.

As special projects editor, Donahue helped develop a multipart print and online series about how Walmart affects local communities. The series won first place for in-depth reporting from the Ohio Newspaper Association just a week ago, Feb. 14.

Former ThisWeek Executive Editor Ben Cason pointed out Donahue was the only person he hired multiple times at the same newspaper group.

"Jeff understood the importance of accuracy and he always tried to be fair to everyone," Cason said. "He respected all, but feared none."

Stephen Zonars, former general manager at ThisWeek, said working with Donahue was "always a breath of fresh air.

"His credentials as a journalist were impeccable ... but Jeff always wanted to try the untried and chart a new course for how community journalism and news could better serve readers."

ThisWeek Managing Editor Joe Meyer worked with Donahue since the 2012 merger of ThisWeek Community Newspapers and Suburban News Publications. During that time, Donahue dealt with major health issues, but always insisted his plan was to return to full-time duty as soon as possible.

"He struggled mightily to keep working through some terrible episodes and mounting challenges," Meyer said. "I so admire the way he fought to keep doing the job he loved, just last week attending the ONA convention he helped to organize on our behalf."

Scott Hummel, assistant managing editor-digital for ThisWeek, recalled Donahue's interest in changing technology.

"I've known Jeff for 17 years, and he's always had the media's future in mind -- always thinking about the evolution of newspapers," Hummel said. "He and I collaborated on the beginning of ThisWeekNEWS. com way back in the 1990s. I'll miss him as a colleague and as a friend."

Donahue was a longtime member of the Ohio Newspaper Association, where he was on the organization's weekly newspaper committee from 2006-10, serving as chairman from 2008-10. He also was a member of the ONA convention committee for three years, serving as chairman in 2010.

ONA Executive Director Dennis Hetzel noted that under Donahue's leadership, the convention committee brought in two nationally known guest speakers for the 2010 event: Vice President Joe Biden and Columbus Zoo & Aquarium Director Emeritus Jack Hanna.

"I certainly can say he made a difference for newspapers all over Ohio," Hetzel said. "He was just a great guy ... really passionate about and committed to our industry."

Grove City Administrator Chuck Boso said Donahue could always been seen with a smile, adding that interviews with him were like visits from an old friend.

"Jeff was what I'd call a square-shooter," Boso said. "He didn't have any prejudged positions, and he always looked for the truth ... Those who knew him will surely miss him, and those who didn't know him surely missed out."

Marysville Mayor John Gore called Donahue "a true professional."

"During Jeff's career, he covered the city of Marysville for many years ... He was a good man and will be greatly missed. Our sincere condolences go out to Jeff's wife and family," Gore said.

Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler said Donahue "was a true friend to our city."

"As a journalist, Jeff was impartial, hard-working, and accurate -- careful to research all sides of a story and provide a balanced approach to news reporting," Kessler said. "What stood out with Jeff was his precise reporting and his professionalism -- he was a master of his craft, and it showed."

Donahue worked as a reporter and editor at several Ohio newspapers, including The Advocate in Newark, The Times-Recorder in Zanesville, The Daily Times in Marietta and The Journal-Leader in Caldwell. In addition, he held corporate communications positions for Intellirisk Management Corp. of Columbus and the Bethesda Health Care System in Zanesville.

Donahue was born Feb. 14, 1957, in Beverly, Ohio, the son of Cecil and Marilyn Angle Donahue. He was preceded in death by his parents and a sister, Sherri Cain.

In addition to his wife, Joyce Eppley Donahue, he is survived by a son, Keith E. (Angie) Donahue of Cambridge; daughter, Karen Slagle of Lowell, Ohio; sisters, Cecilia Armstrong of Waterford and Kim Donahue of Marietta; and grandchildren, Jordan Harris, Amaya Slagle, Jace Slagle and Liam Donahue.

Reporter Mark Dubovec contributed to this story.

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