Zenger Award

The award

The Zenger Award is named for a husband and wife team of pioneering journalists. It is a joint award presented by the Arizona Newspapers Association and the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

The University of Arizona School of Journalism is one of only about 100 fully accredited journalism programs in the nation. Its classes range from traditional reporting skills to internet research and computerized graphic design. Its two newspapers, the local edition of The Tombstone Epitaph and El Independiente, the nation’s only student-run bilingual newspaper, are unique in American journalism education. Jacqueline Sharkey is head of the department.

Who are the Zengers?

John Peter Zenger was editor of the New York Weekly Journal in 1734 when he was jailed by British colonial authorities on charges of seditious libel. He had criticized the corrupt administration of New York’s governor, William Cosby. While Zenger was imprisoned, his wife, Anna Catherine Zenger, continued to publish the newspaper.

Zenger’s subsequent trial and acquittal is considered a landmark case in the history of freedom of the press, paving the way for the American Revolution.

Here’s the story about the Zengers:

In the early 18th century, John Peter Zenger made a stand for a free press.

Zenger came to New York a poor immigrant boy from Palatinate, a region of ancient Germany of which Heidelberg was capitol until 1720. After serving an apprenticeship at Bradford press shop, Zenger acquired some type and a press and set up for himself. It was November 5, 1733, when John Peter Zenger founded the New York Weekly Journal. In the very first printed edition of the Journal, a story was published that opposed an appointee by Governor William Cosby. The contested seat was that of the High Sheriff. The article included a parody about a 4-foot monkey directed at the Sheriff. The paper continued to oppose the popular majority in New York, giving citizens a new perspective.

The Governor did not look highly upon the Journal, and ordered Zenger’s arrest on the grounds of seditious libel. The grand jury refused to return any indictments. Finally, Cosby issued his own warrant for Zenger’s arrest.

For nine months Zenger edited his paper via the light shining through his cell door, while his wife, Anna Catherine, kept the presses rolling.

In August 1735, Andrew Hamilton, a famous Philadelphia lawyer, took the case on John Peter Zenger’s behalf. Hamilton delivered impressive speeches which resulted in the jury’s “not guilty” decision. Hamilton pleaded for the admissibility of evidence as to the truth of an alleged libel, and the right of the jury to determine whether the publication is defamatory or seditious.

The Zenger Trial had a great influence upon the popular feeling as to the importance of the freedom of the press, and upon the development of the concept of liberty in general.

Distinguished recipients

2009 — Tom Arviso Jr., Navajo Times

2007 — Jerry Mitchell, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger

2005 — Bill Moyers, Broadcast Journalist

2003 — Vanessa Leggett, Lecturer and free lance writer

2001 — Lou Boccardi and The Associated Press

2000 — Paul K. McMasters, The Freedom Forum

1998 — U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont

1997 — Mark Goodman, Student Press Law Center

1996 — Nat Hentoff, Washington Post

1995 — Ben Bagdikian, media scholar

1994 — Investigative Reporters & Editors

1993 — Jane E. Kirtley, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

1992 — Helen Thomas, United Press International

1991 — Peter Arnett, Cable News Network

1990 — Terry A. Anderson, The Associated Press

1989 — Robert C. Maynard, The Oakland Tribune

1988 — Jean H. Otto, The Rocky Mountain News

1987 — Eugene L. Roberts Jr., The Philadelphia Inquirer

1986 — John R. Finnegan, St. Paul (Minn.)Pioneer Press & Dispatch

1985 — Thomas Winship, The Boston Globe

1984 — Tom Wicker, The New York Times

1982 — Fred W. Friendly, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

1981 — Paul S. Cousley, Alton (Ill.) Telegraph

1980 — Walter Cronkite, CBS

1979 — Jack C. Landau, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

1978 — Robert H. Estabrook, Lakeville (Conn.) Journal

1977 — Robert W. Greene, Newsday

1976 — Donald F. Bolles, The Arizona Republic

1975 — Seymour M. Hersh, The New York Times

1974 — Thomas E. Gish, The Mountain Eagle

1973 — Katharine Graham, The Washington Post

1972 — Dan Hicks Jr., Monroe County Democrat

1971 — The New York Times

1970 — Erwin D. Canham, The Christian Science Monitor

1969 — J. Edward Murray, The Arizona Republic

1968 — Wes Gallagher, The Associated Press

1967 — John S. Knight, Knight Newspapers, Inc.

1966 — Arthur Krock, The New York Times

1965 — Eugene C. Pulliam, The Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette

1964 — John Netherland Heiskell, Arkansas Gazette

1963 — James B. Reston, The New York Times

1962 — John H. Colburn, Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch

1961 — Clark R. Mollenhoff, Cowles Publications

1960 — Virgil M. Newton Jr., Tampa (Fla.) Tribune

1959 — Herbert Brucker, Hartford Courant

1958 — John Moss, U.S. House Govermental Information Subcommittee

1957 — James R. Wiggins, The Washington (D.C.) Post and Times Herald

1956 — James S. Pope, Louisville Courier Journal

1955 — Basil L. Walters, Chicago Daily News & Knight Newspapers

1954 — E. Palmer Hoyt, The Denver Post

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