We’ve named our nonprofit organization after colonial editor John Peter Zenger. In the 1730s, his New York Weekly Journal reported that royal governor William Cosby was a thief and liar. Zenger was telling the truth, but under British law at that time truth was no defense: A journalist’s job was to do public relations for the king and his officials.
SALT, NOT SUGAR
We value journalism that’s salt, not sugar. That means reporting good news but not making it sticky-sweet. It also means reporting bad news because Christ’s grace becomes most meaningful when we’re aware of sin. It means being tough-minded but warmhearted.
GOD’S IN CHARGE
We are looking for those who don’t scream that the sky is falling, because they know God holds up the sky. They like front row seats at the circus but know the circus is not ultimate reality. They try to avoid the extremes of either solemnity or snark by combining seriousness and smiles. They are happy warriors, following their calling and teaching others not to despair.
GLORY AND SIN
We are looking for those who understand that the heavens declare the glory of God, but the streets proclaim the sinfulness of man. Our goal is not to midwife amoral journalism that sees lives as sound-and-fury tales told by idiots, signifying nothing, nor journalistic moralism that reduces life to rule-following. We see sin but also redemptive twists.
WAY OF WISDOM
We are looking for journalists who want to go beyond existential subjectivity (with emphasis on our own opinions) toward biblical objectivity, where we attempt to apply biblical wisdom to everyday life. We show ways to neither overuse nor underuse the Bible. We believe in writing with sensational facts but understated prose, and in taking strong stands when the Bible is clear but not when it is opaque.
We look for provocative and evocative news stories that are the result of pavement-pounding rather than thumb-sucking. We distinguish between journalism and propaganda: Journalism is about truth-telling, even when it hurts, while propaganda involves a willingness to lie whenever that will supposedly help. Our goal is to tell the truth, and we want others to do so also.
THINK. REPORT. WRITE.
WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR:
Zenger Prizes for Journalism are designed to encourage original reporting that reflects biblical objectivity, the perspective God clearly communicates
Print pieces may be up to 10,000 words, published on paper or websites.
WE AWARD ZENGER PRIZES THROUGH A 2-STEP PROCESS:
First, judges read widely. Second, we contact authors and may ask them to supply biographical information. Our goal is to discern talent but make awards to people, not pieces of paper or piles of pixels. Zenger Prize announcements honor the winners as well as their work.
We plan to announce our first group of prize winners on August 10, 2022. Each prize will carry with it an award of $1,000. The decision of the judges is final.
HERE ARE 8 QUESTIONS JUDGES WILL ASK:
1. Do stories show strong evidence of on-the-ground reporting rather than reliance on reading and contemplation only?
2. Do stories have sensory detail so readers feel they can see, hear, smell, or touch scenes, subjects, and objects?
3. Do stories bring out a diversity of non-official perspectives, instead of relying on organizational spokesmen and publicity releases?
4. Do stories have strong human interest, starting with a “face” who allows the writer to show how a big issue affects an individual life?
5. Do stories connect human interest to larger issues through appropriate use of studies, statistics, and other evidence?
6. Do stories shine a light on issues many people have never considered or try to avoid, and in so doing convey biblical understanding?
7. Do stories capture the reader’s imagination from the start, so that those who aren’t judges, family members, or others obliged to read will keep reading?
8. Do stories move well, pushing the reader from one paragraph to the next and concluding in a satisfactory way?