Essay on Student: New York City and John Peter Zenger

Submitted By henrydoubleG
Words: 1349
Pages: 6

At the time of my involvement in American journalism, the industry was in its infancy. I got involved in printing and journalism in the 1720’s, a half century before The United States of America came to formally exist. I came into the world of journalism through my training and career in printing and publishing. During my years as a printer, publisher, and journalist, the scene mostly mirrored the political climate of the time. New York City was a city of opposing factions who battled for the upper hand in the struggle for political dominance. The printing press was becoming more and more utilized in influencing public opinion, starting in the early 1700’s (Alexander 7-8). Before I began printing my own newspaper, The New York Weekly Journal, in 1733, there existed only one other newspaper in the whole of New York City. This newspaper was the New York Gazette, which was coincidentally printed by my personal mentor, William Bradford. Although I respected Bradford greatly, his newspaper was little more than a government mouthpiece, with propaganda strewn across its pages. He was essentially help captive by the powers that be, and was only allowed to print content that was approved by his superiors. Bradford was threatened with a loss of his annual salary and his title as the King’s Printer if he printed anything in opposition (Alexander 8). I created The New York Weekly Journal with the backing of a group of powerful men known as the Morrisites. They were unhappy with the direction and rule of the new governor at the time, one William Cosby. As such, The New York Weekly Journal was America’s first party newspaper. Even though my newspaper broke with the established governmental standard, it can still be argued that it too was full of propaganda. As well as hosting articles and long form essays on political topics, my newspaper carried paid advertisements. However, sometimes the advertisements were satire aimed at the governor, a sort of precursor to the modern political cartoon (Alexander 9-11).

How did you happen to get interested in journalism initially?

I came to be interested in journalism through my associations and knowledge of printmaking. I was born in the dense forests and mountains of the Palatinate region (a subset of the Rhine country) in Germany. I don’t remember much about my early childhood, but that area of Germany I spent my early foundational years in was plagued with issues of poverty due to long standing wars and the greed of local government. Along with many other impoverished citizens, my father was promised a slice of land in return for his seven hard years of labor at the bidding of the local rulers. During the journey to this new land, a quarter of the voyagers perished. Among them was my own father (“John Peter Zenger Biography”). I was thirteen at the time, but the memory of losing my father will forever stick with me. The incompetence and greed of the government bothered me greatly, even at such a young age. Soon after the tragic death of my father, my mother and us three children, immigrated to the United States in 1710, mores specifically New York City. Our family could no longer live with a corrupt and power hungry regime, and my mother wished to start a new life with new opportunities. America was the obvious answer as colonial life was really starting to pick up. Upon arrival in this new land, I began my 8 year apprenticeship with William Bradford. At the time, Bradford was considered a pioneer of colonial printing (“John Peter Zenger Biography”). I choose to enter the world of printing and journalism because I realized the value in being able to openly express opinions and ideas. The only real way to counter the deep distrust I held for the government was to promote dissent through the printed newspaper. As well as authoring some articles of my own, I was a large scale publisher of other people’s opinions through my craft of printmaking. This course of action would