Kluger masterfully tells a story that is rich in both human drama and historical background ... Kluger tells those stories in detail but without taking a position on whether Cosby was as bad as his critics charged ... Kluger concludes by highlighting a new threat to press freedom: the prosecution or attempted prosecution of whistleblowers from within the newly emerging national security state, such as the now-imprisoned Chelsea Manning or the in-exile Edward Snowden.
...vivid storytelling built on exacting research, a knack for animating the context and an exquisite sense of balance that honors this country’s essential press freedom without romanticizing its champions ... Whether Zenger was moved by profit, idealism or something else is unknown, as is almost everything else about the man. Kluger resorts to a lot of 'was probably' and 'we can only imagine' and 'might well have' to sketch a speculative portrait ... What ensues is a gripping courtroom confrontation that Kluger reconstructs mainly from the detailed notes of the defense lawyers, there being no official transcript.
Kluger tells the complex and thoroughly engaging history leading up to and including the moment of Zenger’s trial for seditious libel of a government figure ... Zenger’s trial does not unfold until the final chapter. But Kluger writes with such vivid detail and brisk pacing that the rather tortuous history that leads there is packed with drama ... Kluger’s summaries of the Journal’s most satirical passages are great fun to read for the rare glimpses they offer into the minds of crafty 18th-century politicians ... Kluger’s book is based on original if spotty archival sources, leaving Kluger to rely on phrases such as 'might then have' and 'probably' ... Kluger’s illuminating history makes clear the far more restrictive circumstances of the press in the 18th century, and it stands as a cautionary tale of what might happen if we let history repeat itself.