Conventional Wisdom Stalls on the L Train
Over the past two weeks the applause meter on Governor Cuomo’s L train drama has swung back and forth so wildly that the conventional wisdom has barely kept up.

Jaws dropped on January 2nd, when Cuomo announced virtually at the last minute that a “major breakthrough” in technology had averted the planned 15-month shutdown of the line, previously deemed necessary for repairs to be made on a critical tunnel.

The coverage of the bombshell announcement began with over-the-top expressions of relief – the L-pocalypse was not to be! The public learned a lot in a short amount of time about sealing bench walls with coatings of polymer, and hanging electric cables from tunnel ceilings. “How Ivy League Engineers Helped Avert The L Train Nightmare,” offered the Post.

The worm started to turn the next day. What about the people who’d fled their Brooklyn neighborhoods in anticipation of the closure? In the Times , we read about Kelly Tieger , who’d been ensconced in Bushwick but chose to move to Connecticut due to the impending closure. Now the L will keep running between those polymer-sealed walls, but Ms. Tieger is trapped in the Nutmeg State.
The Post went in for the kill on January 4 th . “He’s going off the rails,” began a story portraying the Governor as all but stark-raving mad (“Cuomo Goes Loco,” read its editorial). Praise for those Ivy League engineers turned to contempt. “The engineering team behind Gov. Cuomo’s miracle L-train cure has little experience working on transit projects — and spent a grand total of an hour evaluating the damage,” the paper reported.

So was Cuomo’s plan a dud?

Not so fast. No less than Jim Dwyer of the Times, the great Pulitzer-winning journalist whose coverage of the subways is legend, gave Cuomo’s plan an enthusiastic thumbs-up. The About New York columnist explained in a 15-part tweet string that the creative, if last-minute, solution was the kind of thinking that needed to be applied to all the problems facing the broken system.

“For six years since Sandy,” Dwyer wrote in Tweet No. 2, “it has been an article of faith that damages to the L train tunnel could be fixed in only ONE POSSIBLE WAY. That was lazy fiction.”   

He blamed himself for not challenging the initial plan for the tunnel. “No one told me I couldn’t ask the questions,” he tweeted. “I didn’t. I should have.”

So, as we said, the conventional wisdom on the L train story has yet to settle. We’re all on our own on this one.
  Meanwhile, In New Jersey…
Last week’s Communications Breakdown focused on the state of New York City journalism, but the scribes across the Hudson deserve a major shout-out for pulling off a hugely ambitious project in the face of deep staff cutbacks. That would be The Star-Ledger staff, and their project is The Force Report , for which the Ledger and its various sister papers spent 16 months cataloging police abuse in the state.

“Two decades ago, officials envisioned a centralized database that would flag potentially dangerous cops for scrutiny,” Ledger editors wrote. “But that database was never created. So we built it.”

The news organization said it filed over 500 public records requests and collected over 72,000 use-of-force reports covering every municipal police department and the State Police from 2012 through 2016.

The stories make for riveting, if troubling, reading. In one New Jersey municipality, a black person was more than 10 times more likely to face police force than someone who was white. In another it was 22 times .

In response, the state attorney general conceded that it had failed to track abusive cops, and promised wholesale reform.

We suspect The Force Report required many tough daily decisions about which other stories had to be ignored so the reporters could stay focused, which is never an easy call. But the paper clearly made a lot of right calls on this one. 
The Saga of Carlos Ghosn
We don’t get to The Daily Beast as often as we should – there’s just too much out there to read. But Jake Adelstein, a freelance writer in Japan, has us hooked on his coverage of the arrest of Carlos Ghosn. He’s the colorful ousted chairman of Nissan Motor who has been jailed in Japan for two months on charges of falsely reporting his income.

The story of this Western business mogul with an outsized personality falling spectacularly from grace is naturally compelling. But we’ve also been fascinated by the details we’re learning about the Japanese legal system.

We’ve learned, for example, that Mr. Ghosn, like all Japanese arrestees, is being held until trial. In Japan, you are often released when you confess to a crime, but held when you dispute the charges against you. There is a 99 percent conviction rate using this guilty-until-proven-guilty approach.

The authorities aren’t happy that these practices are drawing attention.

“Each country has its own history, culture and systems,” said Shin Kukimoto of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office. “I wonder if it’s appropriate to criticize our system just because it’s different.”

All doesn’t bode well for Mr. Ghosn. 
Here and There
Comings and goings in journalism and communications

Randy Archibold named sports editor of the Times... Sebastian Modak joins the paper as its “ 52 Places Traveler ” – he’ll hit one spot around the globe each week (good gig!)… J. Peter Donald becomes head of policy and communications at The Citizen app… Kazi Awal , Claudia Irizarry Aponte, Audrey Carlsen, Ben Fractenberg and Jose Martinez join The City… Rachael Bade joins The Washington Post from Politico .
“If helping tenants, exploited workers, poor kids who need eyeglasses, the uninsured, and NYC bus riders is clear evidence of a plan to run for national office then we should be proud of where our national political conversation is headed.” – de Blasio Press Secretary Eric Phillips

“He’s gone!” – A jokester in the courtroom where Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is on trial when the lights briefly went dark. When they came back on the drug kingpin was still there.
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Kirtzman Strategies is a strategic communications and public affairs firm that works with public officials, nonprofits, companies, tech startups and education organizations.
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