By NJ Today Contributor Dick Sheeran
We have breaking news….Atlantic City’s world famous boardwalk is still standing. It is in one piece and quite walkable as it has been since the late 1800s.
How do I know? I just took a long walk on the walk while singing that famous tune “On the boardwalk in Atlantic City life is but a dream.”
Why is this breaking news? During the breathless coverage of Superstorm Sandy, it was reported by some that the boardwalk was gone, washed away by the angry surf. WRONG.
The TRUTH: a small, rotting section of the boardwalk in the Inlet section of town was washed away. That portion of the walk was blocked off and scheduled for demolition anyway. Somehow during the reportage of the storm, the story grew totally out of proportion to the true picture. All of the boardwalk from north of the new Revel casino all the way down to the Margate city limit survived the storm in GOOD condition. The boardwalk the world knows is just fine.
Television news is all about pictures. The video of the wooden planks from the already heavily damaged old section of the boardwalk piled up on land (in some cases in people’s houses) was quite dramatic. That scene that was the backdrop for reports that conveyed the wrong impression that the whole walk was like that small portion.
Full disclosure: as a TV reporter for 30 years, I did many “live shots” in that area for the aforementioned reason — great pictures. That area of town has the only sea wall at the ocean. So the waves that inevitably slam into the wall make for great video even in much smaller storms. But it never reached the point where the impression was left that the whole boardwalk was affected.
So why this piece about what seems to be old news? Well, the real story eventually got out that the boardwalk is in one big piece. But not before the wrong story went out to the world. So it is possible that many potential visitors still think the walk is gone. We all know that corrections take a long time to catch up with original impressions.
All of this is very important to Atlantic City, a town that has always depended on visitors to keep the wheels turning. The town’s 12 casinos are trying real hard to survive the down economy and fierce competition from neighboring states. This summer, there was a glimmer of positive news, now Sandy clobbers the town’s main industry.
The Press of Atlantic City has editorialized about the misreporting. It’s editor — Neill Borowski — also wrote a column in which he said “Shameful. That’s the only description for the so-called journalists who assumed, because a small piece of rotting section of the boardwalk (scheduled for demolition) fell into the ocean that the whole boardwalk was destroyed.”
The reality is the casinos survived the storm quite well. Now the challenge is to bring back the customers. The impact on the industry of course goes beyond the investors. It effects the thousands of people who earn a living in the gambling houses. For their sake, come back.
Dick Sheeran is a veteran television news reporter and former anchor of CBS3-TV, Philadelphia.