If you Googled "Atlantic City and Sandy" yesterday, this ABC News headline was at the top of the list: "Superstorm Sandy Destroys Atlantic City Boardwalk". Dozens of news outlets in the United States and around the world - including Comcast, The Huffington Post and the London Daily Telegraph - carried similar headlines in recent days.
The Atlantic City Boardwalk, of course, is still standing, thank you very much. In fact, it was virtually unscathed by Sandy. "The entire oceanfront Boardwalk in front of the Atlantic City casinos is undamaged with all dunes and lights intact," Tom Gilbert, the public safety commander of the Atlantic City Tourism District, said in a statement on the Atlantic City Alliance's Facebook page.
What did happen is that a several-blocks-long section of dilapidated Boardwalk that was already scheduled for demolition and rebuilding was destroyed by storm-driven waves. This is a noncommercial section of Boardwalk paralleling Absecon Inlet. Rebuilding it is critically important to redeveloping the South Inlet. But all Sandy did is save the city some money by doing a big piece of the demolition work.
These erroneous reports matter because Atlantic City is going to need every visitor it can drum up when the town gets back to something closer to normal. The last thing the city needs is most of the nation and world thinking that the Boardwalk is gone. (Adding to the bad news, the New Jersey Education Association announced Thursday that it was cancelling its annual teachers convention scheduled for Nov. 8-9 in Atlantic City - one of the resort's largest events.)
To its credit, the Atlantic City Alliance is tracking media reports and trying to counter the misinformation. But it's not an easy task. Truth, they say, is the first casualty of war - and, apparently, of disasters, too.
But one piece of Sandy-related misinformation was truly amusing. A news program used a photo of the famous shack on Route 72 in Stafford Township - a long-time local landmark that has been crumbling into the marshes for years - as an example of storm damage. The photo showed an American flag on the now-destroyed structure, and the newscaster intoned, "This is somebody's home barely standing ... so poetic to see Old Glory is still waving."
Poetic indeed. Poetic license, you might say.
The shack story is funny - but the rest of this misinformation isn't.