Land of the Corn
Is coverage of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln football program as overbearing as some of us think it is? A scientific (kind of?) examination.
By Garret Mueller
It’s a familiar cry for residents of the Cornhusker State that don’t bleed Husker red: “Can we please dial back the Nebraska football coverage?” The apparent myopia of the local media is cause for a range of emotions, most frequently disdain or disgust. But is the #HuskerMedia as overbearing as it seems, or are other cash cows milked as vigorously as the Big Red Teat?
A simple, hardly scientific scan of the online sports page of the Omaha World-Herald counted 68 clickable links to sports content. Of those 68 links, 17 were to content with a direct affiliation to the University of Nebraska football program. Seventeen stories! Only three times the number of captains that Nebraska selected for the upcoming season (which I know, because it was one of the links)! These various articles, blogs, columns, or podcasts accounted for 17.9 percent of the available content on the main sports page.
Compare that level of local coverage to that of The Birmingham News, right in the heart of Alabama and Auburn territory. Surely college football coverage dominates the market there, right? Well, actually, not it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. A similar scan of al.com’s main sports page turned up six football-related items among the site’s 29 relevant links — good for 20.7 percent of the page between the two schools combined.
So Nebraska is at least on par with the SEC in media coverage. To find out how it would fare in the Pac 12, compare the Big Red’s 17.9 percent to the spread The Oregonian commits to the Oregon Ducks. Of the 57 pieces available on the main sports page, only seven are applicable to the defending Rose Bowl champions — a paltry 12.3 percent of the page.
But maybe I’m comparing big red tomatoes to shiny green apples. Nebraskans are hearty midwesterners, after all. They don’t football the right way in the liberal Pacific Northwest. So let’s compare the World-Herald to the Columbus Dispatch — the local paper of the 2015 National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes.
(Hold on a second, I have to go scream into a toilet…
… and I’m back)
Let’s get this out of the way first: Ohio State fans are nuts. They forced local hero and ageless wonder Kirk Herbstreit to relocate his family from Columbus to Nashville, all because he has the gall not to bow down at the altar of Woody Hayes on national TV. These are fans who crave Buckeye talk, especially with the three-stallion race to be behind center come September. So what kind of coverage are we looking at here? 20… 25… 30 percent?
Four. Four out of 77 articles are related to the Ohio State football program on the main sports page.
That’s good for 5.2% of coverage out of the hometown paper.
The Lincoln Journal-Star would dedicate at least 6 percent to the quarterbacks alone.
So, yes, it appears that Nebraska media is a little more single-minded than that of the average market. But the point is to sell ads and papers, right? If the people want a three-month-old longform on Mike Riley’s path to Nebraska, they better have easy access to it. And it isn’t like the reporters in Columbus don’t know exactly where the head coach’s house is.
They just know it doesn’t have to be front-page news.