"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
For Hog fans, the local news, including print and broadcast media, is literally a feast of information and analysis on the latest Razorback performance, be it a glorious triumph or an embarrassing defeat. There are post-game interviews, highlights, stats, summations, predictions and wrap-ups. For fans of UCA, ASU, UAPB, SAU, UAM, Henderson and Harding, it's hard to find such unwavering adulation and wall-to-wall coverage from the state's major news outlets.
“If you don't have a Razorback on the side of your helmet, you're just fighting for scraps and that's all you're going to get,” says Mark Ferguson, an Arkansas State alumn and avid Red Wolf fan.
It wasn't always that bad, Ferguson says. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette used to have a full-time beat writer dedicated to ASU sports. However, after a couple rounds of lay-offs at the state's biggest newspaper, the duty of covering ASU has fallen to free-lance writers.
“I know several people who have dropped their subscription to the D-G because their ASU coverage has gotten so bad,” Ferguson says.
Democrat-Gazette sports editor Wally Hall says he thinks the paper's coverage of in-state football is fair.
“We have a UCA beat writer and a Gulf South Conference beat writer that takes care of UAPB,” Hall says. “It comes down to news judgment and overall interest of the readership and subscribers. We've done surveys in the past and asked what they wanted. They always give the Razorbacks a lot of credence, so that's how we decide.”
Rex Nelson, a former assistant sports editor at the D-G, thinks the paper does “a pretty good job from a print standpoint,” although he does have some criticism for other news outlets. Nelson runs a blog called “Southern Fried” where he writes about, among other things, college football. A Ouachita grad and now a Tigers play-by-play announcer, Nelson started to boycott KTHV, Ch. 11, after tuning in one night to find the station offered no in-state scores other than U of A.
“I'm not asking for a lot of film, I know time is limited and I know the Hogs are always first, but it would take less than a minute to post the scores,” Nelson says. “KATV has always done a pretty good job with that. I checked a couple of weeks later and KTHV did everything. So there's no consistency there.”
Chuck Maulden, news director at KTHV, says Ch. 11 tries to at least show the scores and covers other in-state schools when they have the opportunity.
“The Hogs are the big draw,” Maulden says. “I mean the percentage of Hog fans in the state is probably somewhere around 90-98 percent. We can't have every school every weekend, but we try to have a majority of them.”
Of course, there's probably something larger at play here. Basically, whatever point of view you have, whether it be conservative or liberal, the media is biased against your side. I guess the same thing goes with football.
Derek Jenkins, who writes our “A Boy Named Sooie” column, says that while the amount of local coverage might not be equitable, it's certainly understandable.
“I suppose the media neglect is an extension of the neglect of smaller divisions and conferences by the nation at large, exacerbated in Arkansas's case by the fact we have no professional teams to distract us,” Jenkins says. When Arkansas State starts knocking off some of the biggies on its non-conference schedule, I'm sure the state's media will prick up its ears.”
In the meantime, folks like Ferguson say the best way to get good sports news and analysis is at a hyper-local level. He runs an ASU fan blog (www.arkst.com) and says he gets most of his ASU news through Twitter and local blogs. Jenkins agrees that that's become the way to go.
“If I were a big UCA fan, I'm not sure I'd miss reading 800 words of empty quotes and hackneyed analysis from some kind of ‘legitimate' news source each week,” he says. “I've got my own eyes. I don't think big fans need someone to parse every game for them. What I'd rather have is a community of like-minded individuals willing to shoot the bull, make jokes and argue the merits of any given game.”