Professors Offer Expertise as RNC Comes to Cleveland | School of Journalism & Mass Communication | Kent State University

Professors Offer Expertise as RNC Comes to Cleveland

JMC Associate Professor and CCI Associate Dean Danielle Sarver Coombs has been a frequent commentator in local and national media outlets leading up to the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Coombs is an expert in media framing in politics and author of “Last Man Standing: Media, Framing, and the 2012 Republican Primaries.”

Recent commentary:

The following article ran in the Spring 2016 issue of Jargon, the School’s alumni magazine, and offers an in-depth look at Coombs’ expertise:

The 2016 primary races have captured the attention of American voters like none in recent memory, fueling a divisiveness characterized by candidates clashing with words and their supporters engaging in physical confrontations. DANIELLE SARVER COOMBS, PH.D., associate professor and graduate studies coordinator in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC), is particularly interested in the primary races and how the media is covering the candidates.

A native of Northeast Ohio, Coombs is an authoritative voice and author, media commentator and consultant on areas related to politics, sports and the politics of sport. She developed her interest in politics at an early age, and her academic and professional career followed a path that included both research and politics.

“My godfather, Dave Troutman, was the Summit County Sheriff in the 80s and 90s, so I was exposed to politics and fascinated by the conversations and stories he would tell,” she said.

As a former director of election research for Edison Media Research, Coombs has extensive professional experience with election-related research. At Edison, she was brought on board in early 2003 as part of the team responsible for rebuilding exit polling for use by major national news organizations, including the Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. She developed her research skills at Insight Research Group (now Insight Strategy Group) in New York City. After earning her Ph.D. in mass communication and public affairs from Louisiana State University in 2007, she joined the JMC faculty later that year.

During the 2012 primary season, Coombs combined her passion for politics with her research skills to examine the mainstream media coverage of the 2012 Republican primaries. The results of her exhaustive analysis of candidate-related coverage from six major media outlets (The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) are shared in her book, “Last Man Standing: Media, Framing, and the 2012 Republican Primaries” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).

“Looking back on 2012, it was a fascinating primary period for the Republican party,” Coombs said. “We had outsized candidates and constantly changing frontrunners, making for some fantastic coverage. That coverage is what I researched. My research focuses on media frames – the manner in which the media visually presented the candidates – and how this framing informed the perceptions, and ultimately the voting decisions, of the media-consuming public.”

During the 2016 election season, Coombs has drawn comparisons between her analysis from 2012 and what is currently unfolding.

“The 2012 Republican field, much like 2016, initially was populated with a large number of candidates facing off in numerous debates. In terms of media framing, this was entertainment. This was reality TV,” Coombs said. “In contrast to that idea of spectacle and excitement and drama, media coverage throughout the entire 2012 primary period characterized Mitt Romney as plodding along, staying the course, while a series of shooting star candidates burst to the forefront before flaming out.

“Unlike 2012, 2016 has seen these un-establishment candidates maintain their appeal, rather than crashing and burning. And I’m not just talking about Donald Trump. The same phenomenon applies to both Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, both sitting Senators.”

Election 2016 has taught us that there’s no template to follow, she said.

“What is happening in 2016 is unlike any primary season in recent memory, and that makes any sort of forecasting extremely difficult,” Coombs said. “What we do know, however, is that this election’s candidates, campaigns and media coverage will be studied and scrutinized for years to come.”

POSTED: Friday, July 15, 2016 - 9:48am
UPDATED: Friday, July 29, 2016 - 9:31am