Featured Author: Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha

PSQ prides itself on publishing scholarship created by the best and brightest in their respective fields. To highlight some of these exciting contributors and provide an in-depth look at the broader work our authors do, we bring you our Featured Author interview series

Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha is department chair and professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas His research focuses on American political institutions, specifically the presidency and mass media, and public policy. His article “Presidential Leadership of Partisan News” can be found in the March 2018 publication of Presidential Studies Quarterly. 

What made you interested in this subject?
I have been interested in presidential leadership of the news media for years. There are so many questions that we might ask about the subject and for which we currently have few good answers.  Although the rise of partisan media has affected our expectations about the likelihood of presidential leadership of these media, we have limited research to support them. Thus, the absence of clear answers to presidential leadership of partisan media and my enduring interest in this subject gave rise to this particular paper, which explores but a small topic related to the larger question of presidential leadership of media in the partisan news era.

How do you think your work on this article will guide you in your future research?
The article will continue to push me to look for additional ways to examine the prospects for presidential leadership of varied and fragmented media in the partisan news era. There are innumerable questions that we can answer related to less prominent and perhaps even more partisan programs on cable news channels; varied and ideologically-distinct websites; and which kind of media cover which presidential tweets and why. My article only provides a glimmer into the types of questions scholars may be able to answer and perhaps only one answer to the question of whether presidents may lead partisan news media.

What kind of response do you hope your work elicits from your readers?  Ideally, what kind of critical thought do you hope your article inspires?
I hope that readers recognize the complexities of collecting systematic data on news coverage, especially in the current media age.  It is virtually impossible to offer the complete study on presidential leadership of news in the current era of fragmented and varied media. Thus, careful reflection on the possibilities and limits of my research design may encourage others to develop similar or even better approaches to studying the complexities of media.

How do you think this might inform readers in this age of increasing skepticism of the news?
I think the findings insinuate that excessive skepticism in news coverage is not warranted.  On the one hand, presidents can lead (at least some) news coverage in the current era and their voice still comprises a substantial portion of important hard news coverage, even though presidential news coverage has declined over time.  This suggests that media are following a similar approach to covering presidents as they had, and when trust in news media was higher.  The absence of any presidential leadership of news tone shows, as well, that presidents may not be able to dictate the substantive focus of news coverage.  This point is important for those who are skeptical that news media can stand up to forces that challenge the freedom of the press.

Professor Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha can be contacted at matthew.eshbaugh-soha@unt.edu and found on Twitter with the handle @Eshbaughsoha
More information about him can be found on his website: https://eshbaugh-soha.weebly.com/