J. Holly McCall

J. Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.

Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville, Metro Councilmember Nancy VanReece, late community leader David McMurry, Sen. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper. (Photo courtesy of Nancy VanReece)

Nashville Democratic Rep. Bill Beck dies

By: - June 5, 2023

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the cause of death. Nashville Democratic state Rep. Bill Beck died on Sunday at the age of 61 after suffering heart attack. Beck was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 2014 and was currently serving on the House Ethics, Civil Justice, Transportation and State Government […]

Drag performer Vanity at a March rally at Tribe in Nashville to protest a law that would ban drag performances any place a minor could possibly be present. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Federal judge overturns Tennessee’s ban on drag shows

By: - June 3, 2023

Late Friday, a federal judge overturned a new Tennessee law prohibiting drag performances in public spaces, ruling it unconstitutional.  U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker ruled the Adult Entertainment Act (AEA) violates the separation-of-powers principle and chills speech protected through the First Amendment. In March, Friends of George’s, a Memphis theater company that raises funds for […]

Art by Getty Images

Red herrings in a school shooting case

By: - May 23, 2023

Talk of the so-called Covenant School “manifesto” is a red herring: a distraction floated by the Tennessee conservative lawmakers as an excuse for their failure to take any meaningful action on gun reform. A red herring is either a “dried, smoked fish,” per the Oxford dictionary or “an unimportant fact, idea, event, etc. that takes […]

A day after a mass shooting at The Covenant School, a woman is overcome with emotion in front of an impromptu memorial. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Tennessean sues Metro Nashville government over Covenant shooting records

By: - May 18, 2023

The Tennessean, a Nashville-based regional newspaper, has sued Metro Nashville government in a bid for release of documents related to the March 27 shooting at Covenant School. In addition to the Gannett-owned news outlet, plaintiffs include Tennessean reporter Rachel Wegner and state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga. According to the complaint, The Tennessean has filed multiple […]

Sen. Charlane Oliver and Tequila Johnson, co-founders of The Equity Alliance. (Photo: John Partipilo)

The new civil rights leaders

By: , and - May 12, 2023

In March 2021, the Tennessee Lookout published a photo essay on Nashvillians who participated in the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s — a series of protests against segregation on private bus lines — coupled with narratives taken from interviews with area Freedom Riders. So in early 2022, photojournalist John Partipilo began working on his […]

The Tennessee Capitol (Photo: John Partipilo)

The Tennessee Lookout at three

By: - May 9, 2023

Hello, Tennessee. With those words, I opened my first column for the Tennessee Lookout on May 6, 2020, the day this outlet launched.  At the time, I expanded on the need for coverage of how the political sausage is made, and I said our team of reporters would be fair, accurate and tough.  And we […]


Dubious distinction and dishonorable mentions: The inaugural Tennessee Lookout Niceley Awards

By: - May 1, 2023

For years, Republican state Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains has been a walking Tennessee gaffe machine, a man who provides fodder for the Capitol Hill Press Corps legislative session after legislative session.  We’ve been able to count on Niceley to advocate for cockfighting, a bloody sport in which two roosters — armed with metal […]

House Speaker Cameron Sexton, far right, with House Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison to his left. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A petty and small-minded supermajority can’t last

By: - April 20, 2023

Tennessee’s Republican legislative supermajority is suffering an apparent collective loss of its senses, as many lawmakers appear deaf to the requests of Tennesseans to develop gun safety legislation and blind to how hard-headed and insensitive they appear not only in the Volunteer State, but to the nation.  I’ve long said Tennessee is a forgotten state, […]

House Speaker Cameron Sexton on Monday, amid Tennessee High Patrol officers and gun safety protesters. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Lincoln project targets Tennessee legislature with ‘bullies’ ad

By: - April 18, 2023

A new ad created by former national Republican strategists turned anti-Trump Republicans highlights the recent expulsions of two young, Black Tennessee lawmakers. The ad titled “Bullies,” and produced by The Lincoln Project, will run for two days, targeted for appearing on phones and computers located around the digital footprint of the Tennessee Capitol. “The example […]

Teenagers from Nashville area high schools pour into the Tennessee Capitol to protest lax guns laws on Monday. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Nashville students to lawmakers: Pull your heads out from under your desks and pass gun policy

By: - April 4, 2023

Emotions and tempers have been raw throughout Nashville all week after six people — including three kids — were killed in the Covenant School shooting.  For all the city’s status as an “It City,” the community still feels small, linked by a web of family, church, school and professional connections. Few I talked to didn’t […]

Shaundelle Brooks, photographed during a House session in March 2023, has experienced gun violence from several perspectives. Her son Akilah DaSilva, was killed in an April 2018 mass shooting at a Nashville Waffle House. A second son, Abede, was shot in June 2023 after leaving a venue at which he was performing as a DJ. (Photo: John Partipilo)

‘We’re going to have to find a way’: Nashvillians reflect on loss

By: - March 29, 2023

Monday’s shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School, a private elementary school in an affluent neighborhood, was the city’s third mass shooting in six years. A gunman shot seven people at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in September 2017, killing one; and a 29-year-old man with schizophrenia opened fire inside a South Nashville Waffle House in 2018, […]

Deonte Williams sits in a courtroom at the Coffee County Justice Center next to one of his five children, all of whom were taken by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services after a traffic stop. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Family’s separation part of a long history of child-theft in America

By: - March 23, 2023

Journalists write and read many stories of government abuse, but few stick more than stories of how agencies tasked with protecting children habitually fail to do so. Stories of traumatized children being further traumatized by a cold state are the ones that keep me awake at night.  So after years of following the chronic dysfunction […]