Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon

Mark D. Harmon is a professor of journalism and electronic media at the University of Tennessee.

U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles on Nov. 8,. 2022. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Being a fabulist is far from fabulous

By: - March 14, 2023

One definition of a fabulist is a serial liar (the other is an Aesop-like creator of fables). Being a liar fabulist is about as far away as one can get from being fabulous.  Thus, we come to the case of newly elected Tennessee U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, chief beneficiary of Nashville-area gerrymandering.  NewsChannel5 in Nashville […]

Former US Senator Rick Santorum photographed at the 2016 Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Commentary: Tennessee must reject Santorum slights on Native Americans

By: - May 17, 2021

Another Rick Santorum outrageous statement came and went last month, flushed away like so many of his words.  His claim, however, merits reaction and debunking in many spots, notably here in Tennessee. The former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania turned CNN commentator, speaking at a Young America’s Foundation event, pontificated about America.  “We came here and […]

Speaker of the Tennessee House Cameron Sexton, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, and Gov. Bill Lee.(Photo: John Partipilo)

Commentary: Time to enter failing grades for the legislature

By: - May 6, 2021

This is the time of the semester when I am busy entering final grades, but our state legislature, by its curious combination of ineptitude and mendacity, has forced me to enter grades for it as well.  Our state continues to flunk math by refusing to expand Medicaid, throwing away billions for health coverage of our […]

Knox County Sheriff's office (Photo: KCSD Facebook)

Commentary: Keep a keen eye on sheriff departments

By: - April 19, 2021

Sheriff departments are a lot more than law enforcement agencies, especially in Tennessee.  In our counties, the sheriff is an elected position—the chief jailer of our lockup, a major employer, and leader of a political power base.  Several recent events in my home county, Knox, offer good case studies on why careful press and public […]

The Tennessee Senate Chambers. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Commentary: Legislature should not hide dark money from us

By: - March 29, 2021

Sometimes legislation bears little hint of its actual effect and significance.  Take the case of House Bill 0159 and its companion Senate Bill 1608 each currently working its way through our state legislature.  The sponsors, Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, and Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, call it the Personal Privacy Protection Act, but a better name […]

The Tennessee Senate Chambers. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Commentary: March Madness in Legislatures

By: - March 22, 2021

March Madness isn’t just the nickname of a basketball tournament.  We’re now smack in the middle of the crazy season on both the U.S. Capitol Hill and in our state legislature—as Tennessee Republicans do battle, not really with Democrats but more with objective reality. Peak lunacy came late last week when Tennessee congressman John Rose […]

Tennessee State Capitol (Photograph: John Partipilo)

Commentary: How “Niceley” to Advocate Nonsense

By: - March 4, 2021

Few legislators are as unintentionally funny as Tennessee’s Frank Niceley.  He’s a farmer from Strawberry Plains whose state senate district sprawls across Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Union counties.  The Republican Niceley was elected to the state house in 2004 and moved up to the State Senate after the 2012 election.  His career has […]


Commentary: Burchett Grandstands on Term Limits

By: - February 8, 2021

In his latest constituent newsletter, East Tennessee Congressman Tim Burchett brags about his co-sponsorship of House Joint Resolution 12, a proposed constitutional amendment for term limits.  He is joined in this effort by U.S. Rep. Diana Harshbarger, a freshman representing District 1 at the eastern end of our state. Regardless of one’s opinion of term […]

The Cordell Hull Legislative Building. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Commentary: How Gloria Johnson’s Hallway Desk Came to Be

By: - February 1, 2021

State Rep. Gloria Johnson’s desk last week was in a hallway in the Cordell Hull legislative building in Nashville.  It was there because Johnson was given an awful office assignment by Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville —allegedly revenge for Johnson being the sole vote against him for speaker. The former small-group conference room is tiny and […]

Downtown Knoxville (Photo: Deidre Woolard)

Column: Legislative Webinar becomes Shadow Government

By: - January 25, 2021

On Saturday, Knoxville Professional Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists and the League of Women Voters of Knoxville – Knox County collaborated on a “legislative webinar,” coming at the close of the special state legislature session on education and at the opening of the regular session.  It quickly devolved into an exercise in “Shadow Government” […]

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 05: Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) holds a mask to her face as she arrives for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation" on Capitol Hill on August 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Crossfire Hurricane was an FBI counterintelligence investigation relating to contacts between Russian officials and associates of Donald Trump. (Photo by Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

Commentary: Tennessee congressional delegation in destructive denial

By: - January 4, 2021

Just hours before he would take the oath of office as a U. S. Senator from Tennessee, Bill Hagerty made another pledge, one of loyalty to the deranged notions of Donald Trump to challenge documented results of the 2020 presidential election.  Hagerty, like Sen. Marsha Blackburn and nearly all of our state’s Republican members of […]

Knox County Department of Health (Photo: Knox County)

Commentary: Knox County Board of Health endangered by viral nonsense

By: - December 21, 2020

Monday night, the Knox County Commission will vote on an ordinance that effectively would abolish the county’s Board of Health, resurrecting a zombie version of it as only an advisory body.  The signs are not promising the Board of Health will survive COVID-19 viral misinformation loose in the body politic.  The commission voted 8-3 last […]