Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon

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

Sen. Marsha Blackburn at podium

Commentary: Blackburn bluster is incoherent about social media

By: - December 7, 2020

U. S. Senator from Tennessee Marsha Blackburn recently has been obsessed with one topic—social media platforms and their supposed unfairness to right-wingers.  She spent an inordinate amount of time and space in her Nov. 20 newsletter flogging the point.  She included five clips of herself (one from a congressional hearing, one from the Senate floor, […]

A shot from the Tennessee Public Service Announcement "Choices" (

Commentary: Tennessee PSAs Underplay COVID Crisis

By: - November 30, 2020

Public Service Announcements (PSAs) have a long and noble history on U.S. television.  Smokey the Bear taught campers to extinguish fully their campfires.  In one famous “Keep America Beautiful” PSA the audience sees a character in Native American costume paddling a canoe across a polluted landscape.  As litter is tossed on his moccasins we switch to a close-up […]

Gov. Bill Lee gives his bi-weekly media briefing Aug. 18. (Photo:

Commentary: Gov. Lee should seek better school advice

By: - November 12, 2020

The East Tennessee Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for many years has sponsored a Legislative Luncheon in January.  State legislators typically are lined up on a dais while audience members, many still digesting the Buddy’s Barbeque from the buffet line, write out questions on cards.  A journalist moderator sorts through questions and poses […]

University prior to start of second presidential debate on Oct. 22, 2020/ (Photo: Tennessee Lookout)

Commentary: Election Forum “No Shows” Reveal Character

By: - October 26, 2020

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum—specifically recent online League of Women Voters forums in Knox County.  The funny thing was that the Republican candidates didn’t show up while the Democratic candidates did —with one exception within each party. The League and its partner organizations planned a trio of Zoom forums with […]

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the beginning of a new conference with members of the coronavirus task force, including Vice President Mike Pence, on Feb. 26, 2020. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Commentary: As Trump ponders his legacy, what will his library look like?

By: - October 14, 2020

As a COVID-19 infectious President Trump stumbles about the White House and ‘roid rage tweets, you have to think someone in the eerily quiet corridors must be pondering the very near future.  Once you’ve bleached your resume of being associated with the Trump-tanic, what to do next?  One task would be planning where the Trump […]

(Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Commentary: Republicans Are Freaking Out about Voting

By: - October 7, 2020

Record numbers of Americans have been requesting absentee ballots, telling pollsters about their determination to vote, and showing up in states that have started early voting.  These facts scare Republicans, and some are taking desperate steps to thwart voting.  Four case studies show a bit about the Trump-ian desperation. Let’s start here in Tennessee.  This […]

Conservative radio host Elisha Krauss, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and conservative commentator Tomi Lahren at 2019 Politicon in Nashville(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Politicon )

Commentary: COVID Cowboy is Lousy Mayor

By: - September 29, 2020

Perhaps we should have seen it coming two years ago when Knox County voters opted to make Glenn Jacobs our county mayor.  The (mostly former) TV wrestler had no previous government experience.  His libertarian inclinations, revealed through blog posts, did not prepare him for the job of actually using government for public good, especially needed […]

President Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination on the South Lawn of the White House Aug. 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Commentary: Election Acceptance is Not Trump’s Call

By: - September 21, 2020

Some people have asked an odd question: what happens if Donald Trump loses the presidential election but doesn’t acknowledge defeat or leave the White House?  The short answer is that those things are not up to him. After Joe Biden take his oath of office at noon on January 20, 2021, Trump is a noisy […]

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 19: Democratic presidential candidates (L-R) former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) stand onstage at the start of the Democratic presidential primary debate at Paris Las Vegas on February 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Six candidates qualified for the third Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, which comes just days before the Nevada caucuses on February 22. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Commentary: Let’s Get Debates Right in Tennessee

By: - September 14, 2020

You might be surprised to learn that I’m a veteran of the NFL and lettered at Penn State.  Lest you think I was a linebacker, let me explain the letter was for the debate team and the NFL stood for National Forensic League (established in 1925).  The name was changed in 2014 to the National […]

Sen. Marsha Blackburn at podium

Marsha Blackburn is getaway driver for Russian meddling

By: - September 8, 2020

The U.S. Senate’s Intelligence Committee in mid-August released the fifth and final volume of its bipartisan and hair-raising report on Russian active measures to interfere with the 2016 election.  This volume focused on counterintelligence vulnerabilities and threats.  It should have been a huge story raising alarms about both President Trump and the forthcoming election, but […]

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA - JUNE 16: Organizer Quintavious Rhodes addresses Black Lives Matter protesters during a march in Stone Mountain Park to the Confederate carving etched into the stone side of the mountain on June 16, 2020 in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The march is to protest confederate monuments and recent police shootings. Stone Mountain Park features a Confederate Memorial carving depicting Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, President Jefferson Davis. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Prague Points the Way to Museum of Racist Rebellion

By: - August 17, 2020

Last summer I was in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, and visited the Museum of Communism.  The museum had compelling exhibits on secret police interrogation, censorship, show trials, state propaganda, political labor camps, and the valiant but crushed 1968 uprising known as Prague Spring.  The statues of Lenin and Stalin are by the toilets.  […]

Eighty percent of drug overdose deaths in Tennessee during 2020 came from prescription and synthetic opioids.(Photo: Mint

Commentary: Vocabulary words work as political drugs

By: - August 3, 2020

Sometimes it takes a sharp mind and large vocabulary to distinguish between actual obscure and erudite words (useful for Scrabble and standardized tests) and the invented brand names for new pharmaceuticals being flogged in television advertising.  That’s when I stumbled on several good political words that work better as drug names. Drug Ad #1, Problem/Solution? […]