Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon is a professor of journalism and media at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Tennessee State Rep. Gloria Johnson and former Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones exit the chapel at Fisk University in Nashville, a historically Black college that played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement. (Photo:John Partipilo)

Appreciation for the Tennessee Three

By: - April 12, 2023

Thanks to the “Tennessee Three,” the nation, indeed much of the world, now has seen the mendacity and racism lurking just beneath the surface of our Tennessee legislature’s Republican supermajority. Like many, I watched in horror, but not surprise, as our legislators voted to expel two young, Black, eloquent representatives of the people — using a […]

In Nashville, Rev. Ingrid McIntyre hugs a mourner during a Monday night vigil for shooting victims at Belmont Methodist Church. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A grim theory on how we get gun safety laws 

By: - March 28, 2023

Nashville-based writers on this site already have written movingly about the tragic gun crime at Covenant School, yet another school shooting — this one took the lives of three children and three adults. Let me add this perspective from only a modest distance away, my adopted home of Knoxville is less than a 3-hour drive […]

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” […]