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Harmon Receives Bliss Award

Dr. Mark HarmonAEJMCs Electronic News Division has named JEM Professor Mark Harmon as the recipient of the 2015 Edward L. Bliss Award for Distinguished Broadcast Journalism Education. The award is presented annually to recognize significant and lasting contributions to the field in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and service.

Harmon teaches in the areas of electronic journalism, political communication, and public opinion. His career spans more than 30 years as a broadcast educator and scholar. His former students, like Eva Posner (BS/JEM ’12), uniformly describe a tough but fair mentor, with demanding classroom standards. “Dr. Harmon expects a lot from his students. That is no secret,” she wrote in her letter of support. “However, his no nonsense, no excuses attitude mirrors real life and students are far better off for being exposed to it.” 

In his letter of nomination JEM Director Peter Gross wrote, “The University of Tennessee lured Dr. Harmon here, and we’re glad we did. His work has become a model of the award’s criteria: teaching, service, and research.” Mark served as the Division Head of the Electronic News Division of AEJMC in 1993-1994, and received the IRTS Frank Stanton Award for outstanding contributions to electronic media education in 2004. Past winner Sam Swan notes that Mark is a dedicated teacher and “a stickler for great writing.” He adds Mark isn’t afraid to show students “productions he has produced as examples of what to do and what not to do.”

Students in his classes become part of a tight-knit cohort, a tradition which dates back to his days at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. One of his former students was Reneé Henderson Earls, now co-owner of The Odessan magazine. “It wasn’t just the grade I received but rather the confidence Dr. Harmon instilled in me – and my fellow students – that we could be successful with hard work and determination,” she writes of his teaching approach. “I know he has touched the lives of many students throughout the decades.” 

During his academic career, Mark also took time to step outside of the classroom to regularly engage in professional work. This began when he was an Instructor at Xavier University, where he took to the airwaves to host interview programs and radio documentaries. He’s been a producer at KAMC in Lubbock and WVLT in Knoxville, and has been a part of the journalism educator enrichment program sponsored by the Radio Television News Director’s Foundation and the faculty fellowship program sponsored by the National Association of Television Programming Executives. Mark is also a regular columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. In addition, he spent four years as an elected Knox County Commissioner.

Current UT student Kelsie N. Rutherford  appreciates his wide-ranging background. “What made class with him so beneficial was to see the passion that someone in the journalism field carries with them and actually desires to pass on to his students.” “He enabled me to feel confident as a young journalist,” says another former student, Natalie Cordona. “I could never thank him enough.” 

Fellow educators also describe him as a dedicated and inquisitive teacher and scholar. University of Tennessee colleague Erin Whiteside describes Mark as “a conscientious colleague, an inquisitive scholar, and active community member.” She praises his commitment to student quality, especially in political and government reporting. “He regularly challenges students to better understand how local government functions, and strives to help them craft stories that make a difference to community members,” she writes.

Mark is the author of four books, including: British Media (First Inning Press, 2013) and Found, Featured, Then Forgotten: U.S. Network Television News and the Vietnam War (Newfound Press, 2011). His articles have been published in numerous journals, including the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Electronic News, the International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, and Mass Media and Society. He is a member of AEJMC, the European Communication Research and Education Association, and the Society for Professional Journalists. Mark serves on the editorial board for Electronic News, the journal of the Electronic News Division.

As former student Posner notes, “Dr. Harmon deserves this award because he sets his students up to succeed, although they may not all realize it at the time. And that is the mark of a truly distinguished educator.”

Mark received his Ph.D. from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University (1988). He holds an M.S. in telecommunications from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University and a B.A. in Journalism (broadcast option) from The Pennsylvania State University. Prior to joining the University of Tennessee, Mark was an associate professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and a Communication Arts Instructor at Xavier University in Cincinnati. 

The distinguished broadcast journalism educator award is named for Edward L. Bliss, a long-time writer, producer and editor for CBS News. Bliss was known for his work with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite and ended his career as an educator at American University, which now houses the plaques bearing the award winners’ names.

The award will be presented to Dr. Harmon at the Electronic News division meeting and social on August 7 at the 2014 AEJMC National Convention in San Francisco, California.