Media

Dallas Bar’s Philbin Award (Singular) Now Pays $5,000

That's some real cheddar, as the kids no longer say.

A week ago, I told you about the Philbin Awards getting scaled back. Today, the Dallas Bar released some details about its plans for the journalism award. They are opening the yearly competition to the entire state, and rather than hand out seven awards, there will be just one. It will come with a $5,000 check. I assume it’ll be a check. If they handed out $5,000 in cash, that would be cool, especially if it were all in $1 bills. But, again, it’s probably a check. Or Venmo. Here’s the full press release, with entry deadlines and so forth:

Introducing the New Philbin Awards Contest!

For the past 36 years, the Dallas Bar Association and Dallas Bar Foundation, have hosted the Stephen Philbin Awards, which recognizes excellence in legal reporting. This year — for the first time — the Award is open to the entire state of Texas, and one Grand Prize Award will be presented to the best overall legal reporting piece.

The entry form and award criteria are attached to this email [here]. Deadline for entries is Friday, November 1, 2019. The Award will be presented at the Dallas Bar Foundation Fellows Justinian Luncheon on April 8, 2020, at the Belo Mansion.

There is no fee to enter. A cash award of $5,000 will be presented to one Grand-Prize winner.

Coverage period runs from June 1, 2018 to August 1, 2019.

The 11,000 members of the Dallas Bar Association appreciate the work you do reporting on legal issues affecting our legal community, and we hope you will take the time to share your work (and/or encourage your peers to share their work) through the Stephen Philbin Awards.

Please let me know if you have any questions. We look forward to receiving your entries (emailed, postmarked, or delivered by November 1, 2019.)

I’ve got just issue with this new format. Let’s take the Amber Guyger trial, which started today. The Morning News is doing a great job with gavel-to-gavel coverage. They will be updating their site regularly, and every morning the paper will presumably carry multiple stories about the trial. This is important work. The trial will get covered on TV, too, but I’m guessing the News will throw more resources at this story and provide better context than any other outlet, even national ones.

When the trial ends, maybe Dallas’ own Skip Hollandsworth will write a banger for Texas Monthly. Maybe we will. Maybe Krys Boyd over at KERA will dedicate an entire hour of Think to the verdict.

My question: how are the Philbin judges going to compare all that work? That’s why there used to be multiple categories. You can’t really compare spot news reporting in a newspaper with longform magazine storytelling with radio work. Just have a look at the judging criteria:

Entries for the Philbin Award must cover some aspect of the legal system or its participants and should contribute to the public’s understanding of the legal system. A panel of judges evaluates submissions for informational and educational value, creativity, thoroughness, accuracy, clarity, interest, contribution to public debate, and the journalist’s resourcefulness, courage, and initiative in pursuing the story.

Covering the trial every day for a newspaper leaves little room for creativity. Also, I don’t think courage comes into play. But here’s where we are. So good luck to everyone who enters. Just know that I plan to enter a courageous TikTok video that will be creative, thorough, accurate, and clear. And I’ve already spent the $5,000.

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