Stephen Philbin was, by all accounts, a great First Amendment lawyer who died way too early. He was 34. Since 1983, the Dallas Bar Association has annually held a luncheon to give out seven awards honoring him, along with some proper cash, to print and broadcast outlets that did a great job with legal reporting. D Magazine over the years has won a few of these, the most recent honoree being Matt Goodman, in 2017. (I don’t think he ever bought a round of drinks for the staff, as promised.) I recall the 2006 luncheon, when presidential hopeful John Edwards was the keynote. Kind of a big deal.
The speakers in recent years, all due respect, haven’t had hair nearly as perfect as Edwards did. Attendance at the Belo Mansion has waned. So today’s news doesn’t come as a surprise. While I await official word from the Dallas Bar, I can tell you this: the luncheon is no longer, and, going forward, there will be just a single (or possibly two) Philbin Award(s). It (they) will be presented next year at the Dallas Bar fellows luncheon.
For the 30 or so local media people who give a flip about this development, I can’t help but harken back to the defunct Katie Awards. There’s no scandal this time around, which in some ways makes it sadder. In 2019, it’s hard to imagine someone caring enough about a local journalism award to game the system.