The Dallas Bar Association hosted its 35th annual Stephen Philbin Awards at the Belo Mansion on October 12, honoring the best legal news reporting in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The awards focus on journalism that shows educational value, accuracy, and resourcefulness, as well as the reporter’s initiative in pursuing the story and the story’s role in public debate.
This year’s grand prize winner was the NBC 5 investigative team: Scott Friedman, Eva Parks, Jack Douglas, Jose Sanchez, Mark Ginther (no longer with NBC 5), and Frank Heinz, whose report, “Big Buses, Bigger Problems: Taxpayers Taken for a Ride,” exposed corruption and financial mismanagement inside Dallas County Schools. The agency is funded by taxpayers and transports more than 75,000 children to school daily. The 18-month investigation by NBC 5 led to corrective actions including the reorganization of school busing in Dallas.
“‘Big Buses’ demonstrated what investigative journalism should be—it was timely, thorough, and informative,” the judges said in a press release.
- Suburban/Specialty Article: Joshua C. Johnson, of the Focus Daily News, for his article “Lancaster ISD Police Officer Sparks Dialogue On Perception, Understanding”
- Series/Investigative Article:Tanya Eiserer, Michael Botsford, and Martin Doporto, of WFAA-TV, for “Deadly Consequences”
- Breaking News: Eric Griffey and Jeff Prince, of Fort Worth Weekly, for their article “Flamed Out”
- Feature Article: Bruce Tomaso and Allen Pusey, of The Texas Law Book, for their article“‘Wake Up the Pope’—The Historic Jury Verdict Against a Priestly Pedophile that Shook the Catholic Church”
- Visual/Multi-Media Story: WFAA-TV’s Jason Whitely, Mark Smith, and Taylor Lumsden for “What Went Wrong in Waco”
- Student Publication: Kyle Cotton, of The Shorthorn at the University of Texas at Arlington, for his article “Firefighters file civil service lawsuit against the city”
The Stephen Philbin Awards were established in 1983 in honor of the late Stephen Philbin, who was a member of the DBA and a leading authority on media law.
Winners in each category received a $1,000. Grand prize winners take home a $1,750 cash award. Each are chosen by a panel of judges, including Lisa A. Rich, associate professor of law at Texas A&M University School of law, and Cheryl Wattley, professor of law at UNT Dallas College of Law.