Law & the Media Seminar 2018


About the Event

The Law & the Media Seminar was co-sponsored by the HBA Law & the Media Committee, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Houston Press Club. This is a yearly educational event where legal professionals and members of the press gather to discuss current events and issues in both fields.

The theme of the 32nd Annual Law & the Media Seminar was “On Trial: Fake (and Real) News,” discussing the evolving ethical, technical and political challenges that test news media and legal professionals – and the confidence of the public. This year’s seminar featured attorneys, journalists and academic experts discussing the evolving news industry and legal landscape in an age of competitive 24/7 news cycles, the effects of social media, and so-called “fake news.” Mainstream news faces challenges from artificial intelligence, sophisticated online propaganda, anonymously hosted “news” websites, and partisan attacks that affect consumers of news.

The event took place on Saturday, February 3, 2018 at the Emilie Slohm Conference Center at South Texas College of Law Houston. The order of events was as follows:

  • 8:00-8:55 a.m. – Continental Breakfast
  • 8:55-9:00 a.m. – Welcome and Introductions
  • 9:00-10:00 a.m. – Panel One – What’s News?
  • 10:00-10:15 a.m. – Break
  • 10:15-11:15 a.m. – Keynote Speech – Trump and the News Media: State of Disunion?
  • 11:15-11:30 a.m. – Break
  • 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Panel Two – Looking Ahead (and Back): What’s at Stake?

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Extended Biographies

Click a name to visit the presenter’s web page!

Panel One, “What’s News?” considers “fake” news definitions and emerging players and trends in the industry, the consequences of partisanship on news coverage, and evolving legal issues. Panelists include:

  • Josh Blackman, founder of the Harlan Institute and FantasySCOTUS, is an Associate Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law Houston, specializing in constitutional law, the United States Supreme Court, and the intersection of law and technology. He has authored two critically-acclaimed books, three dozen law review articles, and multiple pieces of commentary for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and similar publications. He was selected by Forbes Magazine for the “30 Under 30” in Law and Policy, and has twice testified before the House Judiciary Committee.
  • Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston’s NPR station as Director of News and Public Affairs. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well as national recognition for his reports on how Texas regulates the energy industry. His move to public radio followed three decades as a TV journalist and anchor for local stations and for CBS News. Fehling grew up in a small town in southern Indiana and graduated from DePauw University with a political science degree. He rides road and mountain bikes and is a regular participant in the Houston-to-Austin MS150.
  • Dianna Hunt is Metro Editor of the Houston Chronicle, overseeing news coverage in the Houston area, Austin and Washington, D.C. This is Dianna’s second stint at the Chronicle: She spent nearly 14 years at the paper, including seven years on the investigative team, before leaving in 1995 to go to The Dallas Morning News. She went on to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Gannett in Louisiana and back to the Morning News before rejoining the Chronicle in 2016. She is a former three-term board member of Investigative Reporters & Editors and a member of the Native American Journalists Association. As a writer and editor, she has won national, state and local awards for investigative, freedom of information, spot news and feature stories. She has a bachelor’s of journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Lee Hutchinson is a senior editor at Ars Technica, a Condé Nast-owned technology news site with a monthly reach of about 17 million readers. Prior to coming to Ars in 2012, Lee was an enterprise architect for The Boeing Company and helped support the International Space Station and Space Shuttle programs. He attended League City’s Clear Creek High School in the late 90s and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Houston in 2000.
  • W. Gardner Selby of the Austin American-Statesman researches and writes fact-checks for the PolitiFact Texas project, which teams reporters and editors for the Statesman, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News.
  • Moderator: Nicole B. Cásarez is an attorney and a communication professor at the University of St. Thomas, where she teaches media law, media ethics, journalism and wrongful convictions. She has also taught constitutional law, privacy law and First Amendment law at the University of Houston Law Center. She has a bachelor of journalism as well as a law degree from the University of Texas, and a masters in communication/public relations management from the University of Houston. She writes and speaks frequently about First Amendment, privacy and criminal justice issues, and in 2009, she was elected to the American Law Institute. Cásarez received national media attention in connection with the case of Texas death row inmate Anthony Graves, who was exonerated in the fall of 2010.

Keynote Speech, “Trump and the News Media: State of Disunion?” addresses press freedom and press access issues in both the Trump and Obama White Houses a few days after the 2018 State of the Union Address.

The keynote speaker, Julie Mason, is the host of SiriusXM Radio’s Press Pool with Julie Mason, heard nationwide weekdays from 3-6 p.m. ET. Before joining SiriusXM in 2011, Julie was a White House reporter at POLITICO, the Washington Examiner and the Houston Chronicle. She worked at the Chronicle from 1988 to 2008. Julie has over 30 years of experience covering local, state and national politics, including four presidential campaigns. She is a former elected board member of the White House Correspondents Association and appears on CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, NPR and more. She was a 2014 recipient of the Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media for outstanding achievement as a radio talk show host.

Panel Two, “Looking Ahead (and Back): What’s at Stake?” considers the history of anti-media sentiment in America, current threats to press freedom, the effects of propaganda in news, the likely direction of the news industry, and the effects of innovations such as artificial intelligence. Panelists include:

  • Margaret Downing has been the editor-in-chief of The Houston Press since 1998. During her tenure, writers for the Press have won many national journalism awards including those from SPJ, IRE, ASCAP Deems Taylor and PEN Center USA. As a writing editor, Downing has likewise received national and regional journalism awards from NABJ, Education Writers Association and First Amendment awards. Prior to coming to the Press she was a managing editor at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and The Houston Post.
  • Tom Forestier is a member of Winstead PC’s Commercial Litigation Practice Group and Energy Practice Group. In the media law practice area, he regularly represents television broadcasters, newspapers and other media entities in litigation matters involving libel, defamation, privacy and newsgathering issues and other First Amendment issues. Tom also has extensive experience handling eminent domain litigation, energy litigation and other commercial litigation. In addition to other awards and recognition, he received the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston and the 2012 Texas Minority Counsel Program’s Trailblazer Outside Counsel of the Year Award. Tom is active in the community and currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Wesley Community Center. He has served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Houston Golf Association and Northwest Assistance Ministries as well as President of the Houston Club. Tom received a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the University of Texas School of Law and a bachelor of science in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Garth Jowett was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and was arrested twice by the time he was 18 for helping to organize interracial jazz concerts. He has a Ph.D. in History and Communication from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn, Donald Trump’s alma mater, not Penn State!). He has been at the University of Houston since 1979, and Director of the School of Communication twice. (Now renamed The Jack J. Valenti School of Communication). Has had a lifetime interest in issues surrounding freedom of speech, especially as expressed throught he mass media. He is the author of Film: The Democratic Art: A Social History of Movie-going in America and is currently preparing the 7th edition of his seminal book Propaganda and Persuasion in conjunction with his co-author Victoria O’Donnell.
  • Kelley Shannon is executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. She has spent three decades as a journalist. Shannon was a correspondent for The Associated Press, first in San Antonio and later as bureau leader in Austin. She also worked as a reporter for The Dallas Morning News in Austin, the Savannah (Ga.) News-Press and the Palestine Herald-Press in East Texas. She has done extensive freelance reporting, including in-depth open government projects for the non-profit Center for Public Integrity.
  • Moderator: Zach Despart is a Houston-based journalist, a current Assistant City Editor for The Houston Chronicle, and the former managing editor of The Houston Press. A New York native, Zach has written about immigrants, urban housing and development, and Latin American corruption. In 2016, he covered the Trump and Clinton campaigns in Vermont and New Hampshire for the Burlington Free Press.

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Planning Committee Members

Phil Archer
Brian Bagley
Joe Carroll
Zach Despart
Tracee Evans
Pam Easton
Mary A. Flood
Victoria Gipson
Jeremy Heallen
Edel Howlin
Dianna Hunt

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Kristen Lee
David T. Lopez
Juan Lozano
Jim Magill
Jeff McShan
Aileen D. Meador
Jane Mumey
Mike O’Neill
Brenda Owoeye
Erin Powers
Jayme Reisler

Charles L. Sharman
Julie Silva
William J. Stowe
Diane Summers
Hon. Francelia E. Totty
Paul C. Van Syke
Shen Wang
Andrew Weaver
Barbara J. Williams

HBA Staff Liaison
Tara Shockley


Learn More

To learn more about the event, contact Tara Shockley at or (713) 759-1133.

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