About The Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment

Our Mission

The Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment strives to be a leader in pushing media forward while educating students. We value ethical journalism that better serves the community, no matter its size, shape or form.

Why We're So Innovative

Background 

Thanks to the Belo Foundation, a Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment was established in 2016 to help fund our efforts. As part of that, Robert Quigley, a former digital journalist who teaches at the school, was appointed Innovation Director. Quigley worked with graduate and undergraduate students to found several programs through the Endowment, such as the Tiny Texas Podcast Festival and The Drag. In August 2020, Christian McDonald was appointed the new Innovation Director.

Our Media Innovations Capstone Course

Before we had received the endowment, Quigley had worked with select undergraduates in semester-long projects for news organizations such as the Dallas Morning News, Austin American-Statesman, Univision and The New York Times. With the funding, we introduced a new capstone course that allows more students to participate. The resulting Media Innovations Capstone course, which debuted in spring 2018, focuses on product development. At first, media organizations pitched product ideas to the class and students, and, working in groups, went through the product development cycle and handed off the finished projects at the end of the course to the companies. In the first semester, students built a live music map and database for Austin’s NPR station, KUT; they worked through a social strategy for the Austin American-Statesman, built a podcast for The Daily Dot and much more. Today, students in the course have the option of working on podcasts for The Drag or developing products for media organizations. This course will be taught every fall and spring by Quigley and McDonald. 

The Innovation Fellows

Digitally focused graduate students can be awarded fellowships that fund Ph.D. students for four years and master’s students for two. These fellows work with the director and our undergraduate students to build digital products for media organizations. Our first Ph.D. fellow, Kelsey Whipple, is a former audience development manager and social media strategist. She founded the Tiny Texas Podcast Festival and has since graduated and taken a position at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. After Whipple, we welcomed our second Ph.D. fellow, Chenyan Jia, a former New York Times intern who focuses on using machine learning. She created a website called NewsCoding, which provides resources and tutorials for journalists.

The Drag

Former Innovation Director Robert Quigley came up with the idea of creating a student-run audio production house to give students a great learning experience. Under The Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment, we were able to build a team of students and make this idea a reality in January 2019. Tinu Thomas and Haley Butler, who were seniors in the school at the time, were the first two employees of The Drag and debuted The Drag’s hit podcast, “The Orange Tree.” Today, The Drag has several podcasts in the works, all made by student podcasters. Check out our website at TheDragAudio.com.​

Events

To raise the profile for our innovation efforts, we hold regular events. Past events include the Moody Hacks hackathon, the Innovation Lecture Series, a social media summit, a conference for women in journalism, and the Tiny Texas Podcast Festival.  

Our Team

Director of Innovation - Christian McDonald

Christian McDonald is the second director of innovation for The Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment as well as an assistant professor of practice for the UT School of Journalism and Media. He teaches several courses, including Intro to Coding for Journalists and Reporting with Data. Before teaching full-time at UT in 2018, he spent 28 years working at newspapers and teaching data journalism courses. McDonald is also a Texas Ex with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.

Director of Content - Sabrina LeBoeuf

Sabrina LeBoeuf is a senior journalism and radio-television-film student at the University of Texas. Since 2018, she has managed social media and website content for The Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment. In addition to producing and editing content, she also aids in the organization of events by the Endowment. In the past, she has helped put on the Endowment's inaugural Moody Hacks hackathon, create the first-ever Innovation Lecture Series and plan the second-annual Tiny Texas Podcast Festival. Sabrina also produces multimedia content with The Drag.

Graphic Designer - Madi Thomason

Madi Thomason is a senior studying journalism and political communication. She is a graphic designer for the Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment at the School of Journalism and is also the creator of The Drag's very own website and art for the podcastings.

Our Team at The Drag

We have an entire team of professors, students and alums working together to produce professional-grade audio content. Check out what we're up to at TheDragAudio.com.