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 (known now as Parks for Downtown Dallas), 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 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 Digital Innovations Capstone course, which debuted in spring 2018, focuses on product development. Students in the class form teams to explore topics, challenges and solutions that can be presented through digital media products and projects. Some teams work on their own ideas, while others work with professional media organizations to explore new ground or hone existing projects. This course is taught each fall and spring by Christian McDonald.

Projects

The Innovation Endowment regularly bring students and professional news organizations together for experiential learning projects. The Endowment is currently collaborating with the Community Impact Project to focus on growing diverse audiences in Austin.

The Drag

Through his previous work as innovation director, Robert Quigley developed a student-run audio production house to build long-form audio story narratives. In January 2019, through endowment funds and the work of seniors Tinu Thomas and Haley Butler, The Drag was born. Butler and Thomas reported and hosted The Drag’s first 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.​

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 School of Journalism and Media. He teaches Intro to Coding for Journalists, Reporting with Data and the Digital Innovation Capstone course. Before joining the school full-time in 2018, he taught as a lecturer while serving as online projects and data editor at the Austin American-Statesman. McDonald is also a ‘89 Texas Ex with a Bachelor’s of Journalism. He spent 28 years working at Cox Media newspapers in Texas, Georgia and Arizona.

Director of Content - Mikayla Mondragon

Mikayla Mondragon is a senior journalism student at the University of Texas. Since 2021, she has managed social media and website content for the Innovation Endowment.