Why We're So Innovative
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, working with graduate and undergraduate students, has focused on making students leaders in reshaping the media landscape through a product-development program.
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. Media organizations pitch product ideas to the class and students, working in groups, go through the product development cycle and hand 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. This course will be taught every fall and spring. Quigley also teaches an iOS development course with 13 computer science and 13 journalism students in which students create apps from scratch and get them published in the Google and Apple app stores.
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. In the fall, we welcomed our second Ph.D. fellow, Chenyan Jia, a former New York Times intern who focuses on using machine learning. These students work with the director on all projects and events.
To raise the profile for our innovation efforts, we hold regular events. Past events include a social media summit, a conference for women in journalism, and a podcasting festival. This fall, we also hosted a journalism hackathon. About 300 students were in attendance along with mentors from The Dallas Morning News, Gatehouse Media, IBM and other media organizations.
We want the School of Journalism to be the top place for media product development. In the coming year, we will be building an audio production lab where students will work on podcasting and other audio projects for media organizations. We will also host an Innovation Lecture Series, which will bring top professionals and academics to the university to insire journalism students. The Tiny Texas Podcasting Festival will also make a return this spring.