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.
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. Quigley and Ph.D. student Kelsey Whipple traveled to New York to visit audio production houses in 2018 and came back and got it started. Tinu Thomas and Haley Butler, who were seniors in the school at the time, were the first two employees of The Drag. Check out our website at TheDragAudio.com.
To raise the profile for our innovation efforts, we hold regular events. Past events include a journalism hackathon, an Innovation Lecture Series, a social media summit, a conference for women in journalism, and a podcasting festival.
Robert Quigley is the first director of innovation for The Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment as well as a professor for the UT School of Journalism. He teaches courses geared around digital media and innovation, including his Innovations Capstone Course and Digital Storytelling. Before coming to UT, he worked as a journalist for 16 years. He started as a sportswriter in Nacogdoches, and eventually, he moved to the Austin American-Statesman to be a page designer and copy editor. In addition to working with print media, her became one of the first social media editors in the world during his time at the Statesman.
Sabrina LeBoeuf is a junior 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 aides 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.
Madi Thomason is a junior studying journalism and political communication. She is a graphic designer for the Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment at the School of Journalism and a design intern for Texas Student Media. She is also the creator of The Drag's very own website.
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.