Student-made podcasts coming to a platform near you

Robert Quigley and Kelsey Whipple visit Slate as part of their New York podcast trip.

The Past

In the beginning, there was no clear vision for The Drag audio production house. 

With a $1.5 million donation from The Belo Foundation in 2016, Robert Quigley, University of Texas journalism professor and director of innovation, sought to give student journalists an outlet to produce professional and innovative journalism, but didn’t know how. 

“We pitched a bunch of ideas to Dallas Morning News about what we could do with the funds,” Quigley said. “And in the summer of 2018, I thought what about creating a space for students to do their own podcasts.”

This idea set in motion the creation of The Drag Audio Production House, a podcast studio made and run by UT-Austin students and recent graduates.

During the winter break of 2018, Quigley along with doctoral student and innovation fellow, Kelsey Whipple, traveled to New York to meet with other podcasting studios like Gimlet, Slate and Pineapple Street to learn how these studios became successful.

“We learned a great deal about what it takes to conceive of, create, produce, edit and record a long-term podcasting project,” Whipple said. “Our meetings gave us insights on how to create an ideal audio team, how to tackle feedback throughout the creative process, how to develop scoring skills and how to adapt to the changing industry.”

In 2019, two seniors, Haley Butler and Tinu Thomas, were hired as the first podcast directors of The Drag. Their first podcast idea was “Through Their Texas Eyes,” a podcast about UT Austin alumni who went on to win Pulitzer Prizes. 

In the meantime, however, Butler and Thomas looked toward a longform true crime podcast. Thus, the longform podcast, “The Orange Tree” was born. After a year of hard work and some setbacks thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the podcast is set to air this summer.

The Present

Today, The Drag has seven podcasts in store for listeners. The Drag listeners can expect to hear the first podcast, “Request Pending,” to air June 29 on a platform near you. 

“I’m not aware of any college university programs that are doing something quite like this where they’re emulating a production house the way Wondery or Gimlet might operate,” Quigley said. “And we’re trying to do that.”

The Drag cannot keep producing audio stories without help from the community and listener base. The funding allows the production house to hire more students and to keep making great podcasts. If you love the work The Drag is creating, please consider making a donation.

“My goal is to just try to make the best possible educational experience for as many students as possible,” Quigley said. 

Mikayla Mondragon is a rising junior Journalism major at UT Austin and is pursuing a double certificate in Creative Writing and Elements of Computing. In her free time, she loves doing colorguard with the Longhorn Band, reading and sewing.

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