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Northwestern’s Craig Duff: 20 Years of Video Journalism

In our eighth edition of The Rough Cut, where we interview the biggest innovators in media and marketing, Co-Founder Alex Ragir spoke in…
Northwestern’s Craig Duff: 20 Years of Video Journalism
Craig Duff and Alex Ragir at Framestore’s Offices in Chicago

In our eighth edition of The Rough Cut, where we interview the biggest innovators in media and marketing, Co-Founder Alex Ragir spoke in front of a live audience at an event in Chicago with Craig Duff, video journalism professor at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and former head of video for TIME Magazine. They spoke about the evolution of video journalism at A Story For Every Screen event, co-hosted by Telly Awards and Storyhunter, at the Framestore offices in downtown Chicago. The evening convened leaders in Chicago’s video storytelling community for a screening of the best in short-form video, with documentaries and branded content from VICE, Great Big Story, Droga5 , NatGeo and more

Duff pioneered the development of the video journalism program at Medill and, to keep his finger on the pulse of a constantly changing industry, has become a frequent user of the Storyhunter platform as a freelancer, receiving 5-star reviews from clients such as NBC News, NowThisNews, AJ+, and Crain Communication.

Below are edited highlights from the conversation:

Rethinking Storytelling

“The biggest challenge at the New York Times was to get a newspaper to think differently about storytelling in a way that finds the power of video. We had to convince these writers, who were very smart and accustomed to doing things in print, that we’re not just creating a video that plays next to your story. We had to think about the reporting and start integrating it into the process — which we’re still doing today.”

Collaboration Opened Up the Video World

“There was some amazing things happening in the late 2000’s. A lot of folks were out in different places around the world, where news was happening and they were eager to tell stories, and we were looking for ways to cover the world. So, we had these sort of one-man-band journalists [for the first time], especially in the Middle East and Asia, and I would work with them individually to tell these stories [around the world].”

Opportunity Exists for Future Video Leaders

“There are great opportunities right out of school, and lots of energy happening between young people and video out there. Right now our students are getting in good places and doing good work, but I’m curious to see five years from now, how they move up and what kind of careers are happening because of them.”

The Core of Storytelling Applies Across the Board

“As a professor, the kinds of things that we teach — getting the facts right, being smart, telling a good story, thinking visually, finding the characters, finding the empathy — all these things apply to any number of jobs out there. It’s not like everyone has to go out and be a journalist when they leave our school. There are lots of people doing great work and it’s not for news organizations. Storytelling is so rich and can be applied across the board.”

Do It Because You Love To

“Everyone that does it [produces independent documentaries], does it because they love it, and because they can’t think of anything else that would make them happier. The money will follow you and you’ll find a way to make a living — it’s not always easy — but places like Storyhunter allow you an outlet to find the work in the ways that you couldn’t before.”


Previous episodes of The Rough Cut:

Jamie Bolding, Founder and CEO, Jungle Creations

Greg Gilderman, Global Head of Video and Editor-in-Chief, Weather Channel

Warren Cohen, Head of Video, New York Post

Zahra Rasool, Editorial Lead, Contrast VR

Jason Beauregard, Head of Studio, VaynerMedia

Courtney Coupe, VP of Content, Great Big Story

Stone Roberts, VP of Global Video Strategy, Refinery29


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By Jordan M. Rapaport, Storyhunter Writer