An important lesson in life. Please remember this.

April 19, 2014

Especially if you want to pass a class in backpack journalism with Professor Duff.

OL4jMcC - Imgur

Check out other great gifs of NYC tips and Etiquette by the talented and smart Nathan W. Pyle at


Join me February 27 for Medill Talks: Where Great Ideas Take the Lede

February 10, 2014

If you’re in Chicago/Evanston on February 27th, please join me and several other Medill colleagues for an evening of ideas and fun thinking about life, the universe and journalism. (BTW, for those of you not in the news world, lede is a word for the lead paragraph or line in a story. It’s spelled that way to separate it from the other pronunciation of lead: the heavy metal.)

Here’s the description of my talk: Image Maker: Mobile devices, better stories and the end of TV. Professor Craig Duff on how advancements in video technology can help journalists tell better stories and will mean big changes for television news.

More info here on the Medill Talks facebook page.


I know this is late, but please give a round of applause for these fine student films

December 28, 2013

Poster Image Cameron

I’m running behind on everything these days, so forgive me for not posting this sooner. On December 11 at the Forum in the McCormick Tribune Center at Northwestern, three student projects made in my documentary class this past quarter, premiered to a full house.

It was an amazing evening and I couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments. Be sure to watch for these films to show up at a film festival near you:

Kathryn-Awards_colorcorretKathryn Reinvented

After Kathryn Boatright discovered her daughter had special needs that would require lifelong care, she turned away from a business career and became a registered nurse. But the business  side of her never went away. Now she’s an entrepreneur who has invented a product that can help parents track a child’s progress in the first year. As her app goes to market, can this single mom reinvent herself again and face the challenges that will test her in unexpected ways? By Clancy Calkins and Theresa Chong.

Beer_Program2Chicago: A Craft Beer Story

If a bar were to serve one beer from every craft brewer in Chicagoland, it would need more than 30 taps. And the number keeps growing every year. Filmmakers Mandy Niad and Lorenzo Patrick take viewers on a tour of Chicago’s oldest and newest breweries and get a taste of their creations (with names like Flywheel and Krankshaft, Gatecrasher and Smittytown Tart). Along the way, they discover the spark that set off the explosion of craft beers in Illinois.


I Love Mondays

Every Monday, Cameron is taking steps to become who he believes he is meant to be. Throughout this personal journey, he allows filmmakers Ashley Lapin, Ivy Wang and Deniz Alpay to find out who Cameron truly is. On the outside, people may see a friendly candy store clerk or a kid going for rides on his long board. But they will need to take a closer look to see who he is on the inside.

Me, My #Selfie and Eye

December 28, 2013

Arlene Duff holds up her son's book

Mom holding up the gift I gave my family this year: a collection of various instagram photos titled Me, My #Selfie and Eye

“Arab Idol” winner Mohammed Assaf tours USA, including Chicago

December 19, 2013
The Alhambra restaurant before the arrival of the audience to see Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf, winner of Arab Idol

The Alhambra restaurant before the arrival of the audience to see Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf, winner of Arab Idol

Last Friday night, I helped New York Times video journalist Reem Makhoul on her story about Mohammed Assaf, a former wedding singer from Gaza who went on to win Arab Idol, and take the Arab world by storm. Now he’s touring America, wowing fans here.

Hundreds of those fans (many of them Palestinian-Americans) crowded into the Alhambra restaurant in Chicago, dining on kebab and dancing and singing to the opening acts, then leaping to their feet when Assaf took the stage at 11 pm.

Enjoy the video by Reem Makhoul, as well as the print story by Lindsay Crouse and photographs by Taylor Glascock

NYTimes article about Mohammed Assaf

Record your Rime they said, and so I did

December 11, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 12.25.45 PMWater, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

To complement a new production featuring Fiona Shaw, who is doing a staged performance of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner this month, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) asked Ben Cohen and Claire Frisbie to craft an animated version of a portion of the epic poem. Record Your Rime: A BAM Poetry Project asked folks to record their interpretation of a portion of the piece. According to BAM’s marketing projects coordinator, BAM received readings “from all over the world, from here in Brooklyn to Georgia to Antarctica, Malaysia, and more, from people ranging in age from 6 to 84.”

Record Your Rime

I submitted my own entry via the Poetry Foundation’s Record-a-Poem project, and my voice appears, amid a flurry of others in this 2-minute piece. The animation — with drawings by Nathan Gelgud and animation by Katie Positerry — is quite whimsical and fun.

Can you hear me among the other parched-mouthed, sea-swept sailors?

Why I once learned the Gettysburg Address by heart, and why I’m doing it again today

November 19, 2013

The author getting ready to shoot the launch of aircraft on the USS Abraham Lincoln (Photo by David Clair)

Two score and seventeen months ago, David Clair and I boarded a COD (carrier onboard delivery) flight from San Diego to reach the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

It was a couple of weeks before the 200th birthday of the ship’s namesake, and I had asked a selection of the crew to read aloud the 16th president’s most famous speech for a video.

I printed the words of the Gettysburg Address in large type on four cards and had them laminated. The cards would fit under a portable teleprompter that attached to my camera lens so we didn’t need electrical power. David and I were fully mobile and roamed the ship, meeting various members of its 5,000-strong crew, from the lowest ranked sailors to the top brass.

With our cameras we captured the ship at work as the carrier strike group preformed drills on the Pacific ocean about 100 miles off the coast of California. The eponymous function of an aircraft carrier is not just to carry aircraft, but to maintain them, repair them and, in some of the most stunning and exciting operations I’ve ever filmed, launch and recover these multi-ton airframes safely on a mere 4.5 acres of surface.

My piece would mix the recitation of Lincoln’s immortal words, paired with the dynamic work being done on board the carrier. It was a birthday gift to one of our greatest leaders.

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