All posts by TJ Moore

TJ Moore

About TJ Moore

My Name is TJ Moore. I am currently studying Journalism at Creighton University and involved with the Backpack Journalism group 2014. I love learning new things and trying new experiences. I enjoy traveling, exploring, writing, art and music!

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened

Wow, today is the last official day of Backpack Journalism… and I don’t even know what to really say (but of course, I’ll think of something).  I am more just in shock with the fact that…

…it’s over.

For starters, I think that it is a given for myself that, not today, or tomorrow, but give it a week or two and I will be having some serious Backpack Journalism withdrawal. This experience is a perfect example of how life can fly right past your eyes when you blink. It feels like just yesterday that we were all worried and packing for the trip, but at the same time it feels like a long time ago.

I find it extremely hard to sum up all that this trip has done for me, and I am sure that it has done things for me that I don’t even have a grasp on yet.

These 5 weeks have helped me visualize things that I would like to do with my future, and directions I would like to lead it. It gives me a “hey I went on/did this, so I’ll be able to do this!” kind of vibe, if that makes any sense. It has helped me develop skills that I never thought I would learn, and an experience I could have never have gotten in any classroom.

Another thing this trip has done is reintroduce a passion into my life. For the longest time in college, I felt myself just drifting through my classes, getting sucked into the zombie routine of going in and out of class, not giving much thought on the future instead of the present. This experience, I can honestly say, has helped me think of my future, and all the doors that can be unlocked.

Something else to note that this trip has done for me, is that I will be forever plagued and gifted with awareness. I guess this trip was an “ah-ha” moment for me after all, or “when I first became aware”. I know that (even if they are just small things), I will be conscious of what I am always doing, such as taking long showers, wasting the gift we have here of electricity, and wasting food (which according to the Yup’ik people is a mortal sin). It has helped me to take a step back from my consumer lifestyle, question something you don’t even realize you are doing, and ask, “should I be doing this?”

I would like to say another thanks to John, Tim, Carol and Nichole for making all of this possible. It really means a lot to me that you all go out of your way to do this for students. Before the trip, I didn’t really doubt that we were going to go and make a documentary.  I just couldn’t really wrap my head around HOW we were going to do it in such a short time span, it is really amazing all that we accomplished while there. Even though I still have my self doubts about working the equipment and being involved and all that, I was glad to help and be a part of a team, I think that’s really the thing that I will miss the most.

Overall, this trip was nothing that I expected. Of course, I’m not sure I really knew what to expect. I can honestly say that this trip has done so much for me. It has helped me gain firsthand experience in areas of film/video in the best way possible. It has let me look into another culture through the eyes of the ones living there, and see what they value, what they believe, their struggles, and really who they are. It has taught me about myself, and what I believe, who I really think that I am, and even though I’m not exactly sure what it is yet, it has done something for me that nothing else could have.

I am trying to keep the “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” attitude, and even though I will miss everyone on the team, I am overjoyed and so thankful that I was given the chance to experience this.

What is one thing I can do differently based on what I have learned? (Carol’s question). The one thing I can confirm that I am taking away from this is that opportunity isn’t going to come knocking on your door, you can’t just glide through life expecting the doors to open up for you, you have to take the step outside of your comfort zone and go seeking opportunities. That is one thing I am going to attempt to do different, look for opportunity, and try to make things happen for myself (something I need to keep in mind).

With that, it has been a wonderful experience to say the least, I especially need to thank Johnny Intensity for opening up these doors, and helping me grow in my life, and helping my spirituality grow in ways I never knew possible. And for being the Dad of the trip to all of us (you all know it’s true).

Until next time…


The best team I could have asked for
The best team I could have asked for

10 things that I will miss about Bethel

1. Having the ability to get things done in daylight at 11pm (although I am loving having night back)

2. Randomly getting delicious freshly caught salmon

3. The people there, who (for the most part) were kind and welcoming

4. Waking up early each day with kind of a job to go to, but having random things happen throughout my day


6. Getting strange looks from passing people as our large group walks down the street

7. BS and bananagrams

8. Team breakfasts and dinners

9. A limited use of technology

10. The tundra and boardwalks

The beautiful view during a walk in Bethel, Alaska

Claudia Brock: Blending Service and Journalism

Aka Classic Claudia

Like many others who decided to step out of their comfort zone and join Creighton Backpack Journalism, Claudia Brock didn’t know what kind of experience awaited her.

A proud member of the Creighton community, Claudia Brock prides herself in her ability to stay involved in multiple ways on campus. However, her view on Creighton was not always as upbeat.

“Being from Omaha, I knew that there was for sure one place I did not want to go, Creighton. I always thought that I would end up somewhere else, so I initially came to school kicking and screaming”.

Now for Claudia it is a totally different story, she has embraced her time at Creighton and she is now involved in various activities. She embraced the Journalism major and joined the Creightonian paper as a staff writer and held that position for her entire freshman year, she later became assistant news editor,  a scene editor and more recently a news editor.

She first became interested in writing and Journalism from writing essays and her involvement with her speech team in high school.

“I enjoy researching and staying on top of news, and at Admitted Students Day, I got inspired to do Creighton news.” Claudia explained.

Claudia was raised Catholic, and from a young age always seemed to possess a drive to be involved in some way where she can help those in need around her. She has interned for the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands, helped organize and lead retreats, and will be minoring in Social Justice and Peace study. So when she first heard of what Backpack Journalism had to offer, she couldn’t refuse.

“To have a trip that combined my two loves, social justice, and journalism was a dream come true!”

So after a long week of Creighton Backpack Journalism bootcamp, Claudia packed her bags and with the rest of the CBJ team, headed out to Alaska.

While in Alaska, Claudia seemed to be as involved as she possibly could, taking on a variety of different roles. She acted as an interviewer, a writer/note taker, was the official legal consultant for the trip, and was a proud member of the “C Team” all while developing and improving her skills with a camera and as an overall journalist.

The "C Team"
The “C Team”

“It has been challenging (the trip), because of the chaotic size of the group. Despite that, I loved hearing people’s stories, they are all so fascinating, and I loved trying new things like cleaning fish and eating seal.”

Claudia always seems to have a smile on her face, and can easily bring light through laughter in any situation seemingly without hassle. She is always ready to brighten the team’s mood, and is always ready to try something new or just help out.

She is truly a joy to have on the team, and the best damn legal consultant in the Creighton Backpack Journalism program.


Settling Back In

This week has felt long but now that its over, it feels like it flew by. We continue to work on editing the film, cutting clips, saving good shots, and moving on to whatever the next task happens to be. Its a lot of busy work but I don’t really mind. Its cool to see progress being made.

I’ll say that it does feel weird to be back, the world definitely does not stop turning for you because you leave for 2 weeks and have no cell phone service. I suppose it’s just odd to jump right back into the routine again. It’s also weird to find myself being conscious of things like how much water I am using (even though one of the first things I did after getting back was enjoy a 20 minute shower), what I am eating and just  things like that.

I can also say that one of the things I miss is not having cell phone service. Yes, I enjoy communicating with the people I choose to, but I have realized that over half the time it’s calls, e-mails, and things I could really go without. Speaking of things I could go without, another thing I miss about Alaska is that there was no McDonald’s for miles. I am ashamed to say that I have been there three times since being back. So while I am ecstatic about being home, I have to say I could go with one less phone call from the Red Cross, and one less tempting McDonald’s around the block.

Being in Alaska (I think at least) has helped to shape me a little more spiritually. It was truly a gift to be taken out of this culture we are all in and shown beliefs from a different perspective. The Yup’ik people have something special up there, and by listening to them I have learned a lot. They seem to have this deep connection to the earth, while also having a connection with the universe. They see people as people, past the walls of religion or beliefs, and for the most part are the most welcoming and accepting people I could ever imagine. They have this amazing gift, their perception that doesn’t seem present here in the lower 48. It has been quite interesting to see the difference.

Overall, I am glad to be back home. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time up there, I also missed things like driving, cooking, and people of course. I am sure that my home will always be down here, but I know that a little piece of me was left up in the mountains.

photo by Stephanie Tedesco
photo by Stephanie Tedesco


My Return to the other “aska”!

Coming home from that long two weeks in Alaska was quite a strange experience. You seem to get used to a routine, and it is weird to not wake up early everyday and eat breakfast with everyone in the social hall. At first on the trip, I felt like I had a lot to do because we were kept pretty busy in Bethel. We are still busy with editing here at home, but that is a different type of busy.

A big thing I continue to carry with me from Alaska would be how much I will miss not being able to use my cellphone. Don’t get me wrong,  I am a frequent user of my cell phone, and love the benefits of being able to talk to my friends on it, but sometimes it is just easier without it. When I didn’t have a cellphone on me, it was pretty great because without a constant screen flashing in my face, I was able to appreciate the moment I was in more, because at the time, that was the only thing that I had to focus on.

I also continue to carry with me from the trip, a deep appreciation and thankfulness for what I have been so blessed to have, a place to stay, food and shelter and people who love me. Along with that thankfulness however is a layer of gut-twisting guilt that I feel. When I got home, I opened the cupboard to find it overflowing with junk food and snacks (now usually this would be a beautiful sight to me), but I felt horrible to have all this food that I didn’t think I deserved.

Overall, coming back has been a challenge with jet lag and the struggles of travel, but I am sure glad to be home.

A Lasting Experience I am Thankful to Have

It is now our last day in Bethel, and like I have said before, I am ready to go home, but at the same time, sad to be leaving. I will miss a lot about this place, and it sounds about right that it is supposed to start getting sunny and nice just as we are about to leave.

I will miss a lot of people that I have met here, people like Sarah and Suzan (shout out!). But we have to leave sometime, and our plane leaves for Anchorage tomorrow and then it is off to Seward.

This trip has been full of so many wonderful experiences and people, and I feel bad that I will never be able to fully express what I have been a part of here to anyone back home.

Yesterday, will be one of my favorite experiences that I have had in Alaska. In addition to the documentary, we are also doing our little side projects. Claire and I chose to do ours on the K300 dog race. Thanks to Sarah , yesterday morning we had the privilege to travel to Myron Angstman’s place.  He is the individual who started the K300 and continues to race.

We got to visit his home where he keeps and trains his race dogs. Being a dog person myself this was a real treat for me. We got there and got to view where the dogs and puppies stayed. The dogs all had little box houses and would occasionally jump and stand on top of them (pretty sure this is where they got the idea for Snoopy always hanging out on top of his dog house). We had the privilege to see them harness up the dogs to a four wheeler, and take them out for a practice run. Claire and Morgan rode on the back filming while the rest of us hopped into Sarah’s car while she drove behind and up on the side of them as we attempted to film the dogs in training.

Race dogs

After following them around, we got a short interview with Myron and learned how he started the K300 and what it is like to compete in a dog race. He was a very nice person and we were thankful he could take time out of his day for us. I know I will always remember the time I went to Bethel and got to watch the person who started the K300 train.

Today, I woke up and had a slow morning, and after our group reflection, volunteered to be the interviewer for the last interview we would be conducting in Bethel, which took place after a bountiful lunch of king salmon provided by the generous native people here. Even though we stayed in the church to interview Suzan (a wonderful lady I might add), I was still really nervous, since this was my first time interviewing.  It might not sound like the biggest deal, but really I just wanted to do good, and I think that I did to the best of my knowledge.  I am just glad that I got the opportunity to ask questions for an interview.

I am currently just trying to savor this last day I will be here in Bethel, I don’t know if I’ll ever be back here in my lifetime. I will miss this church/main hall that has become like a second home to me. I will miss the people of Bethel, their open hearts, minds, and complete generosity to everyone they come in contact here. I will miss everyone on this team once we go our separate ways after the class is actually done, they are all really great people.

Mostly, I am just thankful. I am thankful to have had this experience here. Thankful for my parents who have allowed me to have this experience. Thankful to the people here, and everyone we interviewed for showing me a new side of culture. I am thankful to Sla. And I am thankful to everyone that made this possible. I am also thankful for the advice that Matt Dorwart gave us before we left, to live in the moment, because I have certainly tried my best to do just that. We have a good few days left here in Alaska, and I will be continuing to try to live in the moment.

A Long Day With A Delicious Reward 

Today was the definition of a full day, but those days are the best. Today I woke up before 7 (who needs beauty sleep anyway) because the “C Team” was scheduled to go out on a fishing boat. John had felt bad that a few people didn’t get to go out last time, and thanks to his daughter’s help, he had arranged for us to go out with a fellow named Tad, to check his fishing nets.

After a quick breakfast consisting of a peanut butter and honey sandwich, we put on our lifejackets, piled in the truck and headed to the river. It was a very cold morning (which took every bit of will power I had left to even get out of my sleeping bag) and it was going to be even colder out on the water. We arrived there around 8.

Tad was a character. We met him at the docks, and introduced ourselves. He was a lot more bundled up than any of us, and I was having second thoughts about the clothes I had chosen for this morning. We got in the boat and headed out. It was cold to begin with and with the speed of the boat combined with the wind and lack of sun, it was freezing, after awhile I got used to it but it was primarily cold. As Tad drove the boat he explained that we were going to check his net and his brothers’ nets for fish that he would then bring back to the fish camps.

We pulled up to the nets and attempted to help Tad out, but mostly we just tried to stay out of his way. He would work with great speed and definitely knew what he was doing. We went from net to net and eventually I began to ignore the cold. It was interesting to think that this was basically running errands for him. We made it to the rest of the nets and headed back, the whole thing was really enjoyable to experience and fun to watch.

After a bit of warming up and making some lunch, John took a team out to shoot some B-roll. We once again piled into his truck and drove from place to place making sure to try and shoot every bit of footage that we would possibly need. At this point we are kind of finishing up with shooting and trying to grab every last thing just in case. We got back a little later about 4ish.

That night there was a potluck planned. Many people that we had interviewed and had interactions with were invited, as well as everyone from the church. The amount of food was incredible and this will probably be the most adventurous I will ever be with trying new foods. It was really stepping out of my comfort zone with food. In total I tried, seal, moose, caribou, and many more dishes. The counter was lined with food, from smoked salmon, soups, moose, and other native foods. I really enjoyed a lot of it, and some not so much. I would have to say my favorite was the moose soup, it was amazing. It was a good amount of subsistence. It was fun to see everyone smiling and having a good time together. The people here are so nice, and it will be the people I will miss the most when I leave.

After dinner and cleaning up, the whole group decided to go for a walk. We walked out to the boardwalk on the tundra, where we joked around and took pictures (not for footage just for fun). It was a good way to walk of the huge meal we just ate.

The trip is getting closer to being over and once it is, I have to admit it will be weird not to wake up with a group and eat breakfast together, to go to a job/assignment for that day. It will be weird when the sun won’t be out at 11:00 at night, not to be wearing boots from day to day, and it will be weird not to be slightly cold all the time. I will be sad to leave Bethel, Alaska once I do, but I know that I will also be ready to go home.


Considering all that my day was filled with today, I figured I better attempt writing a post on it. Today was a combination of long, fun, relaxing, and adventure.

My morning didn’t really consist of much, just the usual breakfast and briefing.  I wasn’t a part of an interviewing/filming team today, so it was a nice change of pace.  I got to sit back and enjoy my morning and get a chance to wake up for the day.

Around 2 or so, there wasn’t much going on and I didn’t really feel like being social, so I packed up my backpack, and just started walking. It was an amazingly beautiful day outside, the sun was shining and the clouds were puffy and white. I walked along the lake taking in the sights of people fishing, boats coming in and out, and just the vast amount of scenery. I walked to a more wooded area and took in the beauty of the trees and how particularly green everything looked. I probably walked a few miles down the shore and picked a nice spot and just sat there. It was there I had what I would call an “ah-ha” moment, as the natives here would say. It was quiet, peaceful, blissful, and tranquil. For some reason I could feel this deep connectedness, as corny as it sounds, and what some of the natives here have been saying, started to make a little sense.

After walking a little more and turning around, I saw the cutest little old native lady fishing over the edge of the path.  I walked up to her, smiled and asked if she had caught anything yet. We engaged in conversation and she ended up telling me stories of her impressive fishing skills and all of her travels.  I really love talking to elders here, they are all so wise and always have a story or two to tell.

Later, after eating dinner, the rest of the team left here (that didn’t go to the interview) got to experience kayaking. This was actually my first time going, and it turned out to be really fun. We went up a river and after 2 hours turned around. When I wasn’t paddling far ahead of the others, I would sit back and watch the sky as I drifted down the river once again taking in everything around me. For the most part I had fun and it was relaxing. While it was fun, my whole body is currently sore, so with that, a fun end to a great day.



5 Days but feels like months

Wow. That word sums up how my experience has been here so far.  There has been so much that I have gone through here and I don’t have the space to tell it all (I’m sure you can find the rest out from other blogs).

Getting here was a challenge. It seemed like we were traveling for days, checking in, and sleeping/napping waiting for our plane. We finally made it though the harsh process of traveling and tiredly arrived in Bethel.

So far we have interviewed a total of five people. I can honestly say that these people have drastically changed my life. The first day we interviewed a man named Pat Tam. This man impacted me majorly. He talked of spirituality, and having a deep connection with all things; his words were truly beautiful and touched my heart. After we finished, I talked with him for a good amount of time and ended up making a new friend.

The next day we turned off the cameras and we were welcomed to do a workshop with two very kind hosts, Rose and Ray. Before we got there, we didn’t really know what to expect. We were welcomed into the offices in the home of these two people for a Cultural Trauma and Healing presentation. They talked of their people’s past traumatic experiences.  Rose poured her heart out to us and told of her family’s past, and wept openly to us, bringing a few tears to my eyes.  I have the utmost respect for Rose. Their hospitality was also unmatchable.

Later that night, Scott and I volunteered to go with John to take the trash out to a dumpster and while doing so, get a little B-roll practice as well. While Scott was shooting, I looked across the street and saw this huge pack of about 10 or so dogs and yelled to Scott, “PACK OF DOGS, PACK OF DOGS” to which he stood still, face buried in the camera and held the shot. Luckily, they were friendly, and while he shot, I managed to get in a little pet therapy. The smell on my clothes afterward was well worth it.

So far this has been a truly amazing experience, and I feel myself immersed in this new and unique culture, and growing closer to the team I am working with. They all are really great people, and I am really glad to be a part of this whole thing. I wish I could write more, but I have been up far too long at this point and sleep is long overdue. I am enthusiastic about whatever events tomorrow will bring.

Tick Tock…Tick Tock…

Wow. Three days before we leave and I have to say this really snuck up on me. I feel a mixture of emotions including nervous, excited, anxious, nervous, and enthusiastic, and somehow all at the same time.

This week has been intense to say the least, and I have tried to retain as much knowledge that was thrown at me as possible. Now I truly know why they call it “bootcamp”. Even if I were to have a horrible time in Alaska (which I am sure I won’t),  it would have been worth it because of the amount that I have learned this week.

However, even though it has been a lot to take in and process, I honestly wish that we had at least another week to really get everything down. We don’t though, and I have accepted that, and I am actually all right with it.

My list of concerns is a whole lot longer than my packing list, and that’s saying something. What’s on that list doesn’t include things like “Getting eaten by a bear” (as I’m sure we have all heard more than a few times) something like that would just make for a cool story.

Some examples would be things like: getting everything right with equipment, remembering all the correct settings to use for the camera and when to use them, actually being a help, and getting along with everyone. …oh and being the one person in the group to sneeze during an interview when we desperately need to be quiet (that’s a big one on the list). Saying “I’m a little overwhelmed” would be a bit of an understatement. But all I can really do is try to learn, adapt, and contribute anything I can, whenever possible.

My worry list however does not outweigh my excitement by any means. I can honestly say I am glad that I am doing this. Hell, on top of that, it will be good for me.

I think that the whole idea with the Yup’ik word “Ella” that John presented this morning was brilliant, and really hope we can go that direction with it. I find the Yup’ik culture fascinating, and I can’t wait to learn more about them. I  respect the way that they view life, and it is somewhat humbling in a way. I am eager to learn more about the Yup’ik people, and perhaps some of their religious/spiritual beliefs even cross over with my own.

Soon we will be able to count down the hours until our flight leaves, and as I am typing this, I’m beginning to realize how soon we will actually be in Alaska. There’s no going back now, and I wouldn’t want to. Well, I better continue packing!

Some of my Alaska gear!
Some of my Alaska gear!