APRIL 27, 2010
THE OXFORD ENTERPRISE: Neal Moore – A modern-day Huck Finn
Writer to pen book about canoeing the Mississippi
By Joseph Williams
The Oxford Enterprise Senior Writer
Neal Moore was just passing through when he first thought he’d sit a spell in Oxford.
He was headed to New Orleans on the Mississippi River. He followed the current down the spine of America for months after dropping his canoe in a mountain stream in Minnesota. As a writer, the current did well to lap this far east and deposit Moore in a guest bedroom a stone’s throw from Rowan Oak.
Moore wasn’t just idling down the river either. He was documenting the passage.
As a citizen journalist, he makes it his business to go to the edge of somewhere and chronicle life. This year, it was the Mississippi.
Now, with pages of photographs, video footage and interviews on the CNN Web site, Moore wants to write a book about the Mississippi trip. For the next several months, he’s taking refuge in the coffee shops and bars of Oxford to pen his river memoir.
“I can’t think of a greater place to write. You’ve got Bottletree Café. You’ve got the balcony at Square Books. You’ve got Ajax Diner with the bar. It’s a wonderful place to write that you’ve got here. I mean, look at this place,” Moore says, waving an arm to encompass the backyard pool and landscaping of his hosts’ home, the green, springtime buds of Bailey’s Woods and, beyond that, barely visible through the trees, Rowan Oak.
Local residents Bob and Jane Pekala scooped up Moore and offered him their guest bedroom, first while he was passing through with his canoe in-tow and now, again, while he writes.
But Moore’s life in Oxford at the Pekala residence is luxurious compared to the last half of 2009 when he spent his days heaving his oars ever south. He slept along the river, hiked into towns to interview the residents and often mourned his solitude.
Some days, he would float away from the kindness of others, away from new friends and inspiring families, and the weight of isolation would bear down on his little canoe, and he would cry.
The first time his emotions got the better of him was in Iowa where he spent several days with a family of sustainable farmers. He expected to find a different breed of people, genuine, hardscrabble farmers cut from a different sort of cloth. He imagined days of work followed by evenings on an antique porch, and he expected to write about the struggles of middle-American farm life.
“What I found is that these were real people,” he says. “They had hopes, and they had desires, and they had faults, and they had triumphs. And you can’t pigeonhole them as farmers because they’re not just that.”
A three-day visit extended into a three-week stay. He immersed himself in the farm’s and the family’s daily lives. He felt the sun on his back and laughter in his ears, but he couldn’t stay.
“You’re off for a couple days, and the river starts to call, and, when you’re off for too long, it starts to scream, and in the end I had to leave, even though I
had found these friends,” he says. “It was so intoxicating, but then you shake hands with these people, you’re put back on the river, you put on a brave face and then they’re out of sight.”
On two other occasions, casual visits evolved into long-term relationships. Once in Hannibal, Mo., where Moore found a literary context for his adventure in the work of Mark Twain, and once again in Oxford.
After he pulled his canoe out in New Orleans, after he documented life along the river in almost every fashion from agriculture to arts to prison life at [Louisiana] State Penitentiary [at Angola], Moore devised a plan to write a book, a plan that would put him back in touch with the places he loved.
He revisited the farm in Iowa, went back to the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal and made its director his [co-author] and then came to Oxford to write.
The book, “Down the Mississippi: A Modern-day Huck on America’s River Road,” will be a literary nonfiction account of Moore’s journey spliced with Mark Twain quotes and musings. The project will take several months to complete, and that’s just fine with Moore. Already a familiar face on the Square, he says he’s charmed and excited to integrate into the center of Southern literary culture.
The book satisfies Moore’s need to write and document. He came to journalism through literature, and he says he is driven by stories. There’s no question about that. For years, Moore has reported in Africa and Asia as an unpaid citizen journalist. He teaches English in Taiwan to make money, and then he goes reporting again, journaling whatever lives and places he finds interesting just to get the stories out there, just to share.
But he does hope to be paid for his efforts soon. The book may bring in something.
Plus, with almost 400,000 views of his “iReport” on CNN.com, there’s also the chance that the media giant might pay him next time.
But in the meantime, he says, “I’m able to do exactly what I want. I’m able to shoot video. I’m able to take pictures. I’m able to write stories. And, for the first time ever, I have a lot of people who end up seeing these stories. For me, it’s life-changing in that way. So it’s not for the paycheck. It’s for the love of the story. It’s for the love of the challenge.”
FEBRUARY 5, 2010
QUINCY HERALD-WHIG: CNN journalist returning to Hannibal to talk about trip down Mississippi River by canoe
By RODNEY HART
Quincy Herald-Whig Staff Writer
An “iReporter” and citizen journalist for CNN, Moore makes good on his promise Saturday at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. He’ll share tales of his trip and talk about being only the second person to ever spend a night in the boyhood bedroom of Samuel Clemens.
“It was about taking myself out of my comfort zone, but also putting myself in a number of firsts,” says Moore, who compiled 50 video reports during his trip. “It was the first time I’ve ever been to an Indian pow-wow, the first time I’ve been on a sustainable farm, the first time I’ve ever been in Hannibal.”
Moore is just as interesting as the river stories he encountered. He grew up in Los Angeles and has a degree in English literature, and the travel bug has taken him around the world.
He keeps an apartment in Tapei, Tawain, and has been to Africa and Asia teaching English through American Red Cross programs. His next job is hopefully covering World Cup soccer this summer in Africa.
While looking for “strictly positive stories” from America’s heartland, he decided on paddling down the Mississippi River. He left Minnesota in July and didn’t finish the trip until December in New Orleans.
“We were thinking, why not go down America’s great river road?” Moore said.
Most of his reports were filed to CNN.com, with several running on the regular CNN and CNN International broadcasts. He used portable wireless technology, his trusty and battered Macintosh laptop, and a video camera to record his trip.
In his 16-foot Old Town Charles River canoe, Moore encountered one fascinating story after another. He camped on river islands and learned to adjust on the fly — his planned four-day stop at sustainable farm in Iowa turned into a 2 1/2-week adventure where he filed six stories.
Moore took footage, then would find a restaurant in town to recharge his equipment, edit his stories and send them to CNN.
Moore said he knew Hannibal was a must-stop because of the Mark Twain tourism and restoration stories, but he was unprepared for the friendships he developed. He arrived in September and after a few days was invited to spend a night in the home where Samuel Clemens once slept.
“Hands-down the most exciting time of my life,” Moore said. “I didn’t sleep that well, and I got up in the morning and looked out the window, and you could see the Mississippi River. You could see the view to his (Clemens’) world, his view at that impressionable young age.”
Moore said he was so impressed with the warmth displayed by Hannibal’s leaders and citizens that he literally cried when he left, and he vowed to return.
He is in the Hannibal area for several days working on a book about his adventures, and will share his stories at the museum Saturday.
“I realized the story was my story — I was the modern day Huck Finn,” Moore said. “When I left, the rest of the trip turned into Twain’s river run.”
JANUARY 24, 2010
AITKEN INDEPENDENT AGE: All is not lost if the baton is still airborne
By KATHLEEN PAKARINEN
AITKIN, MINNESOTA (Aitkin Independent Age)
That’s what the sign in the store window in Stillwater said. “Necessarily” is the operative word there. Well that and “Stillwater.” Still waters reportedly run deep but they don’t “necessarily” get you anywhere.
Me, I’m an accidental wanderer. Two of my main exit roads out of Twin Cities were unexpectedly closed for repairs last Sunday. That sent me on a quest that … well … I guess you could call it “stimulating” – my own personal “Stimulus Package,” all tied up in a tightly knotted ribbon of road work.
Neal Moore, “unpaid and unprofessional” reporter for CNN and citizen of the world, is what you might call a “purposeful wayfarer.” But even he was just looking for food and an internet connection when he stumbled on the Relay for Life story that landed Aitkin on CNN last week. He was paddling his canoe down the Mississippi, searching for positive stories about communities pulling together in tough times. He spent two extra days at the county campground because he couldn’t bring himself to paddle by our newly-painted purple storefronts and the story of how we work to benefit each other.
“It sounds cliche but I think the cancer story and Austin’s simple take on it all might be relevant for more than the disease he fought – the idea of being strong and brave – a possible cure for tough economic woes as well.”
Those were Moore’s last words before he headed on down river. He was talking about Austin Price, now 6, whose hard-won survival paved the way for Kathie Smith’s young children when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was just the angle Moore was looking for – the baton passing from Austin to Kathie and her kids, and family and friends holding benefits for both of them. By the time all 500 of those baton-passers at the Relay crossed the finish line, they’d lighted 2,000 luminaries and raised $45,000 to benefit their own battles and the one still being waged by the American Cancer Society.
For a road-weary reporter, Moore managed to shed a whole new light on this old town. Times are tough here. Keeping those storefronts full has always been a challenge and now there are more foreclosures and layoffs. Cancer can strike at any moment like a bolt from the blue. In a small town like this, everybody minds everyone else’s business. That can be a burden but, when a really serious burden lands on someone’s shoulders, people step up to help lift the load, hold a benefit, pass the baton …
For a man on a mission to dig up uplifting stories about communities finding ways to navigate unfavorable currents, Aitkin’s story was one that deserved to travel far and wide. But what about someone who’s been known to show up at work with a scarf over her bald head and hope that no one notices, someone who takes one wrong turn and ends up spinning around in strange metropolitan circles? What does someone like that take from all of this?
Maybe that Aitkin is just the place she didn’t know she was looking for. It’s hard to get lost in Aitkin but, if you really lose your way, someone will take notice.
DECEMBER 21, 2009
Packandexplore.com: Canoeing the Mississippi River
By Craig Guillot
NEW ORLEANS, LA (Packandexplore.com)
Dubbed a “modern-day Huck Finn,” Neal Moore spent six months canoeing the entire length of the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to New Orleans. His mission was not only to document his canoe journey but also report on and participate in positive and uplifting stories of American communities along the way.
Paddling the entire length of the Mississippi was a major venture. What inspired you to do it?
There were a number of inspirations for this expedition: Mark Twain, Dan Eldon and Eddy L. Harris. I was looking for a unique adventure that would provide an ongoing opportunity to find and document positive American stories. With Twain’s Huck Finn came the idea of absolute freedom; from Dan Eldon came the thinking of taking myself out of my comfort zone as well as life as safari; and from Eddy L. Harris came the realization that America’s River Road is absolutely doable.
I see you’ve got a lot of adventures under your belt but have you done anything of this magnitude?
Nothing whatsoever. As a traveler you spend a great deal of time with your fellow expatriates, often in extremely exotic locales, hypothesizing the perfect trip. But the realization of actually putting yourself out there was a new concept in my life that in the end, had to come from within.
The Mississippi River is quite narrow near its source but it can be a crowded busy waterway with strong currents as you get farther South. How did the paddling change as you made it further?
I’ve gotten into trouble describing the Mississippi River as a forgiving river. But in the context of stages this is the correct way to describe it. By the time you reach Minneapolis you’ve got 500 river miles under your belt and you’re not only ready for your first lock and dam – you’re actually looking forward to it. By the time you reach St. Louis, now with 29 locks and dams behind you, you’re ready for a river unbridled. From the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi on down, you’ve got a serious river with moods and debris and at times, some serious river traffic. But until you get to Baton Rouge, its still by and large wild and at times you can go for a good portion of your day without seeing another living soul.
What’s the craziest thing that happened on the trip?
One of the most dangerous parts of the voyage came post Cairo, Illinois, when I camped out on a then rare sandbar in the middle of the Mississippi. It had rained for the past five days and the current was both swift and strong. By midnight the waves were lapping directly at my tent and so I pulled up stakes and moved to higher ground. As it turned out, the water rose five feet that night and as such, the waves found me yet again by six am, which was when I was in essence evicted off the island. My lantern hanging from a tree looked like a hurricane lamp blowing in the rain and wind and as I got into the canoe with everything I could grab, I was out there quite alone with my thoughts – in the dark, rolling with the waves, dodging logs that I could hardly see – questioning my own sanity.
What were people’s first impressions when they found out you were paddling the entire river?
This makes me think of the old cliché – there’s a fine line between genius and insanity. Some folks would tip their hats to you, others would view you as a vagabond, while others still would flat out tell you that you were going to die. I think the biggest commentary came down to the final stretch in what is referred to at “cancer alley” – the home stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. It was here that tow pilots would either applaud, hooping and hollering into their loudspeakers, or else curse you out – calling you a scumbag that had no place on a river their family had worked for multiple generations. In the end, I think you have to listen to your own voice – willing yourself to make it, to survive the hard times, and to see yourself through.
In terms of the people and stories you encountered, what would you say were some of the most memorable?
The most memorable encounters were the characters that you brush along such a sojourn – the ones that you’ll never again meet that you’ll think about for the rest of your life. The fisherman in Versailles, Minnesota that literally tipped his hat to the trip; the boy at La Grange, Missouri that named my craft “The Andrea”; the traveling singer-songwriter in Oxford, Mississippi that sang just like Bob Dylan.
What kind of canoe did you paddle?
An Old Town “Charles River RX” – 16’ 3” Royalex canoe that was first designed in 1903.
Did you have any logistical support along the way? Any interruptions (weather, equipment problems, etc.)?
The only logistics were contacts in a handful of key towns where I had planned to tell a story. But by and large the journey was about freedom and not having a deadline or a contact to steer you in their direction. There is something wondrous about pulling your canoe into a quaint little town, either under their bridge or into their campsite, setting up your tent, and striking out on foot in search of the old town center. When it came to the weather, by and large you have to just deal with it. A system will move in and if you’re surrounded by wetland there is nowhere to step out. You’re going to get wet but the rule is that at some point you’re going to dry out. Which is where the importance of good equipment comes into play. The key piece of equipment besides your canoe is your tent.
In one of your videos you talk about “getting outside of your comfort zone.” Would you say that partly defines adventure?
I’d say this is the key ingredient – the other byline borrowed from Dan Eldon – “Safari as a Way of Life.” Turn the TV off – and go out and explore. It can be as simple as taking a different route home from work or as elaborate as spinning the globe in search of the next great journey. But having lived and explored and traveled the world – what I learned from my Mississippi River trip was the fact that sometimes the greatest of all expeditions can take place directly in your own back yard.
DECEMBER 16, 2009
CNN’s iReport Blog: An Incredible Journey
By Henry Hanks
ATLANTA, GEORGIA (CNN) —
Team iReport had a very special visitor last Wednesday: globe-trotting iReporter Neal Moore. He has lived in Taiwan, South Africa, Namibia and Thailand, among other places, but this time he came back to the U.S. for one of the biggest journeys of his life: a four-and-a-half month canoe trip down the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to New Orleans, Louisiana, on a mission to iReport the positive stories he found along the way. Fresh from this extraordinary trip, Moore had a lot to tell us about this uplifting experience.
Being a Mark Twain fan, he said he will never forget having the rare opportunity to spend the night in Twain’s boyhood home. But one highlight of his trip took him by complete surprise: his visit to the Louisiana State Penitentiary, surrounded on all sides by the mighty Mississippi. He found that conditions there had improved substantially from just several years ago when it was known as “the most dangerous prison in America.”
“It was sort of life-changing to go in there and to meet people who are in prison like this who are stepping up and accomplishing something through communication,” he said.
Regardless of where he went, Moore left feeling more positive about his home country than ever before. “From the top of the river down, I would find communities who are rallying around a central cause or theme, putting their best foot forward,” he told me, “whether it be Mark Twain, literacy, or fighting cancer.”
Moore will never forget this trip, and we will never forget meeting him. Click here for more of CNN’s special coverage of his journey, and watch for him on this month’s edition of “iReport for CNN” on CNN International.
NOVEMBER 4, 2009
THE OXFORD EAGLE: Journalist tells American tales on journey down Mississippi River
By ALYSSA SCHNUGG
OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI (The Oxford Eagle)
Spending the last 20 years overseas in Africa and Asia, citizen journalist and creative activist Neal Moore has returned to his native country to get reacquainted with its natural beauty and its people, and to share their stories with the rest of the world via CNN’s iReport series and his own Web site.
Moore has been traveling down the Mississippi River in a canoe since July 10. His goal is to travel the entire length of the mighty Mississippi – 2,320 miles, from its source in Lake Itasca in Minnesota to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico – by December.
Along the way, Moore stops at neighboring cities and towns and reports on local community projects, highlighting what makes each area special.
“This trip is really to take myself out of my comfort zone,” Moore told The EAGLE Tuesday. “When you do that, incredible things can happen. It’s really exciting to be surrounded by the wilderness. It makes you feel wild as well.”
Telling ‘real’ stories
Born and raised in Los Angeles, the 38-year-old says he always loved to travel. Twenty years ago, he moved to Africa. From there, he moved to Taipei, Taiwan, but returns often to Africa and on occasion the United States.
His trip is being documented as part of CNN’s iReports, which allows non-professional journalists to “report” stories from around the world. He hopes his stories will show those living in other countries what America is really like.
“I want them to see it from the inside,” he said. “Real towns, real people with real stories, through the lens of my camera. Having the opportunity to share those stories with the world via CNN is a very exciting prospect.”
So far, Moore has visited Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. In Mississippi, he’s been to Clarksdale and Tupelo where he featured Mississippi’s blues history.
In Oxford, he’s doing two reports — one on Alzheimer’s and the other on literacy.
“I will be featuring a young mother of two who wants to break the cycle of illiteracy in her family,” Moore said.
Moore admits his canoeing skills were on the weak side when he first began his journey.
“I’m an Eagle Scout, so I did learn basic canoe skills, but I haven’t been in one since I was 12 years old,” he said. “When I tell these towns what I’m doing, they think I’m nuts. The Mississippi River can have a strong current in some spots and can have real dangers. But it’s a beautiful river and, if done safely, it can be a life-changing experience.”
To follow Moore on his trip, visit his Web site at http://www.flashriversafari.com.
SEPTEMBER 25, 2009
QUINCY HERALD-WHIG: Sleepover in Twain’s home a moment ‘citizen journalist’ will never forget
By ED HUSAR
QUINCY, ILL. (Quincy Herald Whig)
NEAL MOORE got a lot more than he expected when he landed his canoe in Hannibal, Mo., last weekend.
Moore is a “citizen journalist” paddling the length of the Mississippi River in search of stories about communities doing good things. He shares the tales on his blog (flashriversafari.com) and through periodic dispatches on CNN.
Upon arriving in Hannibal, Moore learned about a campaign to raise $10 million to help preserve eight buildings associated with Mark Twain, whose boyhood years in Hannibal inspired some of the greatest works in American literature, notably “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
As Moore was interviewing Hannibal residents for his story, Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum officials became enamored by this modern-day Huck’s quest for adventure and good news. So they made him an amazing offer.
Moore was invited to spend a night in Twain’s boyhood home on Hill Street. He’d be allowed to sleep in the room where Twain, then known as Samuel Clemens, bedded down from age 3 until he left Hannibal at 17.
Only one other person in the past century has been allowed to sleep in the home. In the late 1960s George Seybolt, CEO of the William Underwood Co., selected Hannibal for a new plant, known today as General Mills. Seybolt also had a lifelong affection for Twain and asked if he could spend a night in the boyhood home.
Approval was given, and Seybolt slept on a cornhusk-filled mattress. “The next morning he left a check in the amount of $500 on the pillow as a thank you to the museum,” said Henry Sweets, curator.
Now Moore was being invited to enjoy a similar sleepover. He jumped at the chance.
According to his blog, Moore was served a meal Monday evening in the home’s dining room, courtesy of the Garth Mansion. Then after bidding goodnight to “what felt like half the town” gathered outside the front door, Moore retreated upstairs to Twain’s bedroom.
Moore spent about an hour reading “Tom Sawyer” while soaking up the atmosphere.
“Reading ‘Tom Sawyer’ in the boyhood bedroom of Sam Clemens was just too great an experience to put into words,” Moore said in an e-mail interview. “I guess the one word that would describe it best would be ‘surreal.’ ”
At around midnight, he crept down the back stairs and wandered over to the nearby former home site of Tom Blankenship, the inspiration for Twain’s Huck Finn character.
“I brought my lantern to make it exciting,” Moore said. “And I was by myself — alone with my thoughts, which I shared via the camera of my laptop computer. For the first time the character of Huck became real for me.”
Later, back in Twain’s bedroom, Moore positioned his sleeping bag in the exact spot where Twain would have laid his head.
“I slept on the floor with the door open. The house was hot and stuffy — in a magical sort of way, bustling with antiquity, with history,” he said. “The sounds I heard were of the insects and birds of the night. The odd passing car. No cats. The trains and tow boats didn’t interfere with my sleep.”
Moore slept from about 1:30 to 6:30 a.m. Then, with his dream experience over, he climbed back into his canoe and started paddling to his next destination, St. Louis.
The adventure of a lifetime was tucked away safely in his heart.
To visit Ed’s story at the Quincy Herald Whig CLICK HERE
SEPTEMBER 23, 2009
HANNIBAL COURIER-POST: ‘Huck’ departs Hannibal
By DANNY HENLEY
HANNIBAL, MO (Hannibal Courier-Post)
via AOL VIDEO (UK) — now on Youtube…
To visit Danny’s written piece from the Hannibal Courier-Post CLICK HERE
SEPTEMBER 23, 2009
HANNIBAL COURIER-POST: Clemens contribution
By DANNY HENLEY
HANNIBAL, MO (Hannibal Courier-Post)
SEPTEMBER 23, 2009
HANNIBAL COURIER-POST: Sleeping in Twain’s room
by DANNY HENLEY
HANNIBAL, MO (Hannibal Courier-Post)
via AOL VIDEO (UK) — Now on Youtube…
To visit Danny’s written piece from the Hannibal Courier-Post CLICK HERE
SEPTEMBER 21, 2009
HANNIBAL COURIER-POST: Modern day ‘Huck’ sleeps in Twain’s bedroom
By DANNY HENLEY
HANNIBAL, MO (Hannibal Courier-Post)
There are countless reasons for not getting a good night’s sleep. In Neal Moore’s case, excitement over where he was allowed to spend Monday night likely kept him from getting much shut eye. Moore, a citizen journalist with CNN, was given the rare opportunity to spend the night in Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home in downtown Hannibal.
“I’ll be shocked if he sleeps one wink. I’d be too excited,” said Dr. Cindy Lovell, executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, noting that Moore was going to bed down in the same room that a young Samuel Clemens had once called his own. “I don’t know if I could fall asleep in that room.”
Asked Monday afternoon if he thought he’d get much sleep, Moore wasn’t making any predictions.
“I’m not sure about that. I might actually try to sneak out and see what sites I can see around town, but we’ll see,” he said with a smile.
Since George Mahan purchased and saved the house from being demolished in 1912, only one other person has been allowed to spend the night in the boyhood home. According to museum curator Henry Sweets, George Seybolt, then-CEO of the William Underwood Company and a Mark Twain fan, slept there on a mattress filled with cornhusks in the late 1960s.
“It’s the dream of every boy and tomboy I guess you could say for the last 100 years. To have the chance to be the second person in 97 years is just a very humbling experience,” said Moore of spending the night in the boyhood home. “It’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me I think by far in my life.”
Allowing Moore, who will be making his way down the Mississippi River via canoe over the next few months, to spend the night in the historic site was not a difficult decision.
“Where are we going to get a modern day Huckleberry Finn like this, doing what he’s doing, taking the citizen journalist approach?” asked Lovell. “You think of how Mark Twain started out as nobody famous. He was a regular reporter like everybody else, so the tie-ins are there with him (Moore) being a reporter and with him being on the river. It just felt right. He (Moore) is a really nice guy, really sincere and looking for positive which is so unusual in today’s world.”
One of the positive stories that Moore has been following during his brief stay in Hannibal is the museum’s “10 by 10” endowment fund-raiser campaign, which has as its goal raising $10 million by the end of 2010. To achieve that goal, one million Twain fans around the world are being asked to donate $10 each.
“He’s out there telling our story,” said Lovell. “It just kind of went together with what we’re trying to do involving grassroots people. He’s definitely a grassroots kind of person.”
The museum will officially launch the “10 by 10” campaign on Saturday, Oct. 10, when all $10 donors are invited to sign their name on the famous whitewashed fence. Moore will make a $10 donation and be among the first to sign the fence, according to Lovell.
Photo by Danny Henley. Go to the Hannibal Courier Post HERE
SEPTEMBER 19, 2009
HANNIBAL COURIER-POST: CNN Reporter: Hannibal is most certainly America’s Hometown
By DANNY HENLEY
HANNIBAL, MO (Hannibal Courier-Post)
It is not uncommon for visitors to Hannibal to leave with tales to share. Neal Moore will be no different, only his stories may reach an international audience.
Moore, who describes himself as an unpaid “citizen journalist” for the Cable News Network (CNN), is wrapping up a brief visit after arriving via canoe earlier this week. Moore’s stop in Hannibal is part of a five-month trek down the Mississippi River, which he anticipates will end in early December when he reaches New Orleans. Moore admits that Hannibal is a destination he’s been looking forward to reaching for years.
“I’ve read about and dreamed about the Mississippi River, and of course Hannibal, Mo., my entire life,” he said.
Wherever Moore paddles ashore it’s with the objective of finding “straight, positive, American” stories.
“With these stories coming down the river, really the backdrop is the economy. But instead of going straight for that I’m highlighting different ways that communities are rallying together. Whether they’re rallying around fighting cancer or a living legacy of somebody like Mark Twain or like Charles Lindbergh in Little Falls, Minn., folks rally around a cause in these trying times. You find people stand up and help each other out and it’s inspiring, not only for the town itself, but for everyone who can actually see that story.”
In Hannibal, Moore has had no trouble coming up with stories to tell.
“There’s too many stories here. It’s the kind of town you could spend a lifetime in and you would never run out of stories. It’s obvious, you take one look at the town and citizenry and you can see these are real people. They have ups, they have downs and it’s very positive right now,” he said.
Moore’s impressions of Hannibal are varied.
“It’s a very eclectic community, rough and tumble. I’ve heard that expression a few times. You have to be rough and tumble in a port city like this going back to Sam Clemens’ time,” he said. “You have that aspect. You also have the artists and sort of the melting pot right here downtown with the reconstruction of downtown Hannibal with the excitement in the air, folks coming together and putting their best foot forward.”
Although a world traveler, Moore confesses that he was anxious to begin his trip down the middle of America.
“The biggest surprise is just really how wonderful a trip like this is,” he said. “I’ve been around the world several times, but really I’m more excited about this trip … this adventure than I have been about anything in my life. Part of it is the nature. Part of it is these small towns, these big cities and the challenge of the story as well and to chase these stories and find new stories, and really highlight America for myself and my own life, but also for an American audience and potential international audience via CNN.”
As much as Moore looked forward to the trip, he acknowledges it also represents a personal challenge.
“The whole idea for my trip is to take myself out of my comfort zone. By doing that you open yourself up to incredible things – good, bad, ugly and the positive as well, and that’s when you grow and you learn,” he said. “To actually come down for the very first time and touch it in this way via canoe, it’s a perfect mode of transport. It’s America at her finest and this town is most certainly America’s Hometown.”
Photo by Danny Henley. Visit the Hannibal Courier-Post HERE.
SEPTEMBER 9, 2009
PdCToday.com: Canoeing Citizen Journalist Highlights Prairie du Chien, Iowa Farms
By DAN MORIS
PRAIRIE du CHIEN, WISC (PdCToday.com)
Neal Moore is canoeing the Mississippi River by himself seeking positive stories in Middle America. His canoe and camera found the Prairie du Chien area last week. “I can really appreciate a town – and area – like this,” says Moore, “and that’s highlighted in the videos.”
Read Dan Morris’ complete story from the PdCToday.com Online Community Newspaper here.
AUGUST 6, 2009
AITKIN INDEPENDENT AGE: He took Aitkin along for the ride
By KATHLEEN PAKARINEN
AITKIN, MINNESOTA (Aitkin Independent Age Newspaper) —
Every town has a story every day but some days are better than others. While Aitkin was busy painting the town purple last Tuesday, a citizen journalist with CNN just happened to be passing through by canoe. That’s right – CNN in Aitkin by canoe.
And it gets better.
Neal Moore who calls himself an “unprofessional, unpaid citizen journalist” has a relationship with CNN and the report he did about purple Tuesday in Aitkin was posted on the website on Wednesday morning and, by the afternoon, it was tagged “On CNN,” meaning it’s now featured on their iReport.com main page. If you were watching CNN at 10 a.m. last Thursday morning, you were among the first to see Moore’s report on Aitkin as it hit the airways.
Everywhere it leads
Just like he’s doing with the river, he followed the story everywhere it led. The purple on the store windows led him to the story about the Aitkin Area Relay for Life and that brought him into our office. We led him to one of our front pages and Elaine Hill.
And she’s just one of many local people featured in the 15-minute film – people like police officer, Tim Catlin; business owner and cancer survivor, Sue Fox; and Adam Mehr, an AHS and recent college graduate who was having coffee with his mom and sister in front of the Beanery.
By the trails end, Moore had interviewed Kathie Smith, the honorary chair of this year’s relay, and Austin Price, a 6-year-old whose battle with the disease helped Kathie’s kids deal with their mother’s diagnosis.
On the river road
Moore is a novice behind the paddle but even though he says he’s just a “citizen,” he’s an experienced journalist. He grew up in Los Angeles and his degree is in English Literature but he has been traveling and writing in Asia and Africa for 20 years while he was also teaching English. For the last year, he has been iReporting for CNN as a citizen journalist. He said that a lot of his reports end up on CNN.
Moore expects to put in five months on the story he was chasing in Aitkin last week. He is combining his first long solo canoe trip down the Mississippi with stories that highlight community projects. He started at the headwaters near Bemidji and he won’t reach the end of the long and winding river road until he reaches New Orleans.
“I’m looking for positive American stories … genuinely postive from all facets, all angles,” he explained.
So far on the river, four of his stories have landed on CNN – Homesteaders Protect the Upper Mississippi at Wanagan’s Landing, The Andy Wells Interview from Bemidji, Passing on the Dance of the Ojibwe from Ball Club and, last but certainly not least, Small Mississippi River Town Rallies Against Cancer in Aitkin.
He hopes his stories will shed a positive light in difficult times – a light on an America of “real towns and genuine people.”
He was including the story he happened upon last week in Aitkin when he said, “These are wonderful stories that I hope will inspire the rest of the nation and even the world, bringing international understanding.”
Unlike Aitkin’s, some of the stories have been predetermined including one about Practical Farmers of America in Iowa, another on the Rocky Lynne country band in Nashville and their performance for charity and one more on the Habitat for Humanity in Nachez near New Orleans, La.
The Aitkin story was an accident. After spending Monday night at the county campground on the river, Moore walked into to town for food and supplies. As soon as he hit downtown, he saw purple and the rest is his story. Well, his and Aitkin’s – soon to be the nation’s and, who knows, maybe the world’s.
And the best part is
“A single traveling bachelor,” Moore’s most trusted traveling companions are a small video camera, a pocket-sized notebook, his cell phone and his laptop. He shoots and edits his video and writes a story to accompany it before uploading them to the site.
Besides CNN, he works in association with Creative Visions Foundation and Kathy Eldon. Eldon launched the foundation in honor of her son, Dan, an artist, adventurer and activist who was killed in 1993 while on assignment for Reuters News Agency in Somalia.
Creative Visions Foundation supports “creative activists,” individuals who use the media and the arts to create positive change in the world. Through its for-profit sister organization, Creative Visions Productions, the organization has produced award-winning television and film projects. Moore said Eldon has been a mentor for him and a great source of moral support.
Preparation for his challenging mode of transportation included little more than his background as an Eagle Scout and a book he read (Mississippi Solo, A River Quest) by Eddy L. Harris that, according to Moore, is the “best book ever written on the subject.”
“He helped to inspire me,” Moore said.
He sees the river as the perfect metaphor for his journey, explaining: “It starts as a trickle … There are 26 locks between Minneapolis and St. Louis but they get you through them.”
You have to know where the major stumbling blocks are. After you get past St. Louis, the road gets rougher and, all along the way, the river gets wider. It’s a long and winding road cutting straight through the center of the American heartland.
“Like T.E. Lawrence [Lawrence of Arabia] said, ‘I ride in the name of the clan’ – to highlight something bigger than myself,” Moore said.
That’s exactly what he found here in Aitkin – a small town pulling together, rolling up their purple sleeves, getting ready to join a cross-country relay race against the nation’s most dreaded disease.
“I have a really good feeling this story will go far and wide,” Moore said about the Aitkin story he calls, “Small Mississippi River Town Rallies Against Cancer.”
Far and wide – just like the river that runs through it.
Photos by KATHLEEN PAKARINEN
Read the Aitkin Independent Age story
Read Kathleen Pakarinen’s complete story from the Aitkin Independent Age Online Newspaper here.