Blue Ridge Muse is a hyper local news site that provides news, views and perceptions of Southwestern Virginia.
Doug Thompson, a newspaperman with more than half-a-century of experience in newspaper writing and photography, owns and operates the website, along with others.
Thompson realized the value of capturing history 60 years ago as a 10-year-old schoolboy in Farmville, Virginia, when the community, caught up in a fight over integration, closed the public schools and opened an all-white private school.
Thompson began writing stories and shooting photos to The Farmville Herald,the local newspaper, at age 11.
When his family relocated to the Blue Ridge Mountain community of Floyd, the 14-year-old Thompson took his photographs and stories to Pete Hallman, editor of the weekly Floyd Press. Hallman hired him and encouraged the young man to continue writing and taking photos, teaching him the ins and outs of the newspaper business.
Thompson went on to join the staff of The Roanoke Times at 17, where he covered the police beat, emerging racial turmoil in the city and tackled other tough subjects. His story about a girl who obtained an abortion (illegal at the time) won the top feature writing award from the Virginia Press Association when he was 18. Another, about street racers in the city, also won a feature writing award two years later.
After moving on to The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, Thompson continued to cover controversial topics and social issues, including the sharp increase in drug trafficking in the Metro East area, the growth of street gangs in metro East St. Louis and corruption by local and state politicians. His stories captured top prizes for news, feature and column writing from the Illinois Press Association.
Thompson took a sabbatical from newspapers in 1981 and moved to Washington to work on Capitol Hill and learn the workings of government and politics from the inside. He served as press secretary to Illinois Republican Congressman Paul Findley and later New Mexico Republican Congressman Manuel Lujan. After a stint as chief of staff another Congressman, Thompson returned to Lujan as special assistant on the House Committee on Science & Technology. From 1987-1992, Thompson was Vice President for Political Programs for the National Association of Realtors where he oversaw the operations of what was then the nation’s largest political action committee (PAC). He later served as Senior Communications Associate for The Eddie Mahe Company, a political consulting and strategic business communications company.
But journalism remained Thompson’s true love and he returned to his roots as a free-lance writer and photographer. He covered news around the world, photographing the horrors at the Pentagon during the Sept. 1, 2001, covered Mideast terror and has chronicled racism in America for more than half a century. He began working on Internet-related projects and started Capitol Hill Blue, the web’s oldest political news site, in 1994.
The Thompsons left Washington in 2004 and moved to a hilltop retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern Virginia. Thompson started Blue Ridge Muse that same year.
He returned to his newspaper roots by taking a contract gig with the weekly Floyd Press — the paper he worked for in high school — covering county government & the courts and photographing high school sports. He continues to freelance for regional newspapers and national publications.
Thompson is also heavily involved in community affairs, serving on the advisory board of the New River Valley Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP). He has also served on the board of directors of The Jacksonville Center and the Floyd County Chamber of Commerce.
An avid car and motorcycle enthusiast, Thompson served as webmaster, chief steward and later President of the Founders Region, Porsche Club of America from 1992-2001 and currently serves as photographer and webmaster for the Roanoke Valley Harley Owners Group.
Despite his work in new media, Thompson remains a newspaperman at heart and lives by the creed that it is the role of a newspaperman to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”