The Blue Ridge Muse
Doug Thompson realized the value of capturing history 46 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 wrote about his experiences and submitted his story and photos to The Farmville Herald, the local newspaper. He developed other photo stories for the paper and a journalism career was born.
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.Â Hallman 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 where he covered the police beat, emerging racial turmoil in the city and tackled other tough subjects. His story about a young girl who obtained an abortion (illegal at the time) won the top feature writing award from the Virginia Press Association. Another, about street racers in the city, won a feature writing award while his coverage of the murder of a Southwest Roanoke couple and the abduction and rape of their teenaged daughters brought the top news writing award from the association
After moving on to The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, Thompson continued to win awards for writing and photography, capturing the Illinois Associated Press Managing Editors top prizes for news, feature and column writing as well as first place awards from the Illinois Press Association.
Thompson took a sabbatical from newspapers in 1981 and moved to Washington to work on Capitol Hill. He served as press secretary for two Congressmen and then Chief of Staff for another before joining the House Committee on Science & Technology. From 1987-1992, Thompson served as Vice President for Political Programs for The National Association of Realtors and then joined The Eddie Mahe Company as a senior associate for Communications. During that stint he became involved in campaign finance issues and was a founding member of the Project for Comprehensive Campaign Reform. He also lectured at the American Campaign Academy and was a sought-after spokesman on campaign finance issues.
But journalism remained Thompson’s true love and returned to his roots as a free-lance writer and photographer.
During his stint at the House Committee on Science and Technology, Thompson worked on transfer of what was then DARPANet from the Department of Defense to the National Science Foundation, the beginnings of the Internet. Sensing the coming growth of the Internet, he started a web hosting and design company in 1994 and that same year launched Capitol Hill Blue as the web’s first political news site.
Besides Blue, Thompson publishes a number of other web sites, including American Newsreel and Blue Ridge Muse. He owns Blue Ridge Creative, a photography, video production and digital imaging company in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In 2001, Thompson and his wife launched the Our America project, a 10-year program to document the first decade of the new century through videos, photography and written essays.
The Thompsons left Washington in 2004 and moved to a hilltop retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern Virginia. He returns to Washington once a year to speak to journalism students at the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism and still has business interests in the National Capital Region but his days as a Washingtonian are over. Despite his success 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."