Doug Thompson realized the value of capturing history 49 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. 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, also won a feature writing award.
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 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. He would later serve as Lujan’s 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 poltical action committee (PAC). He later served as Senior Communications Associate for The Eddie Mahe Company, a political consulting and strategic communications company.
But journalism remained Thompson’s true love and he returned to his roots as a free-lance writer and photographer. He began working on Internet-related projects and started Capitol Hill Blue, the web’s oldest political news site, in 1994.
In 2001, he and his wife began a 10-year project 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. Thompson started Blue Ridge Muse that same year.
He returned to his newspaper roots by taking a part-time 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 free-lance for regional newspapers and national publications and a sampling of his work can be found at Blue Ridge Photography.
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 Jackonsville Center and the Floyd County Chamber of Commerce.
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.”