In recent days, my relationship with the web site Capitol Hill Blue has become a source of concern and debate, particularly as it relates to my role on this web site and as a newspaper reporter and photographer here in Floyd County.

Some express the belief that my opinion columns on CHB raise questions about my objectivity when it comes to writing here on Blue Ridge Muse and in my reporting on county government and the courts in The Floyd Press.

A recent column on CHB brought anger from some county residents who felt my strongly-worded commentaries about national politics showed a bias against the Republican Party as well as an anti-religious tone (the headline that probably caused some of the ire was later changed at the request of a member of the CHB staff). They expressed their anger to Wanda Combs, editor of The Floyd Press, where I cover the county courts, the county board of supervisors and shoot photos of high school sports and other events. This follows an effort last week to discredit my reporting on the Citizens Telephone events by rehashing past controversies involving CHB.

I started Capitol Hill Blue in 1994. It is the oldest political news site on the Internet. It is a national political web site with a edgy style and as such is written for a national political audience.  Like many such sites, it is written in language that, as my mother would say, "is not used in polite company."

Because we began web publishing during the Clinton administration we were considered, at the time, to be a right-wing Republican site because of our frequent questioning of the actions of the President.

Felicity Barringer, media writer for The New York Times, wrote about Capitol Hill Blue in March 1999 with the headline What Hath Drudge Wrought?

The rash of telephone calls started coming in to Doug Thompson, the publisher of Capitol Hill Blue, a four-year-old Web site, about three weeks ago. Journalists from a broadcast news organization, from U.S. News & World Report, and from several British and American newspapers, wanted his Web publication to help them reach the sources for an article he had published.

Mr. Thompson refused to help them. Reporters, he said in an interview last week, do not ask for other reporters’ sources. In an editorial on his Web site — a rant, in Webspeak — he scoffed at the idea that he should ”trust the mainstream media that has either ignored the mounting evidence” against President Clinton or ”rushed to his defense whenever legitimate stories were published about his many high crimes.”

Mr. Thompson’s telephone calls tell a tale. A year after the gossipy Web site run by Matt Drudge became a bookmark in Washington computers, other, more partisan Web sites are becoming early warning systems for the mainstream press. Like talk radio, they are filled with free-form invective. Like trailers from a new X-Files movie, they offer previews of coming attractions from places where conspiracy is king.

”What is happening with Capitol Hill Blue reminds me of the early days of Drudge,” said Stephen G. Smith, the editor of U.S. News & World Report, who confirmed that his reporters were among those who called Mr. Thompson last month. ”It has caught on as an early warning sign of stories coming up.”

Although Barringer lumped us in with other "partisan" web sites, regular readers know that Blue is non-partisan and measures all elected officials with the same yardstick. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians or whatever are examined by the same microscope. When George W. Bush followed Bill Clinton, Blue questioned his actions with the same aggressiveness used against the former President.

It does not take much research of columns written for CHB to know that I have equal skepticism for Democrats and Republicans. For example:

During a sabbatical from journalism, I worked on Capitol Hill for three GOP Congressman: One as press secretary and two as chief of staff. I also served in the 1984 Reagan-Bush campaign and ran the National Association of Realtors Political Action Committee — the nation’s largest PAC at the time — for five years.

I worked inside the system long enough to know that when it comes to ethics there really isn’t much difference between Republicans or Democrats and that both parties too often put party loyalty above the best interests of the country. That was one of the reasons for starting CHB.

Despite working for the GOP, I’ve never registered as a member as one party or the other — even while living in states where party registration is allowed. In Virginia, I’ve voted in either the Republican or Democratic primaries depending on the candidate, not the party.

So any claim that I am biased in favor oo or against any political party is just that — a claim and not fact. I approach all parties and elected officials with equal skepticism.  I’ve found that those who claim I’m either right-wing or left-wrong are doing so based on only limited exposure to the columns I have written over the past 13-and-a-half years.

Yes, Capitol Hill Blue is written in a style and language that one does not find in a family newspaper or even here on Blue Ridge Muse. As the New York Times reporter pointed out political web sites like Blue "are filled with free-form invective."  If some here in Floyd County found the language used on Capitol Hill Blue offensive, I am sorry. My mother also gets upset over the language used on Blue.

But do not believe for one second that the language used on a web site written for a national audience is an indicator of any disrespect for religion or God. My wife and I were raised in Christian families and we share a strong belief in God. I grew up in Slate Mountain and Buffalo Mountain churches have served as both a deacon and elder in the Presbyterian Church. My religious convictions remain strong.

The concern expressed to Wanda Combs about what some perceive is my lack of objectivity appears to be based on what I have written for a national political web site and not the stories I have written for the Floyd Press since returning to my home town four years ago.

Wanda tells me she has full confidence in my abilities as both a photographer and a reporter for her newspaper. She feels my reporting for the Press has been both fair and objective. I enjoy writing for the Press. Because it is the paper where my journlaism career started 45 years ago, coming back to Floyd and writing for it again makes the homecoming even more special.

However, both Wanda and I understand how others might feel differently about my objectivity based on limited exposure to what I write for Capitol Hill Blue. For that reason, I have decided to discontinue my columns for Capitol Hill Blue so that I can devote more time to Muse and my role with The Floyd Press.

Wanda did not ask me to make a choice. She did not ask me to quit writing for any web site. This was my decision and mine alone. As a resident of Floyd County, my efforts here are far more important to me than writing for a national political web site. My focus now is on community journalism and issues that more directly affect rural areas like Floyd.

It is also important that what I write on Blue Ridge Muse or for The Floyd Press be judged on the merits of each here in Floyd County and not by preconceived notions over what has been done elsewhere.


  1. I have just recently started reading the Blue Ridge Muse website. I have enjoyed it, simply because it offers a huge amount of information about Floyd County and what is happening here. I find it disturbing as well as shocking as a christian to read that another “christian” wishes anyone to burn in hell whether heathen or not. Is it up to us mere humans to make this divine decision as to who is heathen, christian, or “satan’s disciple”? I think not. I just wonder what Bible are these people reading? It certainly is not the one that I read. My God teaches me to love the unlovable and pray for those who are not saved. To love my neighbor as myself. AT ALL TIMES. Not only when they are doing what I think they should be. Our God is a God of love, Jesus did not come to Earth to destroy the souls of man with words of hate. Through his perfect example were are taught to be gentle, kind and loving. I know these people cannot be following the words of my Lord who said…”A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” Luke 6:45

  2. Dirt roads are free and seem to just happen, but the paved roads cost us a bit. You paved CHB, let someone else maintain it while you pave another road.

  3. …isn’t that what you do as an investigative photojournalist, Doug?

    I’ve know of you since the Alton Telegraph and the Belleville/Collinsville cocktail hour circuit days. I’ve followed “Blue” for over a decade and was even a poster there for many years, until I was overcome by the total ridiculousness and inanity of the entire political landscape. I’ve witnessed the “revolts” of the “Right” and the “Left” at “Blue” as administrations changed and you gave no quarter to either camp.

    For you to be doing a little basic background research into Citizens and all the sudden personal attacks begin appearing out of nowhere – lately, supposedly from the religous zealot crowd none the less – smells so contrived that it has corporate deflection and “coverup” stenciled all over it.

    If you follow Wall Street’s machinations, the financials and the state of the overall economy – there are very few companies/corporations that aren’t financially product heavy and cash light and there all counting their nickels and dimes – so why should Citizens present financial quagmire come as any kind of a shock to anyone? It’s no secret – businesses all over-expanded this past five/six years in an environment of “cheap money” and now they’re all going to pay the price.

    Just my personal opinion, Buddy. But, in the end, ya’ gotta do what you gotta do.


  4. The hellfire and brimstone crowd are always too cowardly to post their names, Doug. It is totally reprehensible that some busybody would go to great lengths to affect your income and work enjoyment. You must be striking a nerve which needs to be niggled at, if this is the case. Probably that idiot musician who p’d everyone off awhile back. What a sorry way to behave.

    Rest up, enjoy your life, and don’t worry about the busybodies. They live in hell already, obviously. They’re just trying to pull you down there, too.

    Keep on keepin’ on, and do it with a smile.


  5. I come from CHB and have been a ranter on Reader Rant, a Columnist for the Home Page and very involved in following “The Rant.” I have never heard Doug make a single anti-Christian comment. My being a campaigner for the Separation of Church and State has been the one to point out that America is not a Christian Nation but a free nation with a majority of Christians. I am the one who watches the religious right with an eagle eye to keeping the Constitution free of many of the prohibitions that many Christians want incorporated in the Constitution. Doug has been very critical of my points of view but has allowed me to opine.

    I am sorry that there has been a group who are watching for this desire to control individual freedoms here and wish to keep my point of view out of the media. I ask for no closure of any church and in fact came from a very religious family. I feel it is not fair for Christians to degrade anything written against their demanding changes our federal laws.

  6. He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…
    John 8:7

    And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?Luke 6:41

    Disclaimer: Readers should understand that this post does not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of this web site. Anyone taking issue with the above quotations should contact Jesus Christ, Son of God.

  7. Never a dull moment over here, Doug.

    While I’m initially disappointed to see you leave CHB (which I started reading before I ever knew you or knew you were from Floyd), I’m thinking that maybe it will allow you to slow down a little, heal up your ills, and give you time to act even half retired.

    I’ll be back to read this more closely. I’m about to go get a tooth pulled. OUCH.

  8. Why are you self proclaimed Christians hiding behind fake names? Are you ashamed to make yourselves known? I suppose if I had such a narrow mind, I would be embarrassed to sign my real name, too.

    Keep on rockin’ in the free world, Doug!

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