Had hoped to have photos of Senior Night and the Floyd County Buffaloes varsity football game set for Friday night but the game was postponed until Monday evening and the Seniors will be honored at the season-closing home game against Carroll County.
Just as well. Had to deal with more misinformation posted on social media that was brought to our attention by readers of Blue Ridge Muse.
“Doug Thompson is a lost soul,” writes Stephanie Sellers. “I’m guessing he moved to Floyd from the north.”
Really? I graduated from Floyd County High School in 1965 after skipping my junior year because I finished sophomore classes with enough credit to start the following year as a senior. I spent three years reporting and taking photos from the Floyd Press while a student.
My birth certificate says was born 74 years ago (next month) in Tampa, Florida, and spent part of my childhood in Gibsonton (called “Gibtown”) just south of Tampa. My mother was a native of Meadows of Dan, went to high school in Willis before meeting my Tampa-born father when his ship docked at Newport News shipyard for repairs during World War II and they settled in Gibtown after they married in 1046.
My mother and I moved to Floyd after my father was killed in an industrial accident and we lived there until I was eight when she remarried a Willis man who was living in Farmville in Prince Edward County. I had attended Floyd Elementary for two years before the move but the racist school board and board of supervisors of Prince Edward County closed the public schools to avoid court-ordered integration and opened an all-white “private” Prince Edward Academy. which I attended through the seventh grade.
Living in Farmville formed my disdain for the racism we saw. Blacks had no public education in Prince Edward County for almost a decade. I photographed a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan in the county and it was published by the Richmond News-Leader. From that point forward, I wanted to be a newspaperman.
We left Farmville in 1961 and moved to Willis, where I became an eighth-grade student in Willis halfway through the school year and then a freshman at Floyd County High when it opened as the new county-wide high school in 1962. After graduation in 1965, I joined the staff of the Roanoke Times at age 17 while studying English composition and political theory at the University of Virginia’s Roanoke Center.
In 1969, I took a reporting and photography job at The Alton Evening Telegraph, then a daily afternoon newspaper in the St. Louis metro area, and moved into an apartment in North St. Louis County before moving across the river into a townhome in Alton, IL, where the paper was based. At that point, I was living in the Land of Lincoln but The Telegraph, my newspaper home for 12 years was conservative editorially but had a strong reputation for investigative reporting.
In 1981, my wife Amy and I moved to the National Capital Region of Washington, DC but moved into a condo in Arlington, VA, not DC or the North. It was a home for 23 years.
Writing on Facebook, Patricia Page Blackwell wrote that, in her opinion, that what Stephanie Seller wrote about me is “partially correct. If I have been told correctly, he has family ties in Floyd, but spent years in liberal Washington society…nothing good has ever been printed by him.”
That is factually incorrect. I went to Washington to become a press secretary for then-Republican Congressman Paul Findley of Illinois. I next joined New Mexico conservative Republican Congressman Manuel Lujan, Jr., as his communications manager and ran his press operations for his 1982 re-election campaign.
That brought an offer from the National Republican Congressional Committee to set up and manage the office of new Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana as his first chief of staff. In the 1984 Congressional and Presidential elections, I served as the principal writer of the Reagan-Bush re-election campaign’s “Voices for Victory’ Program,” which was the daily message sent out of all state campaign offices. I also worked as a field consultant to GOP races in El Paso, TX, and Santa FE, NM.
Between the 1984 and 1986 campaigns, I was Special Assistant to the Ranking Member of the House Science and Technology Committee. The ranking member was Congressman Lujan.
In the 1986 Congressional campaigns, I served as a communications strategist for the successful campaign of Republican Congressional Candidate Amory Houghton of Corning, NY. I turned down an offer to become his chief of staff and became, instead, the Division Vice President for Political Programs for the National Association of Realtors until 1992. In that position, I was responsible for the Realtors Political Action Committee and an extensive independent expenditure program that spent millions on behalf of campaigns. I later became Senior Associate for The Eddie Mahe Company, a prominent GOP political consulting and business communications firm, and spent time in Mexico, the Arctic Circle, Hong Kong, and Manila on behalf of clients.
I also served as a media lecturer for GOP’s American American Campaign Academy in Roslyn, VA, helped write a new manual for incoming members of Congress, and appeared on panels as a “Republican campaign operative.” For several years, I was a frequent “GOP campaign panelist” for the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism.
So I have to ask just what “liberal Washington society” I was part of? I find it ironic that the claim made above was part of a social media thread where a woman and others were claiming that I always” get things wrong. Really? What ab0ut their erroneous comments?
Others on social media and in comments posted on websites claim that I “know nothing” or “don’t understand the political process.” I must question the accuracy of their claims. How many of them have worked on Congressional, Senatorial, or Presidential campaigns? How many have spent time in the Oval Office with President Regan, discussing serious national issues or flown with him on Air Force One during the 1984 re-election campaign?
“Without his tireless work for the party, several Republican members of Congress would not be here today,” Eddie Mahe told the National Journal in a story about my political work. I became a member of the board of the National Association of Business Political Action Committees and was featured in a front-page story in The New York Times.
“Nothing good has ever been printed by him?” I leave that judgment up to the ones who praise my photos and stories about high school sports and the music culture of our area. The Virginia Press Association gave me my first journalism award in 1967 for a column about a Roanoke girl who had to get an illegal abortion that was legal in other states, another about street racing on Williamson Road, and a third about the thugs who killed the parents of two teenage girls they then molested. I won more than 20 state and national awards during my 12 years as a reporter and photographer in Alton.
I spent our last 10 years in the Washington area back in journalism, working on contracts for wire services, newspapers, and websites. I covered wars in faraway places, terrorist attacks on our soil on 9/11, Congress, and national politics.
Since coming back to Floyd County in semi-retirement in 2004, I have been honored for a series of stories exposing a con man who promoted a data center that would never be built because he did the same thing to others. I have written about those who have had problems and others who have been honored. The stories about positive things far outnumber the ones that deal with controversy.
In my opinion, columns, am I critical of today’s GOP? Of course. I feel it is a shell of what it was in the 1980s. Its destruction, I feel, began when Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House after the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994. He turned the political process into a hyperpartisan monster that turned our government into a stagnating, political morass and I am ashamed for whatever role I may have played in the debacle.
Less than 5% of what I write now is about local politics. My articles in The Floyd Press, The Roanoke Times, or other papers are objective pieces about issues, sports, and features. If a mistake is made and identified, it is corrected. I do not write opinion articles for them.
It is ironic that those who claim I abuse them are often the ones who attacked others in public comment periods or on social media. One woman called me “a liar” because she disagreed with something I wrote. When I asked what “lie” was told, I did not get a response.
When I write an opinion column, it is labeled as that. I do not write an opinion and claim it is a fact. I try to attribute information when available. I don’t link to partisan websites as “attribution.” How many Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded to Fox News? None. How often are their “facts” disproven by reputable fact-checking services? Too often. I have also been cited for mistakes by fact-checkers and I have corrected what was wrong. I’m human. I make mistakes. Fox seldom admits mistakes or corrects what is proven were outright lies.
Yes, I have written articles and provided photos for The Washington Post, The New York Times and have been paid well for my efforts. I was honored they have used my material. I feel both papers are excellent examples of good journalism in America and I often find that those who call them “partisan” actually are saying so because the paper did not slant the news to bit their own bias.
Writing and shooting photos or videos for national media is a rush, but covering high school sports, shooting photos and videos of the local music scene, and writing about issues around here are far more fun and satisfying.
I don’t feel my opinion is any better than anyone else’s. I don’t respond to those who post anonymous comments or claims. I put my name on what I write and expect others to do the same. Those who raise an issue on what they feel is an error are not ignored. Their concerns are checked and corrected if needed.
I’ve been proud to be a newspaperman for most of the past 60 years. Have I done a good job? Opinions vary but those who pay for what I do for them praise my efforts and that means a lot. Opinions are not always fact just and should be treated as such, just as any opinion I write is just that and nothing more.