Doug Thompson realized the value of capturing history 56 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. The association also honored a column about street racers in the city and news coverage of a murder of parents, abduction and rape of their children.
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 and the Illinois Managing Editors Association. He also won a number of photography and newspaper layout awards.
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 to New Mexico Republican Congressman Manuel Lujan. After a stint as chief of staff for Congressman Dan Burton, Thompson returned to Lujan as special assistant to the ranking member on the House Committee on Science & Technology. in that position, he represented the committee on visits to foreign countries, investigated and Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia and assisted in the investigation of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.
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) as Vice President for Political Programs for the National Association of Realtors..
He later served as Senior Communications Associate for The Eddie Mahe Company, a political consulting and strategic communications company and worked on projects around the world for clients like Echo Bay Mines.
But journalism remained Thompson’s true love and he returned to his roots as a freelance writer and photographer for newspapers, magazines and wire services He began working on Internet-related projects and launched Capitol Hill Blue, in 1994. It continues today as the oldest political news site on the Internet.
He continued to work on media projects in America and abroad, including hot sports like Israel, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq though 2004.
Thompson and his wife, Amy, a retired actress who worked on stage and film and helped produce events like the Tribute to Lee Strasberg at the Lincoln Center, left Washington in December, 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 as a contract reporter and photographer for BH Media and contributes stories, photos and video to national publications and web-based media outlets like CNN and MSNBC. A sampling of his work can be found at Blue Ridge Photography.
Thompson is also involved in community affairs, serving on the advisory board of the New River Valley Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) and is a past board member of the Jacksonville Center, now known as the Floyd Center for the Arts.
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 as webmaster-newsletter editor for the Roanoke Valley Harley Owners Group and served for a while as historian & editor for the New River Valley Harley Owners Group until the group disbanded after its sponsoring dealer closed..
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.”
As a longtime member of the National Press Photographers, Thompson works with others to try and project the newspaper and media industry.
“I’m a newspaperman,” he says. “With luck, I will die before the profession that a love bites the dust.