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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. 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.
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 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 Congressman 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 he 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.
Thompson owns a photography, video production and digital imaging company in Floyd, Virginia, and has branched out from photojournalism to explore the creative concepts of digital illustrations, combing photography and art.
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.
He returned, somewhat, 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.
Thompson is also heavily involved in community affairs, serving on the advisory board of the New River Valley Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP). He also is an occasional lecturer at the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism and a mentor to young photographers through The National Press Photographers Association.
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."