Remembering Doug Viar – My News Mentor – Five Years Later

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Doug Viar some years ago while visiting CNN in Atlanta. One of the many networks he did work for prior to his death on April 4, 2011.

Doug Viar some years ago while visiting CNN in Atlanta. One of the many networks he did work for prior to his death on April 4, 2011.
Doug Viar some years ago while visiting CNN in Atlanta. One of the many networks he did work for prior to his death on April 4, 2011.
Nelson County, Virginia
By Tommy Stafford

Five years ago today we lost the man responsible for my launch into a broadcasting career. I talked about it on this very website when it happened. Both radio and TV. These days it includes all sorts of print and multimedia. His guidance is part of the reason this magazine exists today.

Doug Viar wasn’t just a newsman, he was a real newsman. They don’t make them like him anymore. Today’s journalist is a mere shadow of what Doug Viar was.

BRL Publisher Tommy Stafford way back in the days as a much younger radio station DJ in Northwest Tennessee in the late 1970s.
Me way back in the day as a much younger radio station DJ in Northwest Tennessee in the late 1970s.
When I was about 15, nearing 16 years old, Doug was the general manager of a local AM radio station in Northwest Tennessee. WDSG. It was a tiny country music station, but he gave me a DJ job there. We read the news too back then. That started my official broadcast career.

Doug Viar left and myself in a May 2007 photo at one of our favorite places to eat when I'd visit back in Tennessee. This was about 4 years before his sudden death.
Doug Viar left and myself in a May 2007 photo at one of our favorite places to eat, Neil’s Restaurant in Dyersburg, Tennessee. When I’d visit back in Tennessee after moving here to Virginia, we’d often have lunch and catch up. This was about 4 years before his sudden death.
Eventually I helped Doug run PTL club videos on the local cable channel. Yes. That PTL Club. Over time, Doug became a well known on air TV newsman in Memphis, starting at WREG, and beyond. He quickly became known for his ability to get the story and get it right And, make it on time. One of his colleagues used to say, “Fight fire with Viar.” In those days there were no sat trucks. No cell phones. Pagers worked within a few miles of your home area. Otherwise, it was the wild frontier, a two way radio (sometimes) and a pay phone. We shuttled tapes for the broadcasts back to the station by private plane. Overtime I became a pilot and got to do just that. Doug’s brother George was my flight instructor and worked with me all the way through to get my license. 

In the 1980s Doug saw then what people often say today. News is becoming hollow. Entertainment. “Some producer in a station 100 miles away is trying to tell me how to do my story out here. Click.” As he would hang up the phone on them. Doug had little patience for show business in news he covered. He did real news. He knew back then the business was headed off the tracks.

One of Doug's original satellite uplink trucks back in 2002. I would often meet him to do live broadcast from his truck. On this day it was for The Weather Channel in Cookeville, TN.
One of Doug’s original satellite uplink trucks back in 2002. I would often meet him to do live broadcast from his truck. On this day it was for The Weather Channel in Cookeville, TN.
Around 1990 he left the business and started his own production company. Eventually his own mobile satellite uplink company that worked with all of the major networks. He kept a foot in news, but his departure opened the door for me to step in. I was doing stories all across the mid south in Southeast Missouri, Western Kentucky, West Tennessee, East Arkansas, North Mississippi, and Northwest Alabama. My dream had come true. I was ready. My friend taught me well. I knew how to fly to one place on my own, shoot the story, fly back and edit, then fly to the station in Memphis before the other stations even got there. It started me in a TV news and weather career that would last 15 years and one I still keep a hand in today, more than a decade after I left Tennessee for Virginia.

Me in 1982  getting ready to make a news tape run to Memphis for the my friend and news mentor, the late Doug Viar.
Me in 1982 getting ready to pilot a news flight to carry video tapes to Memphis for the my friend and news mentor, the late Doug Viar.
Daily someone loses a person that’s important or had meaning to them. It’s life. I’m not special in that regard. But Doug was that special person to me. Not a single day goes by that I don’t rely on the wisdom Doug Viar taught me. In some shape or fashion I hear his voice telling me, “Don’t listen to them, you are there, on the ground. You know what’s really happening. Do what has to be done!” He was right back then. He is right today.


Above one of the rare occasions Doug actually got in front of the camera. He always reported, and his voice became known for decades, but he knew the story wasn’t about him. This was back in the late 1970s at a groundbreaking ceremony for a law enforcement museum. He never wanted to take himself too seriously, and always had fun, even if he got frustrated. This still makes me laugh to this day.

I can’t bring my friend and mentor back. I wish I could. But I’m glad I knew him and glad he taught me what I know.

Bags of Krystal burgers as we were headed to and from stories. Cracker Barrell suppers, and landings at some of the most terrible airports in the middle of nowhere. Doug we still miss you and those amazing trailblazing news days on the frontier.

The late Doug Viar (left) and his wife Margaret during a visit they made to come see me and Yvette during the summer of 2007. We were visiting Veritas Vineyard and Winery that day, giving them the tour.
The late Doug Viar (left) and his wife Margaret during a visit they made to come see me and Yvette during the summer of 2007. We were visiting Veritas Vineyard and Winery that day, giving them the tour.
On April 4, 2011 I suddenly lost my friend and mentor. But, his wonderful wife Margaret lost her husband. Her friend. Her confidant. The rudder in life. His daughters Lori and Michelle lost their dad. His grandson Joseph, his grandad. Just as life was starting to reveal itself and take shape for them all. I still talk to Margaret regularly and the children as often as I can. We’ve all moved on. But it’s not the same without you here.

Today we remember you again, five years later.

Rest my friend.

{Fade to black}

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