The late Doug Viar and I chatting during a Clinton-Gore appearance in NW-TN back in 1996. My friend Tod Hayes is over my shoulder with a camera on his shoulder.


Whenever there’s a tornado outbreak, I think about Doug Viar. Whenever I hear something stupid in the news, I think about Doug Viar. Whenever I see something dumb in politics (there a lot these days!) I think abut Doug Viar.

Back to tornadoes. Doug and I covered so many tornadoes together or at the same time in different locations, I have lost count. It was sort of our thing long before StormChasers became trendy. Doug was a real newsman. And he wouldn’t be offended by being called a newsMAN.

That’s Doug at one of the many tornadoes we covered. He owned a satellite truck at the time (there in the background) and was getting my signal back to Weather Channel for a live shot I was doing. During the downtime he was shooting some of the damage. This was near Paris, TN in the spring of 2001.

I distinctly remember in the 1980’s piloting myself to New Madrid, MO one night on the backside of a tornado that has just hit Southern Missouri. Doug needed me to pick up a tape and fly it back to Memphis to make the 10 PM newscast. It was a routine we carried out for two decades.

That’s why I wasn’t very concerned the morning of April 4, 2011 when I was trying to reach Doug by phone and couldn’t. Another severe weather outbreak was taking place near his home in Jackson, TN. Tornadoes again. I was already living here in the Blue Ridge of Virginia but we often chatted about developing storm systems. I just figured he’d lost power or was out shooting somewhere and couldn’t be reached. It happened a lot when covering storms. But that’s not what was going on at all. Doug was dead. I got a Facebook message from his daughter Lori out in Nevada that he was gone.

Above is a screenshot of a tribute I wrote about Doug on our magazine website after returning from his funeral in Tennessee in 2011. Click on the image to read that post, it’s got lots of history.

A dozen years has passed since Doug left us. And, my how things have changed. He wouldn’t recognize the news business anymore. He already hated what it had become back then, and knew where it was headed. I often ask WWDV do? Seriously. He’d be so disgusted. Country music was one of his favorites. Given what it’s recently become I think I know a few choice words he’d have. Politics, there’s not enough profanity to go around for his take.

Doug was a steady, commonsense hand in a crazy news business and world where emotions and self centeredness runs high. He had no issue telling off some inexperienced just out of college producer where to go. “You’re back there, I am out here, you have no idea what’s happening, I’ll get back to you!” He’d often say.

Mainly these days I just miss my friend and mentor. He was someone I could bounce things off of often. Or just chat with and catchup while driving down the road here in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Doug would want me to end this on a positive note. So I will. Above one of his funniest moments ever. Soooooo many outtakes we did when he was trying to do an intro to a TV magazine show. It was rare to see him in front of the camera, but this was how I remember his antics.

Anyone old enough to remember, will remember this familiar voice of Doug reporting all across the Mid-South and the Southeastern U.S. It was unique and unmistakeable.

Even after 12 years has passed, I still, daily, ask WWDV do.

Doug Viar January 2002 uplinking a live sat shot from the truck he owned. I was doing a hit for The Weather Channel during a snowstorm in Nashville, Tennessee.


About tommystafford

Recovering from life as TV news reporter. Airplane & helicopter pilot. Weather guesser. Farmer. Trail runner, dad & husband living in the beautiful Central Virginia Blue Ridge mountains!
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