ERIE — Mike Sample, owner and publisher of The Titusville Herald and The Forest Press newspapers, known for his humor, character, courage and commitment to local journalism, died Monday at the age of 55.
For nearly 30 years, Sample could be found fixing computers, giving layout suggestions, adjusting headlines, and answering phone calls throughout the Herald office. He first joined it in October 1993 as an editor aged 27, a post he left in 2001 to become managing director of The Corry Journal. He would return to Titusville again after his 2005 purchase of The Herald. Sample then bought The Forest Press, a weekly from Tionesta, in 2008.
Always tech-savvy and forward-thinking, Sample helped bring The Herald and The Forest Press into the 21st century. To ensure that staff had the fastest, most reliable tools to produce high-quality community information, Sample equipped the newspaper’s offices with updated Apple computers and Adobe applications like InDesign, a standard industry for paging. Shortly before his passing, Sample was updating the newspaper billing system to a robust cloud-based solution.
Sample has also led the charge in modernizing the reading experience of print and digital editions of newspapers. The electronic edition of The Herald was launched in 2015, followed by the redesigned compact “large tabbed” print edition in 2016.
During his tenure, Sample created several publications and initiatives. These include Newspapers in Education – a non-profit program that provides issues of The Herald to classrooms in Titusville, the tourist magazine Destinations, Hometown Heroes and various commercial printing projects.
Producing a newspaper is not glamorous, and Sample was no stranger to the work of all departments. As editor, Sample would oversee the journal’s operations. But as with any small business, it did so much more. He would create new ad campaigns, take photos, lay out newspaper pages, shovel sidewalks, power wash windows, stuff and stamp reporting envelopes, answer traffic phone calls, and personally deliver missed papers. local subscribers. No work was under him.
Prior to coming to Titusville, Sample worked as production manager for The Crimson White, the University of Alabama student newspaper. When asked how he got the job, Sample said his creative application helped him stand out from other applicants. Using his previous training at the Corry Journal in production, Sample created an app that looked like the front page of a newspaper with headlines and articles showcasing his skills.
A Legacy of the Newspaper
Born in 1966, Sample was the youngest of eight children born to Janet (Neff) and George R. Sample II, of Corry. The name Sample is known in the news industry thanks in part to Sample’s father, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist who rose through the ranks from reporter to publisher and owner of several newspapers throughout his career. Given his passion for problem solving, technology and improving business efficiency, it was only natural for Sample to join the family business after graduating from Penn State Behrend in 1990.
Brother George “Scoop” R. Sample III also maintains the family legacy as publisher and owner of several newspapers and remembers Sample well.
“Mike will be missed not just as a brother, but as a fellow newspaper mate,” said George “Scoop” Sample. “He has worked with passion to make Titusville the best local newspaper it can be. Every day he thought of ways to make things better. His extensive computer knowledge has kept The Herald at the forefront of technology. As a brother, my heart aches to miss his humor and kindness.
Those who worked with Sample can attest to the powerful and loyal team he built for The Herald and The Forest Press. The Herald’s longtime bureau chief Karol Hartley knew Sample well during their nearly three decades of collaboration. “He was the best,” Hartley said. “Everyone should be so lucky to have such a caring boss in their professional life. He will be so missed by all who knew him.”
Sample’s kindness will be remembered by many, including his close friend Don Morris. “He was a very caring, humorous man,” Morris noted. He enjoyed engaging with people, and his love for his family’s successes was a conversation he had often, and his love flowed. He wanted things to be perfect and fun no matter what he was involved in,” he said. I think he really wanted to make not only his family proud of him, but also his father’s legacy.
It can be daunting for any out-of-towner to start a career in a tight-knit community like Titusville. But with humor and compassion, Sample has made “The Valley That Changed the World” a second home. He and his wife, Debra (Burkhart) Sample, also of Corry, started their family in Titusville. Their children, Sydney and John-George, were brought from hospital to their home in Foote Road. And even after moving to Corry, Sample always held Titusville in high regard and frequently reminded Herald staff that Titusville was “the center of the universe”.
“I’ve always been impressed with his character,” said Mark Mehlenbacher, a close friend of Sample. “He had to deal with many difficult and sensitive issues as a small-town newspaper owner and operator. The professionalism he demonstrated and the way he treated people as fairly as possible seemed to come naturally to him due to his many years of experience combined with a rich family heritage in the newspaper business,” Mehlenbacher added. “Titusville and Forest County have been blessed with such a great man in charge of the logs.”
Sydney Sample can be contacted at [email protected]