ERIE – Mike Sample, owner and publisher of The Titusville Herald and The Forest Press, 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, making layout suggestions, adjusting headlines, and answering phone calls throughout the Herald office. He entered its doors in October 1993 as a publisher at the age of 27, a position he left in 2001 to become Managing Director of the Corry Journal. He would return to Titusville after his 2005 purchase of The Herald. Sample then bought The Forest Press, a Tionesta weekly, in 2008.
Always tech-savvy and forward-thinking, Sample was instrumental in bringing The Herald and The Forest Press into the 21st century. To ensure staff have the fastest, most reliable tools to produce high-quality community information, Sample has outfitted newspaper offices with updated Apple computers and Adobe applications like InDesign, a standard. industry for pagination. Shortly before his death, Sample was updating the newspaper billing system to a robust cloud solution.
Sample also led the charge for the modernization of the reader experience of print and digital editions of newspapers. The electronic edition of The Herald was launched in 2015, with the redesigned ‘tall tab’ compact print edition following suit in 2016.
During his tenure, Sample created several publications and initiatives. These include Newspapers in Education – a nonprofit program that delivers issues of The Herald to classrooms in Titusville, Travel Magazine Destinations, Hometown Heroes, and various commercial printing projects.
Producing a newspaper isn’t glamorous, and Sample was no stranger to the work of every department. As publisher, Sample would oversee the operations of the newspaper. But like any small business, he did a lot more. He created new advertising campaigns, took pictures, laid out pages of paper, shoveled sidewalks, pressure washed windows, filled and stamped statement envelopes, answered phone calls, and personally delivered missed papers to local subscribers. No job was below him.
Prior to coming to Titusville, Sample worked as a production manager for The Crimson White, the University of Alabama student newspaper. When asked how he got the job, Sample explained that his creative candidacy helped him stand out from the crowd. Using his previous training at the Corry Journal in production, Sample created an app that looked like a newspaper front page with headlines and stories showcasing his skills.
A press legacy
Born in 1966, Sample was the youngest of eight children of Janet (Neff) and George R. Sample II, of Corry. Sample’s name is known in the news industry in part by Sample’s father, a Pulitzer-nominated journalist who rose through the ranks from journalist to editor 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 retains the family legacy as publisher and owner of several newspapers and remembers Sample well.
“Mike will be missed not only as a brother, but as a press colleague,” said George “Scoop” Sample. “He worked passionately to provide Titusville with the best local newspaper possible. Every day he thought about ways to make things better. His extensive computer skills have kept the Herald at the cutting edge of technology. As a brother, my heart hurts for missing his humor and kindness.
Those who have worked with Sample can testify to the powerful and loyal team he has assembled at The Herald and The Forest Press. Karol Hartley, longtime office manager of The Herald, knew Sample well during their nearly three decades of collaboration. “He was the best,” Hartley said. “Everyone should be lucky enough to have such a caring boss in their professional life. He will be missed so much by all who knew him.
Sample’s kindness will be remembered by many, including his close friend Don Morris. “He was a very caring and humorous man,” Morris noted. He loved to engage with people, and his love for his family’s successes was a conversation he often had, and his love flowed freely. 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 intimidating for any outsider to start a career in a tight-knit community like Titusville. But with humor and compassion, Sample made “The Valley That Changed the World” a home from home. He and his wife, Debra (Burkhart) Sample, also of Corry, started their family in Titusville. Their children, Sydney and John-George, were returned from the hospital to their home on Foote Road. And even after moving to Corry, Sample still held Titusville in the highest regard and frequently reminded Herald staff that Titusville was “the center of the universe.”
“I’ve always been impressed by his character,” said Sample’s close friend Mark Mehlenbacher. “He had faced many delicate and delicate issues as the owner and director of a newspaper in a small town. His professionalism and the way he treated people as fairly as he could seemed to him to come naturally from his many years of experience combined with a rich family heritage in the newspaper industry, ”added Mehlenbacher. “Titusville and Forest County were fortunate to have such a great man in charge of newspaper management. “
The Sydney sample can be contacted at [email protected]