BY ANDREA TORTORA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT MITCHELL - The people of Kentucky are always surprising Karen Samples, fascinating her with their wealth of diversity and acceptance.
That's among the aspects of life in the commonwealth Ms. Samples wants to detail as The Kentucky Enquirer's new columnist and editorial writer. She starts work in the newspaper's Fort Mitchell newsroom June 9.
"I hope the column becomes a force for change," she also said of her twice-weekly feature, which begins June 15. "Not just a reflection of life here, but something more than that."
Ms. Samples comes to The Enquirer after four years with the Lexington Herald-Leader, where she was the southeastern Kentucky correspondent. Based in Hazard, Ky., Ms. Samples covered 12 counties in Kentucky's coal country.
She replaces Rob Kaiser, who left last month to write for the Chicago Tribune.
"With having four years in Kentucky under my belt and having come to develop a point of view about Kentucky, I thought the column was the next step in my evolution as an observer of this state," she said.
Ms. Samples' ties to Kentucky run deep. Her father, a native of Corbin, Ky., - near the Tennessee border - was part of the great migration 50 years ago of Appalachians to Greater Cincinnati. Her parents now live in Dayton, Ohio.
"Karen's a true product of the Tristate, with roots in Northern Kentucky and Ohio," said Kentucky Editor Andrew Oppmann. "She's honed her storytelling skills these last few years working in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.
"But what intrigues me most about her work is her ability to see details most people miss," Mr. Oppmann said. "Her love of Kentucky shows in her writing."
Before working in Kentucky, Ms. Samples was a reporter for The Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where she worked after graduating from the University of Missouri.
She left the coasts of Florida in 1993 for the mountains of Kentucky because "it's a region with a lot of history and a lot of history of suffering.
"People there have overcome adversity and stayed with the land, despite what industry would have wanted people to do."
Pulling on the experiences of her father and her time spent in Hazard, Ms. Samples also wants to use her column to show how Kentucky's Appalachian residents have made the move to the northern tip of the commonwealth, just as she is doing now.
"I want to be somebody people can identify with, but I also want to be somebody that challenges readers to think differently on occasion," she said. "I don't expect everyone to agree with my point of view. In fact, I welcome lively debate and I encourage anyone to call me with thoughts and ideas."
Ms. Samples is moving to Fort Thomas with her four pets - all rescued from the Humane Society or the streets. Finding homes for strays is a habit Ms. Samples said she picked up in Hazard and likely will continue here.