By David Ehrlich, Orlando Sentinel – MARGARET BURROUGAN was excited when she heard her name called.
The 25-year-old freelance writer from Orlando’s west side was a few weeks into her job as a copy editor at the Orlando Sentinel, the biggest newspaper in Florida.
She was going to work in the paper’s Orlando bureau, covering sports, food and the environment.
She’s also the first African-American woman to hold the job, and her story is one of the first of its kind in Florida history.
“I feel blessed to be in the position that I am,” said the newspaper’s first black woman, who also is the paper.
“You’re always learning, but you’re always getting better.”
The Sentinel has been run by African-Americans for more than 100 years, but it has always operated with a predominantly white staff.
The newspaper’s board has hired and promoted African-born, white people, who have been in the business for years, said Jeff Cottrell, its editor-in-chief.
The paper has a black executive editor, an African-Italian president and a Hispanic executive director, who is also the paper´s chief executive.
In 2014, the paper began a program called “Black on Black,” in which black journalists and other African-speaking people are recruited to write about the paper in minority communities.
The program is funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a nonprofit that awards grants for investigative journalism.
It is aimed at increasing diversity and visibility in newsrooms around the country.
A big change at the paper came when the company brought on its first black chief executive in 2016.
She is Nikki Thomas, a longtime veteran of the company who started in its journalism department in 2001 and is known for being able to get things done, said Tomi Moore, the company´s head of diversity and inclusion.
“She has the ability to bring people together who are passionate about their craft, and that is something that we need to see more of at the Sentinel,” Moore said.
In addition to the Sentinel, other major newspapers in Florida include the Orlando Ledger-Enquirer, which is owned by News Corp., the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, and the Jacksonville Sun-Sentinel, which also is owned, and is run by the Jacksonville-based company News Corp. News Corp owns newspapers in more than 30 cities across the U.S. News Corporation, the largest private company in the U., owns newspapers including the Orlando Sun-Times, which owns The Orlando Sentinel.
News Corp., which is based in New York, has been accused of racism, including in recent weeks by a newspaper reporter who said she was fired for reporting on a racist remark made by the chairman of the Jacksonville Times-Union newspaper.
NewsCorp spokeswoman Amanda Phelan said in an email to the Orlando News Sentinel that News Corp was a victim of “a very racially charged climate in the workplace.”
The statement also said that the company has “been committed to hiring, promoting and supporting all people of color.”
In 2016, the Sentinel reported on a police officer who was accused of shooting a black man in the back after a traffic stop.
The officer was cleared by a federal investigation, but the Sentinel said the investigation was flawed and that the incident could have been prevented had the officer been more trained.
At the same time, the newspaper has been dogged by a sexual harassment scandal that has embroiled its president, David Pomerantz, and chief executive, James Simons.
The investigation has led to a suspension of several editors and a change of leadership at the company.
It also resulted in the resignations of several reporters, including Moore.
The paper has been under fire for years for hiring white people and covering stories about the white supremacist movement and its leader, David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Sentinel has apologized for hiring Duke and has been the subject of numerous protests.
News Corp. is in talks to buy the Sentinel for $400 million, a person familiar with the matter said.
The sale is expected to be completed in the second quarter, which starts in April.
Florida newspapers also have been struggling.
A decade ago, the state had just five newspapers and four regional newspapers, according to the Florida Association of Newspapers.
By 2015, there were fewer than six and only one.
Today, Florida has the nation´s fourth-largest newspaper market with more than 3,000 daily newspapers and more than 1,200 online publications.
The average daily newspaper circulation is just over 500,000, according the Associated Press.