Washington, United States: To commemorate her two-year anniversary in office, Chicago’s African-American mayor has announced that she will only give one-on-one interviews to journalists of color, citing a lack of diversity in the city’s media.
Lori Lightfoot, 58, a Democrat, said she wanted to draw attention to the “overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets.”
“On the occasion of the two-year anniversary of my inauguration as Mayor of this great City, I will be exclusively providing one-on-one interviews with journalists of color,” she said in a two-page open letter.
“As the first Black woman mayor of Chicago and the first openly gay mayor, my election in 2019 was hailed for breaking barriers to the halls of power,” Lightfoot said. “Being Mayor makes me uniquely situated to shine a spotlight on this most important issue.”
Lightfoot said the United States “has faced a historic reckoning around systematic racism,” and many institutions were addressing “deep-seated legacies of institutionalized racism.”
“Sadly it does not appear that many of the media institutions in Chicago have caught on and truly have not embraced this moment,” she said.
“The group of reporters assigned to cover City Hall is practically all white,” Lightfoot said. “There are only a handful of beat reporters of color in the City Hall press corps.”
She called the fact that no women of color were assigned to cover the mayor’s office “awful.”
WBEZ, a local radio station, refuted the assertion, claiming that two of its three City Hall correspondents were women of color, one Hispanic and the other South Asian.
They don’t get to pick who covers them
While the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) does not agree with the mayor’s tactics, it says the action “shines a needed spotlight on the call for a greater commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion across the media industry.”
“Historically, America’s elite political units have been led by predominantly white reporters and managers,” the NABJ said. “Too often Black journalists are not given the opportunity to join political teams.”
At the same time, it said, “NABJ’s history of advocacy does not support excluding any bona fide journalists from one-on-one interviews with newsmakers, even if it is for one day and in support of activism.”
Gregory Pratt, a Chicago Tribune reporter of Latino descent, said he had been granted an interview request with Lightfoot.
“However, I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully canceled,” Pratt said in a tweet. “Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them.”
Tucker Carlson, a right-wing host on the Fox News television station, denounced Lightfoot’s move, calling her a “monster” and putting a picture on the screen describing her as the “Racist Mayor of Chicago.”
The Mayor of Chicago will only grant interviews to people of color.
Will Lori Lightfoot also stop speaking with her white partner? Does she have the same standards for her personal life? Your partner does not have the right skin color, Lori.
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) May 20, 2021
The city has faced increased crime, police brutality cases, and a continuing battle with the Chicago Teachers Union during Lighfoot’s two years in office.
Only 16 percent of respondents in a public opinion poll conducted in March for Crain’s Chicago Business and the Daily Line evaluated Lightfoot’s performance as outstanding or good.
With AFP inputs.