5/20/21: Chicago’s mayor refuses to give interviews to white reporters
Chicago’s mayor declared that she would only grant one-on-one interviews to minority journalists to protest the lack of diversity in the Windy City press corps.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the first black woman and openly gay person elected to run that city, confirmed the move Tuesday after members of the local press took to Twitter saying they had been denied interviews based on their skin color.
“By now, you may have heard the news that 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,” Lightfoot said in a letter to local media provided The Post.
“As a person of color, I have throughout my adult life done everything that I can to fight for diversity and inclusion in every institution that I have been a part of and being Mayor makes me uniquely situated to shine a spotlight on this most important issue.”
A Lightfoot spokesperson later clarified that the protest only pertains to interviews about her anniversary in office.
Lightfoot said her 2019 election was praised for breaking barriers.
“I ran to break up the status quo that has failed so many resident across our city,” Lightfoot said.
“And that failing status quo did not apply simply to City Hall and City government,” she added.
“It pertains and exists in all public and private institutions.”
Lightfoot challenged local media to hire more people of color and women of color to their staffs.
“I have been struck since my first day on the campaign trail back in 2018 by the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets, editorial boards, the political press corps, and yes, the City Hall press corps specifically,” she said.
Lightfoot said that during a “historic reckoning around systemic racism” many businesses and educational institutions have launched efforts to “address the deep=seated legacies of institutionalized racism.
“In looking at the absence of diversity across the City Hall press corps and other newsrooms, 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 mayor bashed local outlets for only having a “handful” of people of color who cover her administration. The group of reporters covering City Hall is “practically all white” and there’s not one woman of color among them, she said.
“Many of them are smart and hard-working, savvy and skilled,” she said. “But mostly white, nonetheless.”
The mayor claimed to have discussions with community leaders over to call implicit or explicit bias in news coverage, but the issue to the attention of media leaders.
“And the truth is, it is too heavy a burden to bear, on top of all the other massive challenges our city faces in this moment, to also have to take on the labor of educating white, mostly male members of the news media about the perils and complexities of implicit bias,” she said in the letter.
“This isn’t my job. It shouldn’t be. I don’t have time for it.”
The practice has riled local journalists and led to one Latino reporter with The Chicago Tribune canceling a scheduled interview. Gregory Pratt, who covers the mayor and City Hall, said on Twitter he was granted an interview for Wednesday.
“However, I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully canceled,” Pratt wrote.
“Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them.”
A conversation among reporters denied interviews with Lightfoot began on social media on Tuesday, with a tweet from Mary Ann Ahern, political reporter for NBC5 Chicago.
“As @chicagosmayor reaches her two year midway point as mayor, her spokeswoman says Lightfoot is granting 1 on 1 interviews – only to Black or Brown journalists,” Ahern tweeted.
Other journalists replied that they had experienced the same.
A city council member, called an alderman in Chicago, questioned Ahern’s original tweet.