As Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot nears the second anniversary of her inauguration and reaches the halfway point of her first term, she told the city’s media that she will be giving interviews to each other to mark the event, but with one condition: she will only speak to journalists of color.
“I ran to break many failed status, and it wasn’t just at City Hall,” Lightfood tweeted Wednesday morning. “By 2021, it’s a shame that City Hall Press Corps is white in a city where more than half of the city’s are identified as black, Latin, AAPI or Native American.”
“Diversity and content is a must in all organizations, including the media. We must change to move forward,” he continued. “I’m deliberately planning to prioritize media requests from POC reporters on the eve of the second anniversary of my inauguration as mayor of this large city.”
Lightfoot City Hall called the Corps’ ethnic makeup “an imbalance that needs to change” and that Chicago’s local media should “reflect the many cultures that cover it.”
When some on social media responded to Lightfoot’s tweets on Wednesday, they praised the move as “equity” and a step in representation, while many others criticized the decision.
Chicago Tribune correspondent Gregory Broad was one of those who disagreed with this policy.
“I am a Latin reporter from Chicagotribune, whose interview request was granted today,” Brad tweeted. “However, I asked the mayor to elevate the office above others, and when they said no, we politely canceled. Politicians cannot choose who includes them.”
In an email to Chicago’s media outlets, including NBC5, Lightfood – Chicago’s first black female mayor and first gay mayor – said she wanted to “confirm” that members of the media understood her “thinking behind that decision”.
“Since I was elected, our country has faced a historic calculation surrounding formal racism,” Lightfood wrote, endorsing the renewed racial justice movement that arose after the assassination of George Floyd, a police officer in Minneapolis last May. “Given the lack of diversity in the City Hall Press Corps and other newsrooms, it is unfortunate that so many media outlets in Chicago are caught up in not actually accepting this moment.”
From the start of his campaign for mayor of Lightfoot, he wrote that he was “attacked” by the excessive whiteness and masculinity of the Chicago media, editorials, political press forces and, yes, the City Hall Press Corps.
Lightfoot in his letter listed positions in the city government and on his own team filled with people of color, noting that the city has “more to do”, calling for equality and adding “northern stars” to his administration.
“I post a challenge to you,” Lightfood wrote in his letter. “Hire color reporters – especially women of color – to cover Chicago politics, and especially City Hall.”
He asked the outlets if there were people of color on the leadership boards or on the editorial boards, if there were qualified reporters who could cover City Hall, but the outlets were not given the opportunity, and if the outlets had analyzed their own coverage. “Identify and differentiate indirect dependencies.”
“If there is no answer to these questions, please be advised that I will continue to press for a change,” Lightfood wrote.