Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended her policy of only accepting interview requests from “black and brown journalists” on Wednesday, arguing that it is made necessary by the “overwhelming whiteness and maleness” of the city’s media institutions.
The Democratic mayor sparked outrage after she announced she would not grant one-on-one interviews to white journalists on a temporary basis around the two-year anniversary of her election.
Lightfoot, the first black woman and first openly gay mayor in the city’s history, penned a two-page letter to the media in which she lauded her election for “breaking barriers” and blasted Chicago’s media organizations for not addressing their internal “institutionalized racism,” according to Fox News.
She claimed her decision was just the latest step in her lifelong fight for diversity and inclusion.
“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 wrote. “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 it is “unacceptable” that most reporters covering City Hall are white, particularly in light of the diversity of the city’s leadership.
“Many of them are smart and hard-working, savvy and skilled. But mostly white, nonetheless,” she wrote of the reporters.
Lightfoot urged the city’s media leadership to evolve and diversify as “this arm of our democratic system is on life support.”
Gregory Pratt, a Latino reporter for the Chicago Tribune covering City Hall responded to the new policy by pulling out of an interview he had been granted with Lightfoot.
“I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully canceled,” he wrote in a tweet. “Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them.”
Tbe mayor said “Black and Brown community leaders” have previously voiced concern that media coverage was biased but had not spoken out for fear of being accused of playing the race card.
“This isn’t my job. It shouldn’t be,” she wrote. “I don’t have time for it. But as with so many festering problems, it has only gotten worse with time. So here I am, like so many other Black women before me, having to call your attention to this problem.”