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For anniversary, Chicago mayor to only give interviews to journalists of color

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Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot said she wanted to draw attention to the "overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets"./AFP
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May 21, 2021 - 06:07 AM

WASHINGTON — Chicago’s African-American mayor, decrying a lack of diversity in the media of the major US metropolis, has said that she will only grant one-on-one interviews to journalists of color to mark her two-year anniversary in office.

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 an 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 said it was “unacceptable” that no women of color were assigned to cover the mayor’s office.

Local radio station WBEZ disputed that claim, saying that of its three City Hall reporters, two were women of color — one Hispanic and the other South Asian.

‘Don’t get to choose who covers them’ 

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) said that while it does not support the mayor’s tactics, the move “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 reporter of Latino origin with the Chicago Tribune, 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.”

Lighfoot’s two years in office have been tumultuous, with the city battling rising crime, police brutality cases and an ongoing fight with the Chicago Teachers Union.

In a public opinion survey conducted in March for Crain’s Chicago Business and the Daily Line, only 16 percent of respondents rated Lightfoot’s performance as excellent or good.

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