Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday that she will only be giving one-on-one interviews to reporters of color around the two-year anniversary of her tenure as mayor, saying the City Hall press corps is “overwhelmingly white” in a city that’s much more diverse.
Lightfoot said she ran on being intentional about diversity and said newsrooms need to do better on diversity, too. She notified the media of her plan to restrict one-on-one interviews to reporters of color in a letter to reporters and a series of tweets.
“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 wrote in a letter to local media outlets Wednesday. “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.”
“I have been struck since my first day on the campaign trial 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 added. “… While there are women of color who sometimes cover my administration, there are zero women of color assigned to the City Hall beat. Zero. I find this unacceptable and I hope you do too.”
Lightfoot urged newsrooms to “hire reporters of color — and especially women of color — to cover Chicago politics, and City Hall in particular.” She continued, “If you only have a white reporter covering City Hall, make sure there’s a person of color working with them as well.”
In a series of tweets, Lightfoot said she is “being intentional about prioritizing media requests from POC reporters on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of my inauguration as mayor of this great city.”
Chicago is 33% white, 29% Hispanic or Latino, 30% Black and 7% Asian, according to Census Bureau statistics.
While some praised the move as working toward equity, some journalists of color criticized the announcement.
“I am a Latino reporter @chicagotribune whose interview request was granted for today,” tweeted Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Pratt. “However, I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully canceled. Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them.”
Other reporters pointed out instances in which the mayor’s office had failed to respond to requests for comment from journalists of color.
“For the record, this Asian-Latina @WBEZNews reporter has been asking @chicagosmayor for several days to declare her stance on this state bill–a bill that would force Chicago to replace lead water lines…by 2056. She won’t answer,” tweeted WBEZ reporter Monica Eng.
In her letter, Lightfoot said her office will continue to respond to media requests but will continue to push for changes in local newsrooms if they don’t happen soon. She did not say how long she plans to decline to be interviewed by White journalists.