Lightfoot’s claim that Chicago newsrooms lack diversity spark heated talks about race

Chicago News

The mayor's condition to speak only to reporters of color has drawn criticism

CHICAGO A move by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has suddenly made reporters who cover City Hall a part of the story.

To mark the second anniversary of her swearing-in, Lightfoot announced that she would only grant one-on-one interviews to Black and Brown journalists. The move infuriated the mostly white City Hall press corps while making others uncomfortable. Some went as far as calling the move “a political diversion.” Nonetheless, the mayor reiterated her stance despite the strong reaction.

Gregory Pratt, a Latino reporter with the Chicago Tribune, wrote on Twitter that he agreed to a sit-down with Lightfoot but canceled when her office declined to lift its condition on others.

“Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them,” Pratt shared on Twitter.

Leaning into the controversy, Lightfoot released a letter explaining her thought-process.

“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 situation to shine a spotlight on this most important issue…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…

“It is impossible,” she added, “for this glaring lack of diversity not to be reflected in the daily coverage of government, politics and city life every single day.”

Charles Thomas, a political analyst and former political reporter, questions the mayor’s decision.

“What if a white male declared publicly that he or she would only do one-on-one interviews with white reporters? he asked. “I would be outraged.”

Thomas says that although newsroom diversity is an important topic, the mayor’s timing is puzzling.

“This is a distraction,” he declared. “Instead of talking about crime, talking about disarray in her administration, talking about education, talking about city finances, we’re talking about this.”

Charles Whitaker, Dean of Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, says he worries about politicians picking the people they talk to.

“So I appreciate that the mayor is using her bully pulpit to shed light on an issue that many of us have decried and bemoaned for decades,” Whitaker said. “However, this is a really slippery slope. Having a politician attempt to sort of dictate coverage in a way is problematic.”

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