Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot only giving interviews to journalists of colour to combat ‘overwhelming whiteness’

Lori Lightfoot

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she will only give interviews to journalists of colour in an effort to combat the “overwhelming whiteness” of the the city’s media.

Lightfoot – who became Chicago’s first Black female mayor and first openly gay mayor when she was elected two years ago – announced her new policy on Tuesday (18 May) through a spokesperson.

On Wednesday (19 May), Lori Lightfoot elaborated on her plans in a Twitter thread, saying she wants to “break up the status quo that was failing so many” by prioritising journalists of colour for interviews.

“It’s a shame that in 2021, the City Hall press corps is overwhelmingly white in a city where more than half of the city identifies as Black, Latino, AAPI or Native American,” Lightfoot tweeted.

“Diversity and inclusion is imperative across all institutions including media. In order to progress we must change.

“This is exactly why I’m being intentional about prioritising media requests from POC reporters on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of my inauguration as mayor of this great city,” she added, saying there is “an imbalance that needs to change”.

“Chicago is a world-class city. Our local media should reflect the multiple cultures that comprise it. We must be intentional about doing better. I believed that when running for office. I stand on this belief now. It’s time for the newsrooms to do better and build teams that reflect the make-up of our city.”

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot urged newspapers to ‘hire reporters of colour’

While some have praised Lightfoot’s stance, Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Pratt criticised her, tweeting: “I am a Latino reporter whose interview request was granted for today. However, I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully cancelled. Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them.”

Lightfoot later defended her policy in a letter sent to Chicago news outlets and published by NBC 5.

In the letter, Lightfoot said she wanted to “ensure” journalists understood her “thinking behind that decision”.

“In the time since I was elected, our country has faced an historic reckoning around systemic racism,” Lightfoot wrote.

“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.”

The mayor went on to say that she has been “struck” 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: “I am issuing a challenge to you. Hire reporters of colour – and especially women of colour – to cover Chicago politics, and City Hall in particular.”