In the days leading up to her second anniversary as mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot made waves by announcing she would only do interviews with Black and Hispanic journalists.
Defending her move, Lightfoot said since she took office, she’s been surprised by the “overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets, editorial boards, the political press corps and the City Hall press corps.” In a two-page letter she wrote to members of Chicago’s media Wednesday, Lightfoot doubled down.
“In the year 2021, with a Black lesbian mayor, a Black woman City Treasurer, a Latinx woman City Clerk, and a majority Black and Latinx City Council, the group of reporters assigned to cover City Hall is practically all white,” Lightfoot wrote. “While there are women of cover 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.”
Several outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, have declined to participate in the interviews. WBEZ Chicago also disputed Lightfoot’s claim, noting two of its three City Hall reporters are minority women–one South Asian and one Hispanic.
Lightfoot’s two years in office haven’t been a breeze. She had a well-publicized fight with the Chicago Teachers Union, The Chicago Police Department issued a vote of no confidence against Lightfoot as she hasn’t been able to curb gun violence. She also admitted she knew about a police raid that left a naked Black woman handcuffed. The police later discovered they raided the wrong house.
The Board of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) agreed with Lightfoot’s call for newsrooms to diversify their press ranks, but added it cannot support Lightfoot’s action.
“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,” the NABJ board wrote in a statement Wednesday.