Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is defending her decision to only grant interviews to journalists of color to mark her two-year anniversary in office, The Chicago Tribune reports.
Lightfoot’s staff said Tuesday that a set of interviews to mark the anniversary would be limited to journalists of color, prompting outlets like the Tribune to decline to participate.
Lightfoot in a letter to Chicago journalists on Wednesday said her decision was part of her promise to “break up the status quo.”
“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,” she wrote.
Lightfoot claimed that there are no women of color assigned to the City Hall beat. “I find this unacceptable and I hope you do too,” she said.
Local news outlet WBEZ disputed her claim, noting that one of their City Hal reporters is a Hispanic woman and another is a woman of South Asian descent.
Charles Whitaker, the dean of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, told the Tribune that he agreed with Lightfoot that journalists of color face larger barriers in the industry but said the one-time restriction felt like a “stunt.”
“I don’t necessarily know that it is the best way,” Whitaker said. “We would never, ever in a million years allow that of a white politician. And so it’s dangerous now to say we are going to allow that of a Black politician simply to make a point about the historic inequities in media.”
The National Association of Black Journalists also said it supports more diverse newsrooms but did not agree with Lightfoot’s restriction.
“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 group’s board said in a statement.
Tiffany Walden, editor-in-chief of The Triibe, a website that covers the city’s Black communities, defended Lightfoot.
“A lot of people are outraged by this, but just imagine what it’s like for Black and brown journalists in the city to not ever have this access,” she told the Tribune. “This is literally a daily struggle for Black and brown journalists in Chicago, and I wish that was the conversation instead of people who have access to the mayor every single day complaining about one day that they don’t have access.”