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Media Disagrees with Chicago Mayor Policy of Speaking Only to Journalists of Colour

Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, made an attempt at inclusivity in her office that didn’t go over as well with the press as she hoped.

Recently, Lightfoot informed her staff and the city’s media outlets that she would speak exclusively with journalists of colour for the one-on-one interviews marking her second anniversary in office.

Lightfoot, the first Black female mayor of the city, believes that an imbalance exists in the city and City Hall that needs to change. In the mayor’s letter to news outlets, she pressed the media to give opportunities and “chances” to reporters and staff members of colour. Part of the letter, which referenced the Black Lives Matter movements, read: "I am issuing a challenge to you. Hire reporters of color -- and especially women of color -- to cover Chicago politics, and City Hall in particular."

Lightfoot went on to write: "In the time since I was elected, our country has faced an historic reckoning around systemic racism. 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."

On Wednesday, Lightfoot tweeted about her goals at breaking up the status quo of the city: "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." Black residents make up over 30% of Chicago’s demographic, while over 28% of the city is of Hispanic or Latino origin.

The action was meant as an act of inclusivity and anti-racism but wasn’t interpreted that way by all. Reaction comments on Lightfoot’s tweet were mixed. While some media outlets praised her effort, a Latino reporter from the Chicago Tribune, Gregory Pratt, disagreed. When Pratt’s interview request was accepted, he didn’t see it as a form of equity, as the mayor intended. The reporter tweeted: “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."

One Twitter follower added their two cents: “I believe the journalists are missing the point. The press corps needs to become more diverse, and it is not about Mayor Lightfoot “choosing” the press to get favourable coverage. It’s about opportunity and inclusion, not the “old boys” club.” - @DrunkeMild

Lightfoot’s inclusion statement fits with her original political platform formed when running in the election two years prior. She said, "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 prioritizing media requests from POC reporters on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of my inauguration as mayor of this great city."

The mayor, however, believes that there is still more work to do. "If the answer to these questions is no, be advised that I will continue to press for that to change.”

As for the work still to be done, the vocal opposition to the Chicago mayor’s actions towards inclusivity proves just that.

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