CHICAGO (CBS/AP) — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is acknowledging she hasn’t accomplished much of what she hoped when she replaced former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel as mayor of the nation’s third-largest city, promising to do the job better.
Lightfoot says the pandemic and protests over police violence upended many of those plans though she is “unbelievably proud” of what her administration has done.
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But as she reaches the halfway point of her four-year term on Thursday, Lightfoot faces an abundance of critics over her performance, and hundreds of people plan to protest near her home. Lightfoot says: “The reality is, I’m the mayor. I’m the target.”
The mayor received heavy criticism over her decision to only offered the customary one-on-one interviews to one select group of journalists — political reporters of color.
Her decision has ignited all kinds of opinions.
She took the action to make a statement about the lack of Black and Brown political reporters in television, radio and print newsrooms in Chicago, and she laid out her reasons in a letter sent to reporters like CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov who were not on that interview list.
In her two-page letter, Lightfoot brings up the country’s “historic reckoning” around systemic racism while pointing out the “absence of diversity across the city hall press corps.” She expresses concern about the “mostly whiteness and maleness” of the city’s news outlets, a glaring observation considering she is not only the city’s first Black woman mayor but also the first openly gay mayor.
“Diversity matters,” she writes, “and without it, how can you, as the media, truly speak to the needs and interests of the diverse and nuanced constituency you claim to serve until you do the work necessary to reflect that constituency.”
She also points to “implicit bias” in city hall news coverage but does not give examples.
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Her challenge is to “hire reporters of color — and especially women of color — to cover Chicago politics and city hall in particular” or make sure a person of color is working with them.
But then there is the question of access and cherry picking who gets to ask an elected official direct questions.
The dean of the Medill School of Journalism is conflicted.
“We’re talking about someone trying to shed light on historic inequities, and that’s a commendable goal. Still, it’s a slippery slope to kind of allow politicians to dictate coverage in that way,” said Dean Charles Whitaker with Northwestern University.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
I ran to break up the status quo that was failing so many. That isn’t just in City Hall.
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.
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) May 19, 2021
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