Yesterday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, stunned the public with an insightful and thought-provoking stance on Chicago media. She provided exclusive interviews to BlPOC media outlets, beginning on May 18 as she approaches her midterm. In doing so, the Mayor shined a spotlight on Chicago’s press, stating that White males dominate many of the major newsrooms which are absent of Women and People of Color, including at City Hall where there are zero women of color assigned to the City Hall beat.
Mayor Lightfoot addressed racism in an unprecedented open letter to the press. As Black media owners with independent outlets, we share her concerns. Too often, White media coverage is biased and sometimes racist in its depiction of the Black community in Chicago. This is a result of a lack of Black, Brown and women representation in our newsrooms and in positions of power which could help shape the narrative.
Black Media’s vantage point is often different than mainstream. Our niches represent authentic voices of diverse Black audiences, who are often seen with a stereotypical lens. Too often, White coverage focuses on violence, deprivation, and negative behavior which represents a small percentage of Chicago’s Black community yet dominates news coverage.
We recognize that Black politicians are held to a different standard. We have witnessed White media’s relentless scrutiny of past Black politicians like Harold Washington, Eugene Sawyer, Todd Stroger, and more recently, of States Attorney Kim Foxx. Some of the attacks have been unmerciful, unfair, and yes–even racist. Mayor Lightfoot recognizes a new day should have a new way.
We applaud Mayor Lightfoot, Chicago’s first Black female gay mayor, for standing up to the status quo and recognizing that granting Black media with exclusive interviews is customary in the profession of media coverage.
In this era where the streets are filled with Black Lives Matter Marches and issues on social justice and equity are the topics of the day, we hope that diversity and inclusion become a part of every media company, from the boardroom to street reporters. Perspective, insights, and opinions of all stripes are important to making the city by the lake with big shoulders work as a global world-class place where all 77 of Chicago communities thrive.
At this time, we stand with Mayor Lightfoot as she sheds the spotlight on major media institutions that shape opinion in our city. We understand the Mayor is a public official and is not above reproach, but mayoral coverage should be done without bias and with fairness.
The news media is changing right before our very eyes on a daily basis. We are all trying to keep up with the changes and the impacts that they bring. While our various audiences share varied opinions of the city, our communities face issues head-on with the goal of growing Chicago into a better place for all. The Mayor’s challenge to the media will help erase stereotypes and move us further from the distinction of being America’s most segregated city.
We, as Black Media Owners, represent more than 800,000 Black Chicagoans. It is contingent on us to join forces with the Mayor to challenge inequities in newsrooms and in news coverage. We remain diligent in our tasks to provide authentic coverage and build wealth for our companies as we raise our voices for social equity for all of Chicago.
Tracey Bell, The IBM Company-95.1FM
Melody Spann Cooper, Midway Broadcasting Corporation-WVON & WRLL Radio
Janice & Durell Garth, Citizen Newspaper Group
Hermene Hartman, Hartman Publishing -NDIGO
Rael Jackson, South Shore Current
Dorothy Leavell, The Chicago Crusader
Dyanna Knight Lewis, Real Times Media-The Chicago Defender
Yvette Moyo—South Shore Current
Munson Steed—Steed Media-Rolling Out
Carl West—TBT News