Well, this is quite the story twist. Lori Lightfoot must have thought that “Black and Brown journalists” would toss hosannas at her feet for excluding all others from interviewing her. Chicago Tribune reporter and Latino journalist Gregory Pratt flipped the script on Lightfoot, however, canceling his already-approved one-on-one interview to show solidarity with his fellow reporters:
I am a Latino reporter @chicagotribune whose interview request was granted for today. However, 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. https://t.co/YMW8M8ZgJm
— Gregory Pratt (@royalpratt) May 19, 2021
Kudos to Pratt for taking this stand and for the Chicago Tribune for backing him up on it — so far, at least. The principle on which he stands is important, and one that gets fought at every level of government. Politicians, especially executives, often want to get specific gadflies out of the pool, which media outlets almost always resist. That happened with Donald Trump and Jim Acosta, for instance, but also with Barack Obama and Fox News in the early part of his first term. In both instances, other reporters and outlets fought back against the effort by executives to choose their coverage.
It’s also worth noting that Pratt theoretically could have been victimized by this rule. Pratt is well known and likely everyone involved knows of his Latino heritage, but a name like Pratt without a bio might have put him on an exclusion list. That’s the point I raised earlier — how does Lightfoot plan to enforce this exclusionary policy? Skin tones only take you so far, as do surnames.
Pratt also raised the ante for his colleagues while calling Lightfoot’s bluff, if readers will permit a mixed poker metaphor. Anyone now conducting a one-on-one with Lightfoot while this policy remains in place will stand in stark and unpleasant contrast to Pratt’s principled stand. Who wants to be a collaborator in an attack on the media, especially one as stupidly racist as Lightfoot’s? Publication is an admission, after all. If no one shows up to promote Lightfoot’s midterm promotional messages, perhaps even someone as clueless as Lightfoot will get the hint.