Rotten Tomatoes announced it had added 600 new critics over the last year as part of a concerted effort to amplify underrepresented voices in film and TV. (Via Deadline.) Of the new batch of critics, 55% are women, 60% are freelancers and 10% publish reviews via YouTube, podcasts and other emerging avenues. The announcement arrives exactly one year after the site pledged to revamp its criteria for verifying critics in order to foster inclusion. The process essentially controls which reviews contribute to the “Tomatometer,” and a movie’s overall Rotten Tomatoes score.
The new guidelines, initially established last year, focus more on the merits of individual critics than of publications with an aim to foster inclusion across gender, race, class, and ability. The new requirements also reflect the massive transformation of media, namely the shift away from print magazines and newspapers, by opening up the playing field to culture critics working at less traditional outlets.
“We are an aggregation platform, so we don’t have any control over who gets an assignment, who gets a byline,” said Paul Yanover, president of Fandango, which acquired Rotten Tomatoes in 2016. “But we are trying to make sure our platform is as inclusive as possible.”
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In addition to the new criteria, Rotten Tomatoes will also spotlight new critics on its Tomatometer Critics home page, giving users the chance to discover new voices in criticism from a variety of backgrounds.
The site is also renewing its annual $100,000 grant pledge to provide resources to reviewers at film festivals. The grant program was created last year to assist critics in gaining access to key film festivals, and has already funded programs at the Sundance, Toronto, and SXSW Film Festivals. The fund helps festivals distribute stipends to critics to assist with travel and lodging expenses associated with festival attendance.
The grant was established in response to a recent study by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative which found only 22.2 percent of 2017 reviews for the top-grossing films were written by women, while critics from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds represented only 18 percent.
“We are encouraged by the progress we’re making towards creating a Tomatometer-approved critics pool that reflects the global entertainment audience and we will continue to build on our momentum,” said Jenny Jediny, Rotten Tomatoes Senior Manager, Critic Relations.