Rotten Tomatoes Launches RT Labs, Online Educational Program for Aspiring and Rising Critics

The program is part of an ongoing effort by Rotten Tomatoes to boost underrepresented critics.
Panelists from the inaugural video of “RT Labs: Critics Edition."
Panelists from the inaugural video of “RT Labs: Critics Edition"
Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes on Tuesday launched a new online educational program designed to support aspiring and up-and-coming entertainment critics in their career development. The program, RT Labs, will include recorded panel discussions and classes with industry experts rolled out on a quarterly basis by the movie-review aggregator.

The first installment of “RT Labs: Critics Edition,” the first in a two-part series focused on the ins and outs of self-publishing, launches Tuesday. It features moderator Sharronda Williams, producer and host of the YouTube channel “Pay or Wait,” and panelists Erik Anderson (AwardsWatch), Robert Daniels (freelance critic), Li Lai (Mediaversity), and IndieWire’s own Kristen Lopez. In it, the group reviews industry best practices and covers branding, platform management and budget, editorial oversight, and more. The follow-up panel will address networking, hiring contributors, and transitioning from self-publishing to freelancing.

“At Rotten Tomatoes, we remain committed to amplifying diverse voices and supporting the next generation of journalists as they look to evolve and innovate the field of entertainment criticism,” said Jenny Jediny, Rotten Tomatoes’ head of critic relations, in an official statement. “We are excited to launch ‘RT Labs’ and help aspiring critics gain valuable guidance and tools from some of the best minds in our industry.”

Rotten Tomatoes’ leaders say the program is part of a broader mission to diversify the pool of critics whose reviews are aggregated as part of the site’s Tomatometer scores. It’s an effort that began in 2018, when the site revamped its criteria to approve more critics working freelance and on newer platforms.

The effort resulted in over 900 critics added to the Tomatoemeter since 2018; in the last year 100 have been added, 70 percent of whom are from underrepresented groups: 26 percent are people of color, 52 percent are women, 73 percent are freelancers, and 27 percent publish on newer platforms.

In December, the site revamped its Top Critics program, which historically has included critics from major publications. Reviews from Top Critics are marked with a badge on a movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page and contribute to a separate “Top Critics” score. The program relaunched with an increased emphasis on a critics’ individual qualifications, body of work, and dedication to the craft of criticism, rather than basing the designation solely on their publication’s status, paving the way for self-publishing and critics who publish on newer platforms to be a part of that group.

Of the 170 new Top Critics individually designated since the relaunch, 60 percent are women, an estimated 25 percent are people of color, and 24 percent publish via video or on podcasts.

Additionally, Rotten Tomatoes announced Tuesday that it has renewed its donation to the Toronto International Film Festival’s Medical Inclusion Initiative. TIFF awards stipends to underrepresented critics from underrepresented groups to enhance their festival experience. Rotten Tomatoes has donated more than $250,000 to film festival inclusion programs and university and junior college-level scholarships since 2018.

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