Rotten Tomatoes Adding More Critics to Foster Diversity

Courtesy of Subject

The online review aggregator isn't changing the way films are scored. Rather, it is relaxing its criteria so that critics can now become Tomatometer-approved regardless of where they are published.

Rotten Tomatoes is expanding its male-dominated critics base in order to be more inclusive and foster diversity among those writing film and television reviews that are included in the all-important Tomatometer score.

The leading online aggregator isn't changing the way reviews are scored.

Already, over 200 new Tomatometer-approved critics have been identified. The gender split of that group is roughly 70 percent female, compared with 60 percent male for the existing pool of roughly 4,400 critics. (Rotten Tomatoes doesn't expect the existing pool to be impacted by the new rules.)

This summer, a University of Southern California study found that the vast majority of reviews aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes were written by white critics (roughly 82 percent). And nearly as many reviews were penned by men (78 percent).

The revamped criteria will focus on a critic's individual qualifications and body of work, versus a particular publication or broadcast outlet. Additionally, the rules have expanded beyond print and broadcast to include newer media platforms, such as podcasts and digital video series with a strong social media presence and audience engagement.

Previously, among other criteria, Tomatometer approval was primarily based on a person's publication or employer. In terms of print rules, a publication had to be a top 10 daily newspaper or weekly, a top 10 magazine or a top 10 entertainment-based publication.

"We've already identified more diverse voices," says Jenny Jediny, the critics relations manager at Rotten Tomatoes who spearheaded the criteria changes, which come two years after Fandango bought the online aggregator.

Adds Fandango President Paul Yanover: “Advancing inclusion in criticism continues to be a priority for Rotten Tomatoes and we plan to expand our work with media outlets that hire critics, film festivals and other groups, so as an industry we can better serve consumers.”

The 200 new critics, for example, include Luciana Mangas, whose reviews appear on the blog Writes of the Roundtable; Bernard Boo, a critic who writes for Film Threat, PopMatters, Den of Geek and We Got This Covered; and Clarisse Loughrey, who writes for Little White Lies, That Darn Movie Show and Kermode & Mayo's Film Review.

Per the new criteria, critics must demonstrate a consistent output for at least two years. And they cannot just be self-published, unless Rotten Tomatoes determines that their site and work "reflect key values" of the company.

If working for a video service, that service must have a minimum of 30,000 subscribers. However, critics reaching underrepresented groups will be considered on a case-by-case basis. And in terms of broadcast, a critic must make regular appearances on television or radio.

There are also guidelines regarding the reach or ratings that a podcast, print publication or broadcast outlet must have.

As part of its mandate to foster inclusion, Rotten Tomatoes has established a $100,000 grant program that will help critics attend film festivals. The first grant of $25,000 will go to the American Friends of TIFF fund for the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, which is set to run Sept. 6-16.

The new criteria for Tomatometer-approved critics is posted here.