An Alliance is Born – Critics Groups for Equality in Media

Six national critics organisations that champion underrepresented yet influential voices in entertainment journalism have joined forces to form Critics Groups for Equality in Media (CGEM), a professional coalition seeking to improve awareness of the value of women, people of colour and LGBTQ journalists who cover the worlds of film and television. CGEM seeks to improve engagement with studios, networks, PR firms and other entertainment organisations, push for better pay and representation among media outlets on behalf of the groups’ members, and nurture next-generation voices in entertainment journalism.

The allied groups participating in CGEM are the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), the Features Forum of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association (LEJA), the Online Association of Female Film Critics (OAFFC) and TIME’S UP Entertainment, which recently launched CRITICAL, an opt-in press database designed to support greater diversity among critics and entertainment reporters. The groups will exchange their experiences and ideas and work together to advance their goals. Among the possible initiatives the coalition is discussing a watchdog component that would include giving studios, networks and PR houses an annual grade based on the quality of their engagement with each group. CGEM is also considering presenting special honours to public relations professionals and media executives who have advanced equality in media and working with journalists.  Other entities sharing the coalition’s mission will be invited to join in the future.

“Each of our groups represents a unique perspective – often informed by oppression – that enriches and shapes society,” said John Griffiths, GALECA’s Executive Director. “Yet, even amid today’s stepped-up push for diversity and inclusivity progress has been slow and many fail to realise that our group’s voices – if amplified to match their true value – can provide a roadmap for boosting creativity, box office, ratings and excitement for a project. Our goal is to break down those barriers for ourselves, for audiences and for the next generation of entertainment journalists.” 

Gil Robertson, AAFCA co-founder and president, added “When studios, networks and other entertainment organizations work in partnership with our organizations and members, we’ve seen how that synergy creates evolved thinking and inspired perspectives. It’s a win for everyone, especially audiences.  However, that doesn’t happen nearly enough and we’re hoping that the launch of CGEM can help forge that path.”

“CGEM’s formation comes at a critical time in the industry,” notes Mariecar Mendoza, Director of the Asian American Journalists Association’s Features Forum. “When we talk about how representation matters in Hollywood, we should not forget that representation in the media is just as important. Ensuring that we provide access to a diverse pool of entertainment journalists brings new perspective and can help the media keep Hollywood accountable.”

Clayton Davis, Founder and President of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association added, “The Latino voice is sadly lacking on the screen and via bylines, even though our community buys 23 percent of America’s movie tickets,” (Davis is referring to a 2017 report by the Motion Picture Association of America). “We need more full-blooded Latino faces in movies and TV, in newsrooms, junkets and at press screenings.”

Mara Grobins Nasatir, Director of Initiatives for TIME’S UP Entertainment, noted that, according to research from USC professor Dr. Stacy Smith, while America’s population is over 50-percent female, only 22 percent of the reviews of the nation’s top 100 movies of 2017 listed on Rotten Tomatoes—the powerful critics aggregate—were written by women. Recent similar studies haven’t shown much improvement. “Early critical response to a movie determines important factors such as marketing budget and distribution,” said Nasatir, explaining why Time’s Up Entertainment’s CRTICIAL database lives up to its name. “Without greater diversity among the critical voices responding to content, not all movies, directors, writers and creators are given the same opportunities to succeed.”  

“Too often, women’s voices in film criticism are minimized, dismissed, or altogether ignored,” added Louisa Moore, President of the Online Association of Female Film Critics. “As an organization designed to promote diverse viewpoints in media commentary, the OAFFC is proud to be a member of CGEM. This alliance is a reminder that the landscape of modern film criticism is changing.”

Plus, “The critics associations in CGEM trumpet and award both mainstream and niche titles,” said Griffiths, noting that his LGBTQ critics group’s 2012 Film of the Year award went to Argo. “But we can’t get our messages out to the world if celebrities and filmmakers, or their reps, don’t harness our tipping-point power.” 

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