At a time when entertainment journalism is in the firing line for a serious lack of diversity and inclusion, a new coalition has emerged seeking to redefine which agents are allowed to write about Hollywood.
Critics Groups for Equality in Media, the newly announced alliance, has a bold aim: to improve the conditions for women, people of color, and LGBTQ journalists covering film and television news.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot more headlines about inclusion and diversity than what is still a reality for journalists and critics, which is still a bastion for cis, straight white men,” says John Griffiths, executive director of GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics.
In addition to GALECA, the newly formed alliance includes the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA); the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association; the Features Forum of the Asian American Journalists Association; the Online Association of Female Film Critics and Time’s Up Entertainment. Other member’s groups are set to join in the coming weeks.
The coalition’s list of demands is short but specific: better pay and inclusive representation at media outlets, strengthened relationships with studios, networks, and public relations firms, and the nurturing of a diverse next-generation of voices in the media.
The formation of the coalition comes at a pertinent time for underrepresented groups in Hollywood. Last year, a record number of women and people of color appeared on our screens in films, and television shows saw significant growth in the number of LGBTQ characters. 2018, then, was a year where the stories told on screen reflected the demographics of audiences watching them more than ever before.
Even so, such strides in front of the camera have not necessarily been reflected in the newsrooms and entities off-screen. At the 2018 Women in Film gala, actress Brie Larson drew attention to this fact when she advocated for inclusion among film critics; major film festivals like Sundance and SXSW have unveiled initiatives to do just that.
“Some studios and networks and PR representatives and media outlets really get it – they see the benefit to both humanity and the bottom line of engaging with the underrepresented who cover Hollywood – but others still don’t,” says Griffiths. “Maybe they just don’t see those headlines, and they’re just writing us off. We’re joining together so we can find solutions to stop that from happening.”
Among a host of proposed initiatives is the creation of a watchdog system for grading studios, networks and PR houses annually on the quality of their engagement with disparate groups, as well as honors for public relations professionals and media executives who work to prioritize inclusion in the media.
“Arts critics and journalists are at the front lines of delivering messages about entertainment,” says AAFCA co-founder and president Gil Robertson. “Technology has opened that door to anyone with a computer to share their thoughts about whatever they want to, but for those of us who are vetted, trained and skilled, we can make more headway for the validity of our work by working together.”
In the case of Critics Groups for Equality in Media, strength in numbers is sure to radically change the face of entertainment PR.