An open letter to Rotten Tomatoes

Friday July 8th 2011

I won’t pretend I’m too cut up about yesterday’s announcement that the News of the World is to cease publication after this Sunday. It was a newspaper to which I had many objections (not least the recent revelations regarding Milly Dowler and the victims of the 7/7 bombings) and while I don’t think shutting down the paper is necessarily getting to the root of those issues, I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep over it. But there’s a nasty streak of misplaced venom floating about at the moment, aimed at a number of people who don’t deserve it: namely NotW employees every bit as disconnected to the phone hacking atrocities as your average self-righteous Guardian reporter.

One journalist who certainly doesn’t deserve to be victimised is Robbie Collin, resident film critic at the paper. He’s widely regarded as one of the best reviewers currently working, massively influential but also fiercely honest and more than willing to go against popular opinion. He can be vital to a film’s PR campaign (as indicated by his inclusion in The Guardian’s Film Power 100 list) but also seems impervious to influence, both from his peers and his higher-ups. He’s also a personal friend of mine, so forgive me if this piece seems at all coloured by that.

Shortly after yesterday’s announcement, US movie review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes — themselves owned by News Corp division IGN until a buyout by last year — decided to label Collin an ‘evil, unethical scallywag’ on Twitter. This, mere hours after his dismissal from a newspaper he’s worked on for the best part of a decade, is not only callous but also blatantly inappropriate. Far from reinforcing their self-proclaimed lack of bias, the statement instantly undermines the site’s entire raison d’être: to collate a wide spectrum of critical opinion without moderation, judgement or comment.

In turn, I would like to request that Rotten Tomatoes politely go fuck themselves, and to remind them that public statements concerning morality and ethics should never be issued lightly. To reduce Robbie Collin’s eight years at the News of the World to a list of spiteful adjectives is to insult, underestimate and belittle a man whose love of, and dedication to, cinema provides the raw materials that Rotten Tomatoes relies on for its very existence. The moment they start making qualitative judgements about their critics is, by their own definition, the moment they cease to be of any relevance or value whatsoever, so to them I say this: tread carefully motherfuckers.


UPDATE: Rotten Tomatoes have now tweeted an apology for their initial statement:

Apologies to @robbiereviews, that previous tweet was unnecessary.

FURTHER UPDATE: They’ve now removed the offending tweet.