A Letter to Our Readers

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Dear Readers,

I’m disappointed that I have to publish this letter, but it has come to our attention that many false allegations have been made against our website and team of writers. On behalf of The Young Folks, I’m here to clear up these accusations regarding our review of Captain America: Civil War.

Our review of Civil War is not fabricated or compromised. One of our critics, Michael Fairbanks, saw the film at an advance screening and provided his honest opinion on the film.

Our editors approve all articles and reviews before they are published. I was the editor who approved the Civil War review. I stand by my choice to publish the review. It was not published as clickbait or to gain some kind of notoriety for this website. If you venture outside of the review and check out our other content, you will see that clickbait is not our thing, and it will never be our thing.

We were not paid by a competing studio to publish a negative review. This conspiracy is completely ludicrous. I would also like to take this moment to point out that all of our writing staff are volunteers. No one, including the editors, are compensated for their contributions. The owners make very little income off the site and are employed with full time jobs elsewhere.

The day the review was published, Michael Fairbanks went to IMDb on his own volition to discuss the film and his review with fellow Marvel and film fans. At the time, the editors and staff were not aware that Michael was discussing his review on IMDb. However, we fully believe that Michael’s intentions were good, if misguided. Unfortunately, his responses in this IMDb thread have been manipulated, misinterpreted and spread around inaccurately throughout the film and comic book online community. I once again reiterate the following:

  1. This is not Michael’s website. This site is owned and run by Luciana Villalba and me. Michael has not gained any kind of monetary compensation since publishing the review.
  2. This review was not compromised to be used as clickbait. We carefully select writers to join our staff, and we trust all of them, including Michael. His opinion of the film is honest.
  3. Michael has not entered any online conversations about the film or his review since the afternoon of April 15. Any people claiming to be him are imposters.
  4. Screenshots of the IMDb thread Michael posted in have been manipulated to imply that he posted the review for clicks. If you look closely, the question Michael is replying to is closed, purposely not shown in that screenshot. Our site did go down that day. We were having server issues throughout the week, and in all honesty, the traffic was higher than usual because of the review, which caused the site to go down.

The evening of April 15, I made the decision to temporarily close the comments section on the review. We have a Comment Policy, and many people were violating it. In order to properly moderate the section, we needed to pause the conversations for a while. Once I finished combing through the comments, I reopened them. I continue to check them each day, so that no one violates our policy, which you can read here.

Moving on, I have some additional comments to make about this “experience.”

This has definitely been a learning experience for the team and especially me as an editor. I admit that posting the review early was a mistake. This wouldn’t have changed the actual review, but I should have scheduled it closer to the film’s release date.

I also should have picked a different pull quote when I added the review to Rotten Tomatoes. That was a mistake, and I will be especially careful when choosing pull quotes for future reviews. Since the review is rated as a C, I spoke with Michael before adding the review to Rotten Tomatoes, and we both agreed that his review was more “rotten” than “fresh.”

Another thing I should have done earlier is establish a Code of Conduct for our staff to follow. I now know that having set of guidelines on how to behave and react to uncomfortable and negative remarks online can be very helpful. This week, I internally provided that set of guidelines to The Young Folks staff and fully expect them to follow those new standards from now on.

I’m very thankful and humbled that Rotten Tomatoes considers The Young Folks to be a Tomato-Approved publication since 2013, and I hate that one dissenting opinion can cause a group of people to call our legitimacy into question. After all these years, why is our eligibility being called into question now? Have you read any of our content other than this single review?

We have been around since 2010, growing slowly but surely as a community for young writers. Keyword: YOUNG. Many comments have been made about our age and our writing talents. For one thing, any condescending comments about our age is a form of discrimination. As for our writing skills, that is frankly a matter of opinion. Whether you take this chance to tear us down or provide constructive criticism is all on you. However, let me just say that from now on, we’re only paying attention to the latter.

For many of our writers, The Young Folks has been a safe place to hone their writing skills and share their opinions on entertainment. These past couple weeks have made it much harder to maintain that safe place. Threats, lies and offensive remarks have been thrown at us in our comments section and social media. It has to stop. This is no place for bullying, tasteless commentary and general rudeness.

“Well, that’s the Internet.” “You need thicker skin.” You know what? I’m not going to take this rudeness lying down. There is NO excuse to threaten someone’s life over a movie review. There is NO excuse to make an offensive remark to someone over a movie review. There is NO excuse to tear someone down without even trying to understand our site’s mission – over a movie review.

It’s been a tough couple weeks. We have not enjoyed the overall response to this review at all. We have not reaped any benefits like many claim. One of our critics was just being truthful about a movie he didn’t like. His review does not represent the entire staff’s view of the film, but I can say that we all stand behind an honest review.

Special thanks to Luciana, Allyson and Ryan for their guidance in writing this letter. We ask that you please respect our Comment Policy when responding to this post.

Gabrielle Bondi

Co-Founder & Editor, TheYoungFolks.com

Gabrielle is 27 years old and lives in Chicago. She enjoys writing about film, TV, and books, but occasionally writes about music as well. In addition to writing for TheYoungFolks.com, she also the editor-in-chief and a co-founder. In her spare time, she’s either watching more movies and shows or reading more books, while continuously checking Twitter, which she may or may not be addicted to… Feel free to email her your thoughts, ideas and questions.
  • Oliver ‘soulwarrior’ Gehrmann

    I read the review and while I didn’t agree with the final verdict, I did at least see where he was coming from. The same was not true for the other negative reviews of this movie that I read out of curiosity. So I think Michael did a good job in that regard.
    I like to see that this site seems to be trying to learn and I might check out some other contents in the future as I’m slightly intrigued by the premise of the site. :-)

  • Carnivale

    You’ve missed the primary reason why the review attracted such vitriol: timing. The review was added to Rotten Tomatoes on 15th April when the film had 100% based on a relatively small number of reviews. The film wasn’t due to be released in the US until May 6th, so more reviews were very slow to come in. The next negative review wasn’t posted until 28th April, meaning there were 13 days when Michael Fairbanks’ review was the one and only negative review for a highly anticipated, popular, fan-driven movie – a movie that was more than likely to receive near universal critical acclaim, and a movie that had already been the source of a multitude of heated internet wars. The internet mob mentality kicked in and vilified Michael Fairbanks as the one person who destroyed Civil War’s perfect 100% Tomatometer for 13 uninterrupted days, which is practically an eon in the lifespan of the internet. Adding the review to RT so early was an obvious blunder, given the special circumstances that surrounded Captain America: Civil War. This poor decision contributed to Michael Fairbanks and your site becoming exposed to a exceptional amount of negativity.

    As I write this comment, Captain America: Civil War has 210 reviews, 17 of which are negative. You can bet that the critic who wrote the 17th negative review hasn’t received the overwhelming amount of negativity that Michael Fairbanks did. If this situation ever happens in future (that is, a situation where you are going to post the first negative review for a highly anticipated, popular, fan-driven movie) my advice is simply to hold off adding the review to Rotten Tomatoes until the majority of reviews have been added. Post it on your website whenever you want, but don’t add it to RT so early. As you have already noted, your contributors are young, relatively inexperienced people who don’t get paid. Let older, more experienced, paid critics suffer the ire of the internet for being the first person to post a negative review for the next fan-driven blockbuster. They are better equipped to handle it.

    • Thanks for your comment. I did state in the letter that I should have waited to post the review closer to the release date, so I don’t believe your point is one I missed. Also, I apologize that I don’t spend much time visiting Rotten Tomatoes all day long to check the status of movie scores before adding ours because NEWS FLASH: most editors and critics aren’t that concerned with RT scores and how we affect them – especially for blockbusters like this one which audiences will see no matter how “fresh” or “rotten” it is.

      Regardless of posting this review early or not, I still don’t think we deserved the threats and insults hurled our way. There is no justification for that type of behavior.

      • Carnivale

        Of course you didn’t deserve the threats and insults, but you might have expected them had you been more attuned to RT culture. I understand totally that you’ve got other things to be concerned about besides what’s going on at RT, but I very much think you need to become more familiar with the very specific culture that has formed at that site, which is totally different to the culture at this site and every other site on the internet. You can’t cross post from one site to another, exposing your content to a totally different group of readers with totally different normal modes of engagement and expect the same results. You need to understand how different online communities operate and modify your approach accordingly. For example, earlier in the year Zootopia was also on 100%, and the first critic to post a negative review got bombarded with negativity in a similar way to this site. While last year the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 had 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and the first critic to post a positive review got slammed with the same sort of negativity. Earlier this year RT users cheered as the negative reviews for The Divergent Series: Allegiant started to roll in and the Tomatometer plummeted drastically towards single digits, exactly as they did last year for Mortdecai. There’s an obvious, predictable pattern in how RT users respond to reviews. It’s not random, it’s not “just the internet.” If you are going to share your reviews for the RT audience, then you should at least acknowledge the culture of that audience and anticipate how they are likely to engage with what you post. Saying that you aren’t concerned with RT is a cop out. It’s tantamount to saying you aren’t concerned with your readers. If you are going to continue using RT, you should be more concerned with RT.

        • That’s a good point, and I will consider the RT audience in the future.