Why I need 'The Companion'
The word ‘need’ is often used in hyperbole. Do you really need something or do you just want it? Of course, there are certain essentials that humans truly do need such as food, water and sleep, but when do people need other things that aren’t essential to living or dying? When do we need to love and be loved? When do we need to have fun? When do we need to fulfill a passion or desire? Can that word still apply to those sentiments? I think so. For me personally, I need to watch films. It’s my biggest passion. Without them, I wouldn’t be as happy or as fulfilled.
So why do I need The Companion?
For me, it’s simple, personal and quite unique. I need The Companion, because I need redemption.
I know this is very odd so I’ll clarify exactly what I mean. Of course I want it to exist because it’s something I would use every day, it’s something I’d share with my friends and it’s a place I could visit to dive deeper and venture further into the sci-fi shows or films I already love (or even ones I've never seen!). But those encapsulate quite well why The Companion is something that I really want, not need.
I have a background in freelance journalism. This all started when I was 16 years old and wanted to work in the film industry. I was constantly met with the same cliche statement of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, and I was desperate to know someone - anyone! This led me to the decision that I would break into at least one subset of the industry. I'd become an independent film critic and journalist. So I started a film, tv and video game blog with a good friend of mine and we began to write daily about the industry. I’ll skip over this story in large chunks, often years at a time, but this led to me being invited to screenings, events and junkets. I was even able to interview filmmakers, actors and video game professionals. I really started to make some progress on my goal.
This self-start led to opportunities to write for some other publications that already had an audience - I thought that would be it, I was in! I was wrong, or at least my expectations weren’t met. I was definitely able to write for more readers and I unlocked more opportunities such as covering the red carpet premiere of a major sci-fi film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But there was a downside. A toll I would have to pay. You see, there was one major thing with these publications that I hadn’t accounted for:
It wasn’t just the headlines (which I wasn't allowed to write), it was the content of the articles too. There was immense pressure to write 200-300 word articles within minutes of our competitors posting something, or fewer words if we had our own ‘scoop’ that we needed to publish before anyone else, to make sure we got the coveted 'exclusive'. It wouldn’t be strange for a 25 word article to be published below a headline just so we could claim that we broke it first and then fill it out later.
Quite frankly, I’m disgusted by some of the work I put out at that time. It’s not what I signed up for. It became a game of trying to hide work I could be proud of within the garbage I had to write. It was far from where I wanted, or needed to be. It was a truly toxic environment to be working in.
That’s where I hope The Companion is different. My North Star vision of The Companion not only features articulate, long form and insightful content, but it actively stands for a certain standard of quality in the industry - a standard that I hope others will follow. I’ve contributed to my share of cheap, substance-less (and frankly bad) writing to the world of film journalism. Now, I feel that I need The Companion, not only to improve the experience I have with my favourite genre, but so that I can feel redeemed for the awful work I did all those years ago.
I know it’s incredibly selfish of me to think of The Companion in this way, but I think it’s an important perspective too. There are many, many writers out there who will feel the same as I do and will feel like The Companion existing will offer hope for them too to be redeemed. I truly believe that just by having it exist, will be a step toward improving the whole landscape of entertainment journalism.
Are their great examples of this already? Yes, of course. But, for now at least, they’re few and far between. In my (admittedly limited) experience, it’s often the case that a great writer would be in a position to be able to write "one for the them and one for me" where the 'one for them’ is the sellout clickbait piece they need to churn out and the ‘one for me’ is a passion piece they’ve been thinking about and wanting to write for a while. I hope every piece published on The Companion will fall into that 'one for me' category. And hopefully you'll consider it 'one for you' as well.
We live in an age of fake news and clickbait. Where journalism is a race to be first, not thorough. Where a 'click' is more valuable than a 'read'. But there are certain publications out there that are going against the grain in their own industries such as The Athletic in sports or Tortoise in World News. These outlets have not only created something great for their audiences but they’ve driven their competitors to be better just to keep up. Well do you know what’s just as important to me as sports and world news? Science Fiction. I think it deserves the same level of all round quality.
Not only do I hope this is something The Companion can provide, but I genuinely hope everyone else tries to keep up. I don’t want the editors I used to write for (and the hundreds of others like them) to be telling the emerging talent to get 200 words out as quickly as possible without properly researching. Or for them to encourage writers to copy and paste a press release in less then ten minutes from it being blasted from a publicist. I want them to tell their writers to read The Companion and simply say “Can you write like this? Can you at least give it a shot?”. Then, even if they don’t quite get there, maybe I can feel the sense of redemption I’m hoping for.