UPDATE: Introducing the Beta membership
Tortoise will go live in beta this January. From that point, we need as many true opinions, fresh ideas and challenging perspectives as we can get on what we do and how we do it.
For just £24, you can get the Tortoise Daily for three months and two tickets to a ThinkIn. Experience Tortoise and help us make it as good as it can be.
Kickstarter closes 6pm Friday
3,000 reasons to keep going
Open journalism depends on hearing as many different voices as we can. We may have hit our financial target, but our next goal is to grow the membership to 3,000 people. The bigger the community, the stronger the newsroom. This is what we’re all here for. With your help, we’re determined to make it happen.
Katie and James
We have a problem: news has become noise
We are overwhelmed by information. The problem isn’t just fake news or junk news, because there’s a lot that’s good – it’s just that there’s so much of it, and so much of it is the same. Most of it is in a hurry. A lot is partial and confusing. Too many people chasing the news, but missing the story. It’s made people anxious and distrustful. It’s not nearly fun or funny enough. No wonder we’ve all been feeling bewildered and, frankly, exhausted. Drowned out and locked out of power.
We believe it’s time that changed.
To learn how to live well in a world where everything moves at breakneck speed, we believe we need to slow down to wise up.
We are building a different kind of journalism. One that opens up. Gives everyone a seat at the table. Creates a system of organised listening. News that reflects the way we really are and shapes the world we want to live in.
We’d love you to join us.
What we do:
- Open news conferences – the ThinkIn. You will be able to dial in, listen in or walk in and be part of the live, unscripted conversation each evening – Monday-Thursdays – in our newsroom that informs our point of view.
- A slow newsfeed – the Tortoise daily. Our digital edition lands in the app, on the website or your inbox once a day, weekdays, running to no more than five concise pieces, each tackling one subject or story, in depth.
- A small book of big reads – the Tortoise quarterly. Modern fables, true tales, old stories re-examined, new ones revealed. The news, not as it happens, but when it’s ready.
Who we are:
The co-founders of Tortoise are James Harding, Katie Vanneck-Smith and Matthew Barzun. Ceci Kurzman is the Independent Director.
- James was the Editor of The Times and then ran BBC News.
- Katie was the President of the Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones.
- Matthew was US Ambassador to Sweden and then the UK.
- Ceci founded Nexus Management and previously worked at Epic/Sony Music.
They have chosen to start something new.
Opening up journalism:
We’ve worked on plenty of projects with codenames. We’ve been in enough meetings behind closed doors. We think we’ll do better work by opening up.
- We think everyone should have a seat at the table.
- We’d like you to become a member of our newsroom.
- We’re interested in getting the best stories – or the best angles on them.
- We want to be systematic.
- We’re committed to organised listening.
- We’ll go out of our way to hear from other people.
At the heart of what we do is the ThinkIn. It’s modelled on what we call a leader conference in the UK, an editorial board in the US. It’s a forum for civilised disagreement. A place to sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. We’re opening it up to you. Every evening, Monday to Thursday, we’ll throw open the doors to our London newsroom. Digitally and physically. Tune in or come in. We want to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise.
Don’t worry if you think you don’t know enough to comment – we all feel that way. So we prepare Tortoise Notes for every ThinkIn – an all you need to know guide to the subject we’re discussing, whether it’s cryptocurrencies or the Marvel movie franchises, the state of racism or the rise of veganism. And when the conversation is done, we don’t drift off. We provide the Tortoise Take – our point of view, informed by what we’ve heard.
And to make sure we don’t just listen to the same voices, we’re committed to taking our newsroom on the road – a ThinkIn every other week to hear voices that too often go unheard – Tortoise on Tour.
Not breaking news but what’s driving it:
What’s different about us is slow news. We don’t do breaking news, but what’s driving the news. We don’t cover every story, but reveal a few. We take the time to see the fuller picture, to make sense of the forces shaping our future, to investigate what’s unseen.
We are focused on the Big Five forces shaping our lives, our societies, our world:
- Natural resources
We’re not going to cover press conferences. We’re not racing after breaking news. We’re not going to recreate the old structures in newsrooms: political editors, economics editors, etc.
We will, though, make commitments to you. We’ll show you our workings. We’ll let you know when we’ve fallen short. We’ll front up when we’ve campaigned hard but got nowhere. We will see stories through. Don’t be surprised if you find a moral at the end. We don’t just report on stories; we take an interest in them. We care what happens next.
Here are the kinds of things we’re working on, the case files we’re opening:
- Reporting GAFA: treating Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple as countries, not companies
- Trip adviser: how the internet has changed economics and enforcement in the drugs world
- Tax: Ah, the joy of contribution…who does pay, who doesn’t, who should
- Morals of Marvel: lessons in life and business from reimagined superheroes
We believe we need a new kind of journalism that helps answer two problems of our times.
- The daily noise
- The power gap
We believe in responsibility. We care about dignity. We want to learn how to live in a world where change is accelerating. We want to open up journalism to understand the issues and work on the ideas that make for a better 21st century.
Why it’s different:
Obviously, we’re independent. We’re not party political and won’t be. We don’t have a commercial agenda and we won’t carry water for special interests. We'll reject any whiff of owner interference: we don’t have a single proprietor, but a mix of minority investors. We’re not going to carry ads or amass eyeballs to sell your cookies. Take it from us, there isn’t a news organisation in the world that operates anything like this…
- We are a membership business, built for and with our members.
- Our newsroom will be (literally) open to our members.
- There’ll be no ads. Tortoise will be blissfully pop-up free.
- We’ll never, ever, sell or share our members’ data.
- We can look you in the eye and tell you we call it as we see it.
The Kickstarter community is brilliant at mobilising behind ideas that matter. We would love you to join in become Founding Members, help us shape our ideas and product whilst in Beta, and whilst we are at it: try together to be the biggest campaign in Kickstarter journalism history.
If we do, we’ll have the best possible chance to create a new type of newsroom, a new way of organised listening, and a sustainable future for journalism. The more people that come on board, the wider the range of voices contributing, the better the chance we’ll have to make this amazing. We hope you’ll choose one of the pledges – from £1 to £8,000 – and join us.
Just in case the brag factor of joining our newsroom as a founding member isn’t enough, we’ve put together some irresistible rewards.
First and foremost, our biggest reward as our thanks to you, is a huge Kickstarter special discount on all our membership prices. When we launch publicly in Spring 2019 – individual membership will be £250 a year.
Each pledge is explained in more detail in the rewards section, but to further whet your appetite, here are the highlights:
- Spectacular deals on one year, three year, five year and lifetime memberships
- VIP experiences - from tickets to our launch party to dinner with the founders
- For a lucky few, your very own chair in our new HQ
- And our limited edition, highly covetable merch - a lovely book bag, gorgeous letter writing set and “Slow Down, Wise Up” digital poster
Here are a few early designs...
What will your contribution support?
All the money you pledge will fund open journalism directly – literally, it will pay the reporters’ salaries so they can do their investigative work.
It will also go on the platform, the design, the live ThinkIns, and it’ll help take Tortoise on Tour to places of worship, retirement homes, prisons, schools all over the world, to the places where different voices are heard. All the essential elements of Tortoise.
What happens next?
Our Kickstarter campaign runs from 16 Oct to 15 Nov, 2018 and we’ll email regular updates during the campaign to pledgers.
The first digital edition of Tortoise will go live in January 2019.
The ThinkIns have already started and we’d love to see you if you can make it. Consider this an open invitation to join us even before becoming a member. Here’s a summary of a few we’ve got coming up.
The Politics of the Party: Labour
With over half a million members, Labour has the highest membership of any party in western Europe. How do we square that fact with the idea that political parties have a gloomy future? Are all political parties actually becoming obstacles to democracy?
- When: Monday 19 November, 6.00-7.30pm
- Where: Fora, 9 Dallington St, Clerkenwell, London, EC1V 0LN
- To RSVP, follow this Eventbrite link: https://bit.ly/2RNKfLR
The Joy of Abstinence: Switch off and recharge?
Human beings are brilliant at many things, but spectacularly bad at one: realising what makes us happy. We over-indulge in the search for a dopamine hit, but long-term happiness is about doing the right things not doing the most things. Online, the odds are stacked against us. There’s a whole industry built on keeping us hooked. How do we switch off and make ourselves happier?
- When: Wednesday 21 November, 6.30-8.00pm
- Where: Fora, 9 Dallington St, Clerkenwell, London, EC1V 0LN
- To RSVP, follow this Eventbrite link: https://bit.ly/2Frpkx4
A modern fable
Once upon a time, there was a race to understand the world.
Everyone hurried off all over everywhere to find out about everything. All but one, who set off deliberately and thoughtfully.
“We have too much information and too little time,” she observed, choosing to explore a few things that really mattered, more deeply.
The others moved faster and faster, produced more and more, but it added up to less and less. They saw it all. It was a blur. They were dizzy and had to have a lie down.
Meanwhile, she took her time, chose some subjects, sought out the people who knew and listened. She paid them attention. She saw less and saw it clearly. She won.
“There’s a moral to this story,” she said – she was something of a moraliser. “Slow down. Wise up.”
A thank you from the Tortoise Founders
Risks and challenges
We genuinely believe the risks are low. Our founders have decades of experience between them in news businesses, James on the reporting side and Katie on the business side. They’ve assembled an incredible team of talented and experienced people – writers, designers, events pros and more – who believe passionately in what we’re doing and are working hard to make it a reality.
We’ve had some fantastic support already at the ThinkIns and there’s already a buzz about the project from other parts of the media. We’re currently on track to put the website and app live in January 2019 and although we’ve been very cautious with our product delivery timeline, the main risk is that with any big tech build there is a chance of some last-minute unforeseeable gremlins. In that worst-case scenario, our Kickstarter supporters will be the first to know (and of course, the charge for memberships will only start from the date we open up the site for Founding Members).
The merch is all being manufactured here in the UK, so if we hit a snag with deliveries we’ll just go and pick it up in a van.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)