‘Slow down, wise up’: a motto for the future of media?

What does the modern newsroom look like? The Tortoise office just off Oxford Street is today housing its Festival of Thinkins, where the focus is on discussion and thought to propel its news agenda and prospective projects. With their slogan ‘slow down, wise up’, Tortoise offers food for thought on not just what is driving the news, but a way to shape how ideas for news stories are instigated.

Effectively, this is how Tortoise took off. After an idea discussed in a Thinkin on the Labour Party last year became a popular story on LBC and then Twitter, this cemented James Harding’s sentiment that ‘the Thinkin is the engine of our journalism’.

So, who are Tortoise? Founded in 2018, their co-founders comprise of Harding (formerly editor of The Times), Katie Vanneck-Smith (formerly President of The Wall Street Journal & Dow Jones) and Matthew Barzun (former US Ambassador to Sweden, then the UK).

Tortoise is a paid-for news platform, producing non-breaking news stories everyday – grappling with questions such as climate change, democracy and other extended projects, such as ‘Separated’ – the former editor-in-chief of HuffPost, Polly Curtis’s series on the state removing children from their families.  

Not just forming a new platform via its app, Tortoise also has a physical space for discussion. This space promises to fulfil the ethos of bringing people together from different geographies, ages, and points of view. Acknowledging that there is a need for diversity of opinion, Tortoise aims to change the dynamic of paid-for journalism.

Today it launched its ‘network’ – a route for building a sustainable future for journalism by expanding its readership to those of ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds. With 42% of its member base under the age of 30, this is vastly different to the readership of most subscription-based news services.

The ‘network’ promises 3,500 memberships funded by brands and businesses for communities who cannot necessarily afford memberships; thus ensuring the newsrooms for their Thinkins are diverse enough to cope with questions of the future.

Looking to the future, today’s discussion turned to consider what else Tortoise and media platforms can do to make a difference. One member offered the thought that we should focus on finding routes around the things that we can’t fix – and being optimistic. When The Times implemented their online paywall, they took a risk which paid off. The things that we believe are immovable, may prove fixable through discussion, inter-generational conversations, and a slower approach to wisely examine the long-term issues facing our society.

Mariella Brown