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October 17, 2018updated 06 Mar 2023 9:26am

‘Slow news’ venture Tortoise Media quick to smash fundraising target of £75,000 within hours of launch

By Charlotte Tobitt

The new “slow news” venture led by former Times editor and BBC News director James Harding was quick to smash its fundraising target of £75,000 last night, doing so within a matter of hours.

Tortoise Media, which is selling founding memberships ahead of its launch next year, has raised more than £131,000 from nearly 500 people at the time of writing.

The project promises “open journalism” and a “different kind of newsroom” which will be run open news conferences called “Thinkins”. A digital edition, on app and online, is set to go live in January.

It uses the motto: “slow down, wise up”, with the team saying: “We don’t do breaking news, but what’s driving the news. Not the news as it happens, but when it’s ready.”

Tortoise will publish just five stories a day on its app, website or email newsletter, it has said.

The founders comprise Harding alongside former Dow Jones president Katie Vanneck-Smith, former US ambassador to Sweden Matthew Barzun and Ceci Kurzman.

They said they wanted it to be the biggest crowdfunding campaign page for a journalism project in Kickstarter history.

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On the fundraising page, they said: “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.”

Supporters of the campaign are invited to pledge between £1 and £8,000.

Four people have already pledged £8,000 to become a patron, the package which the founders said would enable them to take their Tortoise on tour to prisons, hospitals, places of worship and other places to “hear from as many different and varied voices and views as possible”.

Patrons also receive recognition on a wall at the Tortoise office – set to be based in London – and in all its notes and Thinkins, as well as a dinner in their honour, lifetime membership, two tickets to the launch party in the spring, a handwritten thank you letter and Tortoise Quarterly.

Twenty-six other people have pledged £1,000 or more to become either five-year members or £2,500 to become lifetime members.

In a video on the Kickstarter page, Vanneck-Smith said: “We want to be a new choice for people, who are looking for something a little more thoughtful, a little less overwhelming.”

On the Thinkin concept, she said it would be a “live event where you have James or another editor host a conversation in the room to hear from everybody in the room”.

“It’s a system for us to listen to different voices, but to inform and have a better point of view.”

Harding added: “If we get that right [it] should lead us to a different kind of journalism, and one that I hope that people will feel they can not just get a handle on the world from but also feel they can be a part of.”

Ahead of launching the Kickstarter yesterday, Tortoise announced it had hired Newsnight policy editor Christopher Cook.

Cook said: “This coming February will mark five years for me at Newsnight. I’ve done two general elections, two referendums, had a hand in two Royal Television Society awards and suffered hundreds of late nights. It’s time for something new.

“This is a hard call for me – the programme is doing well. I do regret not spending more time working for [Newsnight editor] Esme Wren.

It’s also a delight to be able to spend your working day with friends – creative, smart and fun friends at that.

“But I’m enormously excited to be joining Tortoise. It’s not just building something from the ground up, it’s building something new. A proper adventure.”

Tortoise launched yesterday on Twitter, where it has bought the @Tortoise handle.

Tweets by the previous account holder have been deleted but can still be seen in advanced searches. They include: “I ain’t no hipster, but girl I can make your hips stir,” and: “Michael Jackson is my shit.”

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