Tortoise Media
Keeping up with the news in the current world can be challenging. Tortoise Media hopes to change that with its slow journalism.

Keeping up with the news in the current world can be challenging. Tortoise Media hopes to change that with its slow journalism.

The news can be complex, chaotic and convoluted. It is easy to become overwhelmed and even apathetic in the face of too much information.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s 2017 Digital News Report shows that over half of the population worldwide suffers from “news fatigue”. 57 per cent of the interviewees said they “sometimes” or “often” avoided the news, finding it untrustworthy and upsetting.

As Michael Luo wrote in a New Yorker article, the current news system needs a change. In an age of viral content on social media, delivering information is quicker and easier. But reading more news does not necessarily bring a better understanding of our times.

A new set of challenges raises for journalism. One way to face it is a more precise and focused engagement with the news: the rise of slow journalism.

The Tortoise Media case 

So, what is it? Slow journalism aims to offer people analyses of stories and tries to explain the news instead of just breaking it. The focus is on regular engagement and building its own readership rather than getting sporadic visitors from social networks, Google searches and clickbait.

A more thoughtful attitude towards the way we read the news is at the base of Tortoise Media, the slow news venture launched by James Harding, former director of BBC News and editor of The Times.

Together with Katie Vanneck-Smith, former president of Dow Jones, and Matthew Barzun, former US Ambassador to the UK, Harding launched Tortoise in April, following a crowdfunding campaign that raised almost £540,000.

They publish a maximum of five digital stories a day, along with a quarterly print magazine. The company also aims to open up the process of the creation of news by hosting ‘Think-ins: live, unscripted conversations that aim to harness the diverse experience and expertise of members on the hottest trending topics. 

We asked Giles Whittell, world affairs editor at Tortoise and former Times correspondent, about the differences between the two newsrooms. “In a newspaper, you are constantly looking over your shoulder,” he said. “If you are a correspondent, you want to spend your time breaking news stories and covering new ground. You are constantly checking up on the competition and being asked by your editors to cover stories. At Tortoise, it is all original.”

What’s next for slow news?

When asked if slow journalism will replace headline news, Whittell said he doesn’t expect most news consumers to “switch away from the crack cocaine of headline- and social media-driven news”. Instead, he suggests the two media models will co-exist.

This allows readers to divulge into long-form slow news one day and scan tabloid headlines the next. The slow news format depends on loyal readership and detailed interest on certain subjects, but in giving readers a chance to be part of the news, they have created a journalism platform that renews the public’s trust in the media.

This is essential for the future of the media. A 2019 IPSOS report found that, globally, “more people have little or no trust in online news websites and platforms (50 per cent) than have a great deal or a fair amount of trust (45 per cent)”.

The prioritisation of accuracy over speed can, therefore, help restore this trust in the media with interesting and meticulous content.

Why is slow news for students?

Between lectures, readings, assignments and Christmas socialising, it can be hard to keep up with the world as a student. Anything that minimises stress in the lead up to January exams is a good thing in our books.

Consider a subscription to slow news an early Christmas present to yourself. Keep up to date on current affairs and global news stories at your own pace.

Tortoise is giving away 5,000 free memberships for students (usually worth £250). We publish a daily sense-maker newsletter that streamlines the top news stories, which includes a new ‘Never Mind the Ballots’ edition to help simplify the chaotic coverage of the upcoming British election. 

The app (on the App Store and Google Play) is equally concise and punctuated by comic illustrations. You’ll never be short of current affairs trivia or ideas for projects and essays at university.

The membership also includes free tickets to their Think-ins (a complete steal compared to the door price of £25). Hosted at the Tortoise HQ, these are a great way to get inspiration for articles, network with some of the best in the industry and have your voice heard on topics you’re passionate about while having a couple of free drinks.

Click here for the student membership.

Check out the Tortoise website here.