Our purpose

We believe that to live well in an age when everything moves at breakneck speed, we need to take the time to investigate what’s really going on, to make sense of the forces shaping our future.

We are a different kind of newsroom. Not breaking news, but what’s driving the news. Not the news as it happens, but when it’s ready.

We want to open up journalism. To give everyone a seat at the table. To create a system of organised listening.

We offer a concise point of view – informing, and informed by, you. A place, in the real world and the digital one, where you can come, learn and tell us what you think. A live, unscripted discussion in our newsroom. A daily, digital edition on your phone.

We’d love you to become a Tortoise member and, as and when you want, a contributor to our journalism. To help us understand the issues and work on the ideas that can make for a better 21st century.

Our mission to open up journalism needs the variety and views of our members. We want people from all walks of life to take a seat at the table.

Become a member for as little as £10, by pledging your support on Kickstarter today.

Tortoise is a response to two problems

The daily 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. In a hurry, partial and confusing. Too many newsrooms chasing the news, but missing the story.

The power gap The divide between the powerful and the powerless is widening. We feel locked out. Alarmed by the lack of vision, hungry for leadership in business, technology and society. We believe in responsibility; we care about dignity.


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.

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. Digitally and physically. Tune in or come in. We want to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise.


We are focused on the Big Five forces shaping our lives: technology, natural resources, identity, finance and longevity. We’re not going to cover press conferences. We’re not racing after breaking news. We won’t just report on stories; we’ll take an interest in them. We care what happens next.    

We’ll produce the Tortoise Daily, the digital edition for your mobile: it’s a slow newsfeed, limited to no more than five concise pieces, landing once a day in your app or inbox. And, every three months, you’ll get the Tortoise Quarterly, a small book of big reads through your letterbox.

We will make commitments to you, our members. 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 want to build a journalism that lasts. A business model that’s responsible and sustainable.

We’re not going to take ads, we’ll never sell or give away your data. We’re not owned by a proprietor with an axe to grind. We’re independent of political party or commercial agenda.  

That’s why it’s not simply about driving readership or just selling subscriptions. It’s about membership – being part of it is more important than just paying for it.

We need you to be our members. Yes, to fund investigations and reporting. But also to drive us to the stories that need telling and ideas that need sharing. To make sure we break out of the bubble. To keep us honest. To remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.  

We believe in responsibility. We care about dignity. We admire radical optimists. We think that expecting people in power to behave responsibly gives power to more people. We know great journalism can make history.

Our team

James Harding
Co-Founder &

James was Director of BBC News and before that was Editor of The Times.

Katie Vanneck-Smith
Co-Founder &

Katie was the President of the Wall Street Journal/ Dow Jones.  

Matthew Barzun
Co-founder &

Matthew was US Ambassador to Sweden and then the UK.

Ceci Kurzman
Independent Director

Ceci founded Nexus Management and previously worked at Epic/ Sony Music.

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.”

Slow down. Wise up. Join in.