Tortoise: a new approach to news?

With a focus on slow news and live debates, Tortoise has positioned itself as a brand for people feeling exhausted by 24-hour news. We talk to Co-founder Katie Vanneck-Smith and Creative Director Jon Hill about the brand’s approach and the future of news journalism

At 6.30pm each weeknight, Tortoise hosts an hour-long debate in its London newsroom. Each of these debates – or ‘ThinkIns’ as they’re known at Tortoise – is focused on a single topic: Why is racism on the rise in football? Who should teach children about sex education? Can we save the seas? A journalist kicks off each session, posing questions for the audience to discuss in a homely office that looks more like the lobby of a boutique hotel than your average newsroom.

Tortoise describes its ThinkIns as a platform for ‘organised listening’. Events are open to Tortoise’s members or paying guests (tickets cost £25, and those who can’t make it in person can join in via a live web stream) but the brand has also taken its ThinkIns on the road, visiting a Nando’s in Dover to discuss Brexit and a refugee camp in Lesvos to talk about immigration, and opening up discussions to a wider audience.

Our aspiration is to be out of the newsroom and on the road at least every other week,” says Co-founder Katie Vanneck-Smith. “Members are invited, but we will actively make sure we’re bringing other people into that conversation too,” she explains.