As part of Portland’s Behind the News series, we hosted Chris Cook, known for his most recent role as Newsnight Policy Editor but who has recently joined the ‘slow news’ start-up Tortoise Media. Here’s a quick rundown of what we learned from Chris at the event:
- During his time at Newsnight, Chris found there are some stories (particularly detailed technical or policy-related stories) that simply don’t present well on TV, footage might be out of date or no longer represent depending on where the story has progressed to – worth remembering when pitching and considering proactive stories and in more reactive situations.
- Tortoise (where Chris has recently joined) seeks to go beyond day-to-day news reporting, exploring underlying issues or ‘the bigger questions’ – for example rather than debating day-to-day updates on Brexit, they identified that support for a re-run would depend on the question, and commissioned a ‘long read’ analytical article focused on the impact different questions would have.
- That said, Tortoise is working hard to not be a group of liberal metropolitans complaining about Brexit: approximately 40% members are under 30, and they’re all engaged and active participants in the Tortoise approach. There’s a real sense of community among members which further drives debate and engagement as well as editorial appetite to pursue certain stories or angles on emerging issues. Members can take part in regular ‘think ins’, modeled on conventional story conferences but with readers participating in the discussion.
- Tortoise is not only unconventional in its approach to identifying which stories to pursue, the editorial team are seeking to address an imbalance in the coverage of certain 21st century trends. The team at Tortoise are keen to reframe influential organisations and brands such as Facebook for the influence they hold over society. Conventional reporting tends to cover such firms in a classic ‘business news story’ fashion rather than a cultural or social phenomenon.
- The current batch of subscribers, all of whom came from the organisations crowdfunding roots, are mostly from Britain, big minority of US members. With another larger group of English-speaking Europeans too. Subscriptions are due to open for new subscribers in the coming weeks. The site is in beta while the team tinker with various features and refine Tortoises activity. It should be business as usual by the end of March.
The next Behind the News will be on Thursday the 28th February. Reserve your place here.