BP and Tortoise Media

An email lands from a great looking new media outfit promising something called ‘ThinkIns’ and inviting people to “to become a member of our newsroom.”

Tortoise media we’re told is the invention of James Harding former director of BBC News, Katie Vanneck Smith of the Wall Street Journal and Matthew Barzun, Obama’s ambassador to the U.K.

In it’s blurb, quoting Aesop’s fables and promising a sort of slow journalism it pleads:

“We are, let’s face it, a tiny journalism start-up. We’ve only recently moved out of my kitchen. We don’t have a manifesto. We’re not running for office; we’ve only just rented one.”

The model is similar to  De Correspondent only with more money sloshing about. This is the corporate takeover of citizens media, airbrushed with a bit of slow news:

“What’s different about us is slow news. We don’t do breaking news, but what’s driving the news. We don’t cover every story, but reveal a few. We take the time to see the fuller picture, to make sense of the forces shaping our future, to investigate what’s unseen.”

The email is asking for contact with a young climate activist who has written for Bella.

The activist is invited to a ‘ThinkIn’ which it describes as:

“In terms of format, it’s an ‘in conversation’ discussion between the editor, specially invited guests like yourself and the audience, which predominantly consists of Tortoise members – it’s very interactive. We really look to get everyone involved. We’ll write up about the discussion afterwards – record and film it in order to watch it back and perhaps edit and share on social platforms.”

The first ‘ThinkIn’ is on climate change and asks:  “Whose job is it to fight climate change, activists, voters or the people they elect?”

Great question Tortoise, who?

Lower down the blurb explains:

“This ThinkIn is being held in partnership with BP. Our journalism is funded by our members and our partners. We are establishing Founding Partnerships with a small group of businesses willing to back a new form of journalism, enable the public debate, share their expertise and communicate their point of view.”


Great new innovative environmental journalism sponsored by BP?


Tortoise explains: “We believe that if we want to create real change we need everybody to engage, including big oil. We want to give everyone a seat at the table.”

Yeah BP have really been a missing voice from ‘the table’ haven’t they? Poor excluded Big Oil saved by a brave Kickstarter around James Harding’s kitchen table.


Tortoise has about as much chance of going ‘beyond corporate journalism’ as BP had going ‘Beyond Petroleum’ with its failed PR venture twenty years ago.

Other corporate sponsors include Santander and Credit Suisse, Google and Facebook. Perhaps we can look forward to ‘ThinkIn’s’ on banking reform and how to control Big Tech?

This is co-optation as groovy Kickstarter.

This is AstroTurf alternative media.

This is retired media executives playing at subversive, baffled by the problems they have been part of and compromised by the power relations they are immersed in.




Comments (11)

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  1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Mike, never heard of this ‘Outfit’ until your piece but your final para says it all!!!

  2. Millsy says:

    Surprised that they are so open with their ‘sponsors’ – or are Tortoise just a wee bit ‘slow’ on the uptake ?
    Or are they just so arrogant and confident that no one will challenge them that they hide their compromised nature in full view !

  3. Welsh Sion says:

    And is it just me – but isn’t the Membership fee rather exorbitant?

    From FAQs:

    How much does it cost to join Tortoise?

    A year’s full membership (live, digital and print) will usually be £250. At the moment, you can become a founding member for two years for £250. That’s just £2.50 a week. We also offer a live and digital annual membership for £1 a week (or £50 a year) to people aged under 30 or if you join in a group of five.

    If you’re not ready to become a member but would like to have access to our digital journalism only, download the Tortoise app (for iOS from the App Store) and subscribe for £9.99 a month or £99.99 a year.

    1. Wul says:

      Plus a potential kick-back for passing suspected “domestic extremist’s” details to our “shag-an-activist” police force?

      It’s win-win all round.

    2. The membership fee is exorbitant but probably not thought so by the founders if that’s comparable to there school fees, gymn membership etc tec

      1. Welsh Sion says:

        You’re right of course, Mr Editor.

        I was forgetting my place, right enough.

        Happy St. David’s Day in any case!


        A. (Welsh) Pleb

  4. Richard Easson says:

    Eat lettuce and hibernate.

  5. Wul says:

    A few suggestions for the Tortoise grass roots journalists to investigate as they: “….make sense of the forces shaping our future, to investigate what’s unseen.” And reveal “…what’s driving the news”

    1) Who is really funding UK’s removal from Europe and why?

    2) Why didn’t oil companies tell us, back in the 70’s, that their own research proved that they would destroy our human-friendly climate?

    3) Why can’t the sixth largest economy in the world look after it’s own citizens’ health humanely?

    4) Where did all the money go? ( From North Sea Oil? From the Empire? From The City of London? From the Industrial Revolution? From the UK’s monopoly of global shipping? From the East India Company? From the Hudson Bay Company? )

    Thank goodness for this brave, new investigative journalism outfit. We are indeed saved.

    1. Gashty McGonnard says:

      In case they don’t respond to your questions:

      1) Transnational Finance Organisations (Capitalism)

      2) Capitalism

      3) Capitalism

      4) Transnational Finance Organisations (servicing war debts) (Capitalism)

  6. SleepingDog says:

    If a tortoise shell is often just a cover for something long decayed… perfect choice, really.

  7. Josef Ó Luain says:

    “This is the corporate takeover of citizens media, airbrushed with a bit of slow news.” Nailed!

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