Tuesday 16 October 2018


I don't know if this is really very interesting, but I thought I'd share nonetheless...

Newsnight's policy editor Chris Cook is deserting the sinking current affairs flagship and moving to Tortoise - former BBC News boss James Harding's new media start-up. Former Today editor Ceri Thomas is already a Tortoise partner. And its first chairman is going to be Barack Obama's former ambassador to the UK and top fundraiser Matthew Barzun. 

Quite what Tortoise will do remains a matter of speculation. 

And that's all I've got to say about that.


  1. Hmmm...whatever they're up to I don't trust 'em.

    It's supposed to be a "slow news" operation...Harding defines this as follows:

    "Slow news means weighing in on the battle over lies, distortions, and exaggerations in the news."

    Bit ironic in a fortnight when we've had Chris Cook having to own up to putting out a pile of statistical poo in a desperate failed attempt to take down a "right wing" think tank, Jo Coburn suggesting that Gerard Batten was a violent extremist who wants to launch attacks on a religious community, Emily Maitlis indulging in an absurly aggressive exaggerated interview style when speaking to the perfectly rational Rees-Mogg (and events seem to be confirming the truth of what he was trying to tell Emily in between the interruptions).

    Of course, we know what Harding really means by "slow news": putting the boot into Trump, backing the Democrats, backing the "Rejoin the EU Campaign", putting the boot into UKIP, putting the boot into the Tories, with the exception of their soggy leftists, putting the boot into Corbyn as well I suspect, backing mass immigration, backing the continued growth of Sharia. Harding was privately educated, working at the European Commission and began his journalistic career at the FT - not a Corbynista would be my guess, though there are plenty of privately educated Corbynistas.

    All the things they back at the BBC but unrestrained by any pantomime of impartiality.

    So where's the money coming for this? Hmmm...one's mind turns to Soros and Co.

  2. The plot thickens. The poor ex-BBC folk are trying to raise £75k through crowd funder to help start the Tortoise project...


    Two points:

    1. How long do you think £75k would last with these fat cat media types at the trough? I'd say about 3 days.

    2. How come they can't just write cheques themselves for the £75K. They won't be short of a few bob.

    3. "Open" journalism? Hmm...that's a very Soros adjective. He's always funding "open" things - Open This and Open That...except he's not normally very open about it.

    1. It was Harding who set up and championed Reality Check when he was head of news at the BBC. It’s his baby.

      Enough said!

    2. They list three things coming up:

      1. ThinkIn: The State of Racism in the UK – Does the problem start in the classroom?

      It’s not that we teach racism, it’s just that we don’t teach the things that would help our children overcome it by understanding where it comes from and how it operates. We have to own our history - its failures as well as its successes - and we’ll never do that without educating ourselves properly.

      2. ThinkIn: The Anatomy of Football – So you want to be a footballer…

      At some time or another most boys, and increasingly, girls, dream of becoming professional footballers. The facts say that their chances of realising that dream are vanishingly small. And what sort of career is it anyway? We look at the hopes and harsh realities of the football industry.

      3. ThinkIn: The Question of Gender – Who decides who we are?

      Until recently, few of us would have seen gender as a civil rights issue. Many of us would have believed that gender is assigned at birth, and assumed that the number of people interested in gender rights would always put the issue in a different category from other great rights battles: women’s rights, black rights, gay rights, or disability rights. But the arguments have shifted with astonishing speed. Is it now time to say that gender is the civil rights issue of our time?

      It all sounds very BBC/Guardian.

    3. So no. 1 is simply "Transfer BBC History values to the classroom." No problem - they are pretty much there already. I love the way they just assume there's still a "we" in any meaningful sense. Over 25% of births in the UK are to mothers born abroad. There are many communities that live in virtual social isolation from all other communities. For many of them, preoccupied with ancient grievances "back home" or their religious/cultural/language identity, British history is irrelevant, an annoying imposition on their children.

      No. 2 - hmmmm...that's an odd one. What are they up to there? Only a complete cretin would think that "becoming a professional footballer" was anything other than an unrealisable childhood dream for most boys and even more so girls.

      3. Well yes, very Guardian. I guess they are backing the TGs against the Female Supremacists. So where are the women and minorities in this Tortoise project? It's all a bit male, pale and stale so far. Or is Chris Cook about to become Christine Cook?

    4. For No. 2, we should be looking ahead to the time when footballers can self-identify their gender. A women's team might take on a different look. At a golf club I heard of, one of the ladies there can hit the ball 70 yards further down the fairway than the rest.

    5. Arthur, we already have Caster Semenya in athletics.

  3. Harding has just been describing the business model of his new venture on the media show.
    The model seems to rely on membership - like the Tufty Club, but for big people.

    My impression was one of listening to an ulterior motive disguised as a media startup. Paranoia ? Don't think so.

    Control of the internet came up during the conversation and the subject of funding didn't really get further than the membership aspect.

    1. Amol Rajan has a BBC News website piece about it too headlined 'Can Harding make Slow News pay?'


      The lead investor is media mogul David Thomson (Reuters), and the backers include Bernie/Genevieve Mensah (Merrill Lynch); Saul Klein (Local Globe); and former Obama ambassador Matthew Barzun and his wife Brooke. There's a lot of seriously wealthy people involved in it.

    2. They didn't mention any investors during their pally chat on the radiogram.
      Not quite the Tufty Club then.

    3. Aha - I smell a rat.

      From Craig’s link to Amol Rajan’s piece.

      Harding argues that "two principles, liberty and fairness, guided every news organisation for much of the past century". He wants to shift from those to a focus on "dignity - the idea that everyone has a right to be recognised and respected."

      Despite not being aligned to any party, Tortoise Media will have a strong point of view, for instance on Brexit.

      Oh yes, more social liberalism then, the BBC +++ but without any constraints.

      Funded by rich left leaning libertarians - I wonder if Blair’s money is involved or Soros. The plot thickens.

    4. So this virtue signalling operation has started with a lie: that they need to crowd-fund the project with £75k when the truth is they have billionaire backing.

      Harding sounds like a font of idiotic opinion. News organisations may in the past have had a commitment to liberty - free speech - but I don't recall them ever being very interested in fairness: the aim was always to do down your enemies, big up your mates and advance your causes (true of everyone from the Morning Star, through the Sun , Guardian and Telegraph to the BBC of course).

      Now they are arguing "everyone has a right to be recognised and respected". What - everyone? Anjem Choudhary? Putin? Or do they mean "everyone we agree with"?

    5. Quite. Good point - I suspect that's exactly what they mean. "everyone we agree with".

  4. Don't be surprised if you see Tortoise in the credits for some "outsourced" BBC programme soon...I am sure they can expect a large dollop of licence fee payers' money on top of the billionaires' subvention.

  5. Like ‘slow food’, this is shaping up as by those who can afford it, for those who can afford it.

    One suspects it will however find favour with BBC ‘trends’, magazines, breakings, etc who often cite time and space constraints for their editorial selections.


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