Q&A with Tim Bousquet on the launch of Halifax Examiner
When Tim Bousquet announced he was leaving Halifax weekly The Coast to launch his new venture, there was a lot of buzz. J-Source interviewed the award-winning journalist about the Halifax Examiner.
By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor
When Tim Bousquet announced he was leaving Halifax weekly The Coast to launch a new venture, there was a lot of buzz. Bousquet made his mark with groundbreaking investigations, such as his reporting on then-mayor Peter Kelly’s impropriety in handling the estate of a family friend, and won several awards.
On June 18, Bousquet unveiled his new website: Halifax Examiner. The site promptly crashed as it was overwhelmed with readers trying to load it.
J-Source: Give us the elevator pitch for the Halifax Examiner.
Tim Bousquet: I’ve been a reporter in Halifax for some eight years and people know what I’m capable of. They know the kind of investigations I’ve done and the day-to-day coverage of city hall that I do. The Halifax Examiner will have that same adversarial reporting that will focus on holding power to account.
J-Source: But then why leave The Coast if you were going to do more of the same?
TB: I was in that point in my career where I was ready for a bigger challenge and I couldn’t do that at The Coast. It was also getting into advertorials and that’s not something that sits well with me.
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J-Source: Will you be trying new things with the Halifax Examiner?
TB: Yes, campus issues are something that I feel does not get enough media attention. And we have a lot of university communities here and they’re doing lots of really interesting things. I also want to bring in more historical context into the coverage … what that looks like is something we’ll develop over time.
J-Source: Tell us about the business model for the Halifax Examiner.
TB: It’s behind a partial paywall. The content will be mostly free—the daily posts, that is—but anything that I pay a freelancer for or is a big investigative piece or something that took a lot of time, that will be behind a paywall. I think it’s quite affordable.
(Subscriptions cost $10 monthly, $5 monthly for students and $20 monthly for businesses. Halifax Examiner is also hoping some readers will pay $25 monthly for “sustainer subscriptions” and $500 one-time to help Bousquet recover the costs of starting the business.)
J-Source: And will you be hiring or doing everything yourself?
TB: I have hired some freelancers to do some work, like a piece we’re working on about the Halifax explosion. I’ll be discovering how much time it takes me to do the business side of things versus the reporting. The website is pretty clean and there are no advertisements, my expenses are pretty straightforward, so I’m hoping the business side won’t be too time consuming.
J-Source: Will you be paying your freelancers?
TB: Yes, let’s just say it will be more than The Coast and less than OpenFile. I’m not a fan of the per-word payment, so it will depend on the scope of the project. Something that is a daily report won’t get paid as much as something really investigative.
J-Source: Lastly, what made you decide to take this risk and start your own journalism business model?
TB: I really believe the future of journalism is not the large legacy media but individual reporters with a following. And I feel in Halifax, I am well-placed to do that because I have a brand that people know. I’ll be shocked if I make as much money as I did at The Coast—and that wasn’t a lot, by the way, and it will probably take a year or two before I can call it a success. But success for me isn’t about the money. It’s about doing good work. I want to feel good about the product I put out, shake some things up and that’s not just a throwaway comment. I really believe in good journalism and I’m very excited about this project.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.