Last Wednesday, Halifax journalist Tim Bousquet held a birthday celebration for his one-year-old news site, the Halifax Examiner.

By Chantal Braganza, Associate Editor

Last Wednesday, Halifax journalist Tim Bousquet held a birthday celebration for his one-year-old news site, the Halifax Examiner. At a bar near the city’s waterfront, subscribers and casual readers alike gathered to hear a couple of local bands and talk shop with Bousquet, who has managed the editorial and publishing operations of the site himself since last June. “It was wonderful,” he said. “Quite a few people showed up.”

When he left his job as news editor at local alt-weekly The Coast last year to launch the Examiner, Bousquet billed the operation as an independent, subscriber-funded news source that focused on investigative and adversarial journalism. Having covered city hall at The Coast for seven years prior, and having broken a story about then-Halifax mayor Peter Kelly in 2012 that eventually saw the three-term politician’s exit from politics, Bousquet isn’t new to this kind of reporting. In the 12 months since he and a team of freelancers have covered stories from conflict-of-interest issues among columnists at the Halifax Chronicle Herald to mishandled investments by Nova Scotia Business Inc., a publicly owned? Funded? business development organization. 

“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,” he told J-Source at the time. “It was also getting into advertorials and that’s not something that sits well with me.”

Bousquet is also not new to startups. After a stints as a student, city council candidate and later a newspaper columnist in Chico, Calif., he launched The Chico Examiner in the mid-’90s after finding himself spending more and more time in city hall. “In California and a lot of places in the States, there were all these little one-man-operations, almost all men, running weekly papers,” he said. “Cranky people, basically, and all across the political spectrum. There’s probably five or six of these guys in the surrounding counties.”

“When I got out of college I’d go to our local city council meeting and would write up 8 1/2 sheets for my friends. Over time, that morphed into a 24-page paper,” he said. “It’s how I got into journalism. I did my own thing for about five years. I did the layout, sold the ads, everything.”

This time around, Bousquet would like to hire administrative help to help with the accounting, subscriptions and day-to-day management of the site, once his budget allows for it. Unlike Chico, the Halifax Examiner is entirely subscriber-funded, a model he says has allowed him to break even so far on the site’s startup costs, and one he’s firm on sticking to. “I’m pretty adamantly averse to advertising. There would have to be a pretty big change in circumstances—I’m not sure what it would look like to go down that route. It’s possible that someone could make an offer I couldn’t refuse, but I’d almost rather close the Examiner down than go that route, and be a freelance reporter. Or work at a hamburger joint.”