The third wave of the pandemic has been painful: 22 people in Nova Scotia have died, with 22 different sets of family, friends, and loved ones left to grieve. Thousands more have fallen ill, too many landing in hospital and the ICU. All of us have suffered with worry and dread, and faced the challenges and disappointments of lockdown.
But, collectively, we’ve risen to the occasion. People have mostly followed the public health directives and restrictions, are getting vaccinated at the first opportunity, and importantly, are helping each other out when they can. As a result, case numbers are way down, vaccination numbers are way up, restrictions are loosening, and the path out of this seems clear; not too long from now we’ll be able to say, “we’ve done it.”
The Examiner has been part of that effort, I think. We continued to do all the stuff we normally do — the City Hall coverage, the investigations into gold mining and forestry, following along at Province House, the library saga, jail, and… well, everything. But we additionally dove into covering the pandemic and this now-waning third wave. And that wasn’t just me — sure, I covered the day-to-day and the briefings, but Yvette d’Entremont continues to do broader COVID reporting, Jennifer Henderson and Linda Pannozzo contribute articles about the impact on nursing homes and the science of the virus, and the whole team collaborates on our Slack channel to discuss and inform each other.
It’s important work, and I hope you’ve valued it. But I’m beyond tired. So I’m taking the weekend off. I’ll turn off the computer. Power down the phone. Ignore email and texts and Twitter and Facebook. What will I do? I don’t know. It’s been so long, I’ve forgotten how to not work. Maybe I’ll toddle around the garden, or go for a hike, or sit on a patio and people watch, or who knows, read a novel. Probably I’ll sleep a ton.
I’m realizing that I can take a weekend off — the Examiner is in capable hands, Suzanne Rent will cover the daily case numbers Saturday and Sunday, and Iris can put out any fires that may arise, while the rest of the team continues to do their amazing work.
But I’m taking the weekend as a breather before diving right back into our next big project. Let me explain.
Over the past year, readers have increased their financial support for the Examiner, so much so that I feel it’s important to provide the same kind of transparency that we ask of government. I want you to see what we do with your money.
Last month — incredibly — we saw a 8% rise in subscribers, and we now have just over 3,500 subscribers. To give that even deeper context, at the beginning of 2020, we had about 1,500 subscribers. The growth has been tremendous, and we’ve put that new subscription money mostly into more reporting. Right now, we spend about $25,000/month on payroll and freelancers. The rest of the budget goes to our legal costs (the Examiner has spent $22,699 on legal costs just on the mass murder investigation, and that’s before the reporting costs), insurance, and accounting. That doesn’t leave much left to keep the lights on and the server humming.
We’ve recently become part of the GNI Startup Labs project. This is bringing us a one-time grant of $35,000. Part of that money is used to hire Suzanne on a term editing contract, some is being used to clean up our business processes.
But the balance of the GNI grant will go into our next big project: an in-depth investigation and analysis of the local housing market. The increase in rents is, in my estimation, one of the most important impacts on our community right now, and the situation will only get worse as the COVID emergency rent control measures (such as they are) are lifted. It requires the Examiner’s full attention.
We’re going to do this housing reporting project a little differently. We’ll first speak with and listen to readers, to find out what particular issues you find important, what angles you’d like explored, and ask you how to tell what is after all a community story. Suzanne will take the lead on that reader engagement. Once we understand what it is you’re looking for from the Examiner, we will focus much of our reporting team to work on it (while of course continuing to do everything else we do).
The goal of the housing project is two-fold. Most important — and this is always most important for the Examiner — we want to do some great reporting that makes a difference in the world.
But additionally, through the housing project, we want to strengthen the Examiner as an organization. That means a lot of things. We want this kind of project to become reflexive — we’ll move from COVID to housing to the next project and then the next. We want to be your go-to place for news that matters to you. And, we want to be able to do this without burning Tim out or overtaxing anyone else.
To that end, we have goals. Through the length of the housing project, we want to increase our subscriber base from the current 3,500 to 4,000 by September 1. That’s an ambitious goal, even by the standard of our recent extraordinary success, but I hope that readers who aren’t now subscribers will value the housing project and the rest of the Examiner’s work enough to support it financially.
If we can reach that goal of 4,000 subscribers, my personal pay will increase to $44,000 annually from the Examiner. (Last year, I was also paid by the CBC for the Uncover podcast, and I received a small inheritance.) I am currently the lowest paid employee at the Examiner (freelance contributors get paid less), and I’ve been good with that — my goal all along has been to grow the organization. But it’s time to put my pay on the path towards the average reporter’s pay in Halifax, and for me to start planning for retirement many years down the road.
An increase to 4,000 subscribers will additionally result in pay raises for the rest of the Examiner team, employees and freelancers alike, and importantly, increase the reporting output.
I’m telling you all this because I want you to value the Examiner as your reliable and trusted news source. We work on a shoestring budget, but our output is outsized, producing reporting that no other media outlet wants to pursue or can match. I hope that as readers look under the hood of the Halifax Examiner, they are impressed and will support us financially.
Thank you for that support. You can subscribe here.
All the best,
Editor and Publisher