Essay contest to find new owner of Vermont weekly extended
Posted September 21
Would-be publishers have sent in essays from as far away as Australia and Europe with promises to keep a tiny Vermont weekly alive.
But the owner of the Hardwick Gazette said Wednesday he hasn't yet gotten enough entries to choose a winner to take over the 127-year-old community newspaper.
Ross Connelly, who at 71 is ready to retire, came up with the $175 essay contest in June when he couldn't sell the newspaper. He said he is extending the deadline for a second and final time, until Oct. 10, in hopes of reaching his goal of 700 entries. Entrants are asked to write 400-word essays detailing their experience and vision.
"Rather than walking out the door and saying goodbye ... I want the Gazette to continue," said Connelly, who's primarily looking for someone committed to providing local coverage.
Connelly ran the weekly with his wife, who died in 2011, for more than three decades, filling its pages with traditional community news from school board meetings to local theater productions to high school sports. The newspaper — which comes out every Wednesday and has no online presence — reflects a time before the internet, when people read newspapers and counted on them to tell them what was happening in their own community.
"It serves as a really good means of getting information out to the public about what is going on in town government," said Jon Jewett, Hardwick's town manager. "We would like to see it continue."
The winner would assume ownership of the newspaper and its building, equipment, website and proprietary materials needed to operate the business. The newspaper is printed offsite at a press not owned by it.
Connelly said some contest entrants have bold expansion plans or want to feature more state and national news. Most simply are attracted to running a small-town newspaper, talk about the importance of the First Amendment and express concerns that other media outlets aren't covering the stories they consider important.
He said he's even gotten "I don't want to win" essays, which included the fee and a note talking about the importance of the Gazette's survival.
"It tells me there are people out there that believe in the importance of a free press and believe that community journalism is key and necessary to democracy," Connelly said.