Ross Connelly has owned The Hardwick Gazette, a weekly newspaper in Vermont, since 1986 when he and his wife purchased it. Now, at 71-years-old, Connelly is looking to pass on the torch. But, he’s not selling the newspaper, and he’s not handing it down to a family member—he’s giving it away through an essay contest.
Connelly said he decided to give up the paper after his wife, Susan, died four years ago.
“With a newspaper this size (current paid circulation is about 2,200), I think, ideally, it needs an energetic couple or two people who are the owners because, as I think any weekly newspaper around the country will tell you, if work needs to be done, you do it,” said Connelly. “After 30 years, I know my energy level isn’t as much as it used to be. My passion for journalism still exists, but the newspaper and readers deserve and need new energy.”
In order to enter, there was a $175 entry fee and entrants had to write a 400 word essay detailing why they wanted to own a weekly newspaper. The person chosen will get the building that the Gazette has been located in for more than 100 years, all the equipment and furniture, and the subscription list.
The essay contest ran from June 11 through Aug. 11. A minimum of 700 entries were needed, and a board of nine people—journalists, community members and academics—read through the each submission before whittling them down to three. From there, the board chose a winner who was invited to visit the newspaper, said Connelly. At the time of this report, a winner had not been chosen yet, but you can visit hardwickgazette.com for any updates. (Editor’s Note: The contest deadline has been extended to Sept. 20).
In addition to the contest rules, the winning entrant must agree to run the newspaper for two years. They can’t just come in and turn the building into condos, Connelly said.
This is important to Connelly because he believes community newspapers have a unique duty and value to their community.
“(What) I’m particularly looking for is the sense of community that they’re able to convey in their essay. We talk about community newspapers. We’re small, we reflect back on the communities here,” he said. “We have news that’s important, that catches the mainstream media, but we also have news that also doesn’t capture the attention of the mainstream press but it’s still important locally. And so that is important to convey in an essay.”
After the newspaper is out of his hands, Connelly said he wants to travel and visit friends living abroad and finally decompress.