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The Hardwick Gazette

A 127-year-old US newspaper is giving itself away in an essay contest

By Kate Groetzinger

The 127-year-old Hardwick Gazette, located in Hardwick, Vermont, is up for grabs. All you have to do is describe why you want to run a print newspaper in the 21st century in 400 words or less and the weekly paper can be yours.

The Hardwick Gazette
The newspaper office building will also go to the winner of the contest.

Ross Connelly, who currently owns the Hardwick Gazette, will pick a winner with the help of a panel of experts in mid-August. Ownership of the paper, which has a paid circulation of 2,200, and the paper’s two-story office building will be transferred to the winner, in exchange for his or her promise to keep the presses running for as long as possible. The paper does not have a website (PDF).

“We are going to be looking for experience and the ability to shoulder this responsibility,” Connelly says. “There’s a Hollywood myth out there that running a small town newspaper is a lark, that you sit back and write editorials and smoke a pipe all day.”

That’s not the case, Connelly says. “This is a very difficult job that requires professional skills and commitment,” he cautions contestants. 

Due to the demands of running the paper, Connelly hasn’t had time to think about his impending retirement.

“I’m 70. I’ll be 71 tomorrow. I’m still in good health, and I don’t know what I want to do next,” he says. “There’s excitement and muted anticipation, but my primary focus is getting the paper out each week and finding someone I trust to take over.”

Connelly bought the Hardwick Gazette with his wife 30 years ago, in 1986. The couple ran the paper together until 2011, when Connelly’s wife died, leaving him to run the paper alone. Last year, he decided that the paper deserves a younger leader with more energy. A friend told Connelly about a bed and breakfast that ran an essay contest to find a new owner, and he was intrigued. He looked into the legality, determined that he could do the same with the Hardwick Gazette, and planned the contest.

Each essay submission must include a $175 check, and Connelly is requiring at least 700 submissions be sent by the deadline in August in order to proceed with giving away the paper. He will cap the contest at 1,889 submissions, in honor of the paper’s founding year. Connelly will keep any profits from the contest, which will total  $122,500 if 700 people enter. He says this is less than the paper is worth, but that he is willing to part with it if it means the doors stay open.

“There’s intrinsic value for me that the paper will continue,” he says. “If I keel over in my chair right now, the paper won’t continue, and it’s important. It’s an institution.”

And what happens if Connelly doesn’t receive at least 700 submissions? Entrants will, at least, receive their money back.

“Between getting out next week’s paper and putting together the contest, I haven’t had time to think beyond that. If it doesn’t work, I’ll just have to come up with a Plan B.”

See the rules and instructions for entering the contest here.