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September, 25, 2016

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Essay contest to find new owner of Vermont weekly extended

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 (pictured right), who at 71 is ready to retire, came up with the US$175 essay contest in June when he couldn't sell the paper. 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 must 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. The paper — which comes out every Wednesday and has no website — reflects a time before the web, when people read newspapers and counted on them to tell them what was happening in their own community.

Connelly 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.

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Ross Connelly, owner of the Hardwick Gazette weekly newspaper, holds a copy of the paper in his office in Hardwick, Vermont, on Wednesday, Sept. 21. (AP)

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