October 18, 2016

After months of trying to bring in enough entries for a contest to give away his newspaper, Ross Connelly is calling it quits.

Connelly, the owner of The (Hardwick, Vermont) Gazette, recently announced on his contest website that the allure of owning a community weekly failed to meet the contest requirements: 700 400-word essays explaining why entrants wanted to own a rural newspaper. The essays, along with $175 per person entry fee and a Kickstarter campaign, was aimed at making the newspaper giveaway viable.

But there weren’t enough entries, Connelly wrote. Despite that, he was encouraged by the essays:

The quality of essays received to this point is outstanding. The essayists have journalistic and business experience. They convey an appreciation for independent, local journalism, an understanding of community and a knowledge that hard work and thick skin go with the territory. Their passion for newspapers shines through.

The contest was announced in June and was soon picked up by The Washington Post and The New York Times, among other outlets. When Connelly didn’t receive the required submissions by the original deadline (Aug. 15), he extended the contest until Oct. 10 and announced the launch of a $100,000 Kickstarter campaign to cover the shortfall.

Even though his successor isn’t apparent, The Hardwick Gazette must continue to operate for the community’s sake, Connelly wrote.

The Hardwick Gazette is located in a small, rural community, but in a larger sense the newspaper is too big to fail. Citizenship and democracy start in people’s homes, their neighborhoods, their communities, with elected officials — on the local level. Yes, democracy is sustainable if citizens have independent, local newspapers that report on their towns and the lives they live.

The entry fees will be returned, and Connelly will keep trying to find an owner for the newspaper, he wrote.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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