This Vermont newspaper couldn't give itself away in an essay contest. But it did find a buyer.

Last summer, Ross Connelly tried to give away his weekly Vermont newspaper. Kind of.

Connelly, who has run the Hardwick Gazette for 31 years, held an essay contest. It cost $175 to enter. If Connelly got 700 entries, the contest would go forward and he'd make $122,500. He never got that many entries and later tried to raise the money through crowdfunding. That didn't work either.

But the ordeal wasn't a waste. The Hardwick Gazette has new owners as of tomorrow — and Connelly found them through the contest.

The new owner, Ray Small, was a contestant who "conveyed a passion for community journalism," according to a press release announcing the sale. He and his wife, Kim, will take over management on Friday and become the Gazette's 11th owners since it was founded in 1889.

The Smalls, from Stamford, Connecticut, have backgrounds in business and don't plan any big changes in the near future, the press release reports.

Connelly's farewell edition ran Wednesday. It included a goodbye editorial from Connelly, with this thoughts on this digital age of journalism and the future of local newspapers:

I've been asked often whether the newspaper is sustainable in this digital age of social media, sound bites and short attention spans. My response is that depends on whether the owners are willing to shoulder the work and work the time needed to gather the news and report it each week.

That includes selling ads, subscriptions and newsstand sales each week throughout the 10 towns covered by the newspaper. And none of those and other tasks would have been possible without the hard work and commitment of countless people who worked at and with the Gazette for all these years.

Connelly, who bought the newspaper with his late wife in 1986, will travel and do some writing as a new retiree. He also plans to keep reading the Gazette.

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