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Write An Essay To Win A Local Newspaper

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Are you in the market for a newspaper? The Hardwick Gazette, a weekly paper in northern Vermont, is holding an essay contest to find a new owner. Ross Connelly, who's owned the paper for 30 years, is ready to retire. And after he couldn't find a buyer through more traditional means, he decided to try something a little different. Ross Connelly joins us now by telephone from the gazette's office in Hardwick, Vt. Thanks for being with us.

ROSS CONNELLY: You're welcome, and thank you for having me. I appreciate your interest.

WERTHEIMER: So Mr. Connelly, tell me why you decided to pack it in. I mean, are you old enough to retire?

CONNELLY: (Laughter) Well, I'm past retirement age. I - yesterday was my 71st birthday. And I figured 30 years at this is enough.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter).

CONNELLY: I'm older than I used to be. I still have the passion of a journalist, but I don't have as much energy as I did. And on a personal level, my wife died four and a half years ago and she was a integral part of the business. So I just decided to talk to my son at length about it. And the town deserves some fresh people here. As I said, I still have the passion but I don't have the energy that I think is needed and that readers deserve.

WERTHEIMER: So you're setting up a competition, an essay contest, to find the new owner of the paper. How does it work?

CONNELLY: Well, it's basically a writing prompt - why I want to own a paid weekly newspaper. And there's a minimum of 700 entrants required for the contest to officially begin. And I will accept a maximum of 1,889 entries. And we have a numerical ranking system to grade the essays, if you will, until we come up with a short list and then out of that a winner.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now there's an entry fee?

CONNELLY: That's correct.

WERTHEIMER: So what's that?

CONNELLY: $175.

WERTHEIMER: So if 700 people send in $175, you would have -

CONNELLY: Oh, I don't know. What is it, $122,000 or something like that? And if I got all 1,889 entries, it would be 300 and some thousand dollars.

WERTHEIMER: So if you do that, would that compensate you for the sale of the paper if you had sold it?

CONNELLY: Yes. But one of the things that is very important to me is that the paper continue. As I say, it's been around for 127 years. It's an important institution in the town. People depend on it. And if we're not here to report the local news, who's going to? I can't put a dollar figure on that intrinsic value, but it's valuable.

WERTHEIMER: Have you thought about how you're going to spend your retirement?

CONNELLY: (Laughter) That's a question a lot of people ask, and my standard answer - and I'm not being facetious, but my focus and energy is getting out next week's paper. When I don't have that in front of me, then I will be able to turn my energies to - OK, what do I want to do now? And I'm quite confident that that will happen without a problem.

WERTHEIMER: Ross Connelly is the owner of the Hardwick Gazette. Thank you very much.

CONNELLY: You're welcome. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.