"In one sense, this contest is too big to fail," writes Connelly, who is 71 and wants to retire. "Transiting the Gazette to a new owner is asking people to consider the value of independent journalism and to consider that citizenship and democracy start in people’s homes, their neighborhoods, their communities, with elected officials – on the local level. Local, independent newspapers are the foundation blocks of the country's democracy and are necessary to keep it solidly in place."
The essay contest, which began in June, seeks 400-word essays explaining why the writers want to own a rural weekly newspaper, outlining their "skills and vision." The entry fee is $175. Connelly had hoped for 700 entries, producing $122,500, a little more than half the paper's annual gross revenue. Many small, rural weeklies sell for the annual gross or slightly more. For the Gazette's news story and editorial, click here.