HARDWICK, Vt. (AP) — A small Vermont weekly newspaper whose former owner tried to give away through an essay contest about the importance of local journalism was sold Friday to a Connecticut couple.

Last fall, Ross Connelly abandoned his plan to find a new owner for the Hardwick Gazette through a $175 essay contest because he didn't get enough submissions. But when returned the entry fee, he let it be known that he would still like to sell the paper.

He began negotiations with Ray and Kim Small, of Stamford, Connecticut, who had submitted an essay to take over the paper that covers Hardwick, a town of about 3,000 in northern Vermont.

Connelly, 71, said he was looking for someone who would remain committed to local journalism and had the financial wherewithal to run the paper.

The deal closed Friday afternoon. The sale price was not disclosed

Ray Small, who spent a career in the information technology industry and whose first job after graduate school was writing about the IT industry, said he read about the essay contest last year.

"Two days later, I was in Hardwick," Small said Friday. "The whole concept just spoke to me."

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