Naturally, I’ve been drawn to the news about “The Hardwick Gazette” essay contest. Hardwick is a town in northern Vermont, population 3,010, about the size of Jonesville. The newspaper editor in Hardwick wants to retire.
And to end his journalism career with a bang, 70-year-old editor Ross Connelly is offering to give his newspaper away to the winner of an essay contest.
That’s right. He’ll give it away. In 400 words or less tell why you are the man or the woman for the job, and the whole shebang is yours. You’d get a quaint little Main Street office in the middle of skiing country, 2,200 subscribers, one reporter and 127 years of newspaper tradition.
Don’t worry, I’m not entering. I’m too married to the hometown here.
We drove through northern Vermont once. I found the mostly rural area similar to the mountains here.
What struck me about that part of Vermont was how old everything looked. The buildings looked old. The people were old. The two-lane country roads were clean but had been there a while. I thought I had been thrown back to the 1960s.
I found the people there cordial and laid-back enough. They didn’t seem to mind that their little stores and crafts shops and streets were empty for the most part. Folks seemed at ease and not pressured by modern demands.
I wondered how people there could make a living.
People think of a small-town newspaper editor as someone like the neighborhood bartender. Everybody knows the editor and the editor knows everybody. The editor has asked everybody for their stories and everybody has told the editor their stories, even stories the editor didn’t want.
But that’s not how it is. Small-town newspapering is no Day in Mayberry.
Instead, real-life newspapering is filled with pressure deadlines and demands to come up with some news even when there isn’t any.
In the city, big newspapers have The Associated Press to provide much more than enough news to fill the pages.
Small-town newspapers, on the other hand, normally don’t have the AP news service to fill space. You must somehow come up with your own news, and there never seems to be enough. It’s a grind.
And in a small town you must, or should, report the bad with the good. And sooner or later you’re going to report something bad about someone you know and care about. In the city, you can be much more anonymous and detached.
But in the small town how are you, Mr. newspaper editor or reporter, going to face someone after you’ve smeared their tale of woe all over the newspaper, then meet up with them at church, the ball game or the supermarket?
I found small-town newspapering tougher than in the city.
One time I reported for a small, family-owned newspaper in another town when they sold out to an out-of-state news corporation. I had been reporting on the efforts of an anti-abortion activist there, and when I told him that the newspaper had been sold, he told me that he wished he had known and had bought the newspaper himself. Not that he had any money to actually do it.
“We would shake things up,” he chuckled.
More likely, a small-town newspaper would shake you up. It’s a game for an enthusiastic, ambitious, energetic young man or woman. It’s not for the faint of heart.
But if you want to give it a go, the essay-contest deadline has been extended till Tuesday. The entry fee is $175, so the Hardwick editor will get a little scratch.
And “the scenery outside the Gazette’s window can’t be beat,” according to a “Gazette” website. So have at it.
Better you than me.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.
Back In The Hometown