Sorry not to post all day. I was in an all-morning meeting and have been rushing to catch up since then.
In the midst of it, I received a phone call with shocking news:
The 67-year-old owner and publisher of the Free Times alternative weekly newspaper in Columbia was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in an Augusta, Ga., hotel Wednesday afternoon.
Charles Nutt, of Elgin, was pronounced dead at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen confirmed. Nutt was found in the bathroom of a hotel room at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Augusta.
Richmond County sheriff’s deputies went to the hotel after the department received a call from Columbia police saying that Nutt had taken a gun from his residence and had suicidal thoughts, according to an incident report.
Nutt’s Resort Media company purchased Free Times, an alternative weekly, from Portico Media of Charlottesville, Va., in 2012…..
I just can’t believe it. You see that picture above? There’s something missing. Charlie usually had a modest, friendly smile when saw him.
I had coffee with Charlie Nutt at Drip on Main exactly two weeks ago.
He. Was. Fine.
I mean, as well as one man can tell about another.
I don’t claim to be an expert on Charlie Nutt. He was a fellow member of the Capital City Club, and we had breakfast there together once or twice. I’d see him around town, and I’d always ask him how his business was going.
The answer, always, was that it was going great. The paper was healthy, and developing a fine journalistic reputation extending beyond its traditional base of covering entertainment and nightlife. He had people coming up to him all the time and saying, “Now I get my news from Free Times,” rather than, you know, certain other papers.
He mentioned that when we met on March 3, and I told him I heard similar things. His folks were doing a good job.
And he was comparing himself to the competition. Every time we met, he’d share with me just how low The State‘s circulation figures had fallen — something I don’t really keep up with. He said it with a certain satisfaction, like a guy keeping score, but without any malice. Of course, his own paper is distributed free so it’s like apples to oranges, but it was being widely picked up and the return rate was gratifying.
He also had a growing number of specialty pubs adding to his bottom line — the kinds of things that might be distributed in hotels, about local places to eat and such.
Things were going well. As he expected.
Charlie was a thoroughgoing newspaper man. He started his career a little before me, but we were both part of that last generation before the crash — inspired by Woodward and Bernstein (their book came out when I was a copy boy at The Commercial Appeal), and enjoying the very last decades when owning a printing press was like a license to spend money.
He was editor at several papers, and then publisher of some others. He managed to sock away enough money to achieve his dream of buying his own paper. He didn’t leap into it carelessly. From his New Jersey base, he did his research, and he decided that Free Times would be just right.
So he bought it, and never looked back. He just really seemed like a guy who had it together and whose plan was working out.
As compared, you know, to me — a guy who had the job he’d always wanted until the day the job ceased to exist, and did not have the funds to go out and buy his own paper.
Charlie knew exactly what he was doing, and it was working out so well.
When a friend from The State called to tell me — he had run into Charlie and me having coffee at Drip, and thought I might like to know — my first reaction was to say they needed to do a deeper investigation. Charlie wouldn’t shoot himself.
My next reaction was to remember Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Cory,” and Simon and Garfunkel’s musical adaptation. You never know, even with the guy you admire and respect, the guy who has all that you don’t, who you think has it all together.
All I can do now is ask God for mercy upon him, and upon his family and friends.
So sorry to hear this. Will keep his friends and family in our prayers.
Thanks for this perspective. This shocking news does reiterate just that point – there is always more to a person’s story than we can see. Rest in piece, Charlie.
I am so sorry to hear this news. He made the Free Times into a local paper that deals well with local situations, good and bad. I hope they can keep it up. I certainly trust its reporters. Meanwhile you have lost an acquaintance you obviously enjoyed. May he rest in peace and rise in glory!
This is so sad. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. I once had a phone conversation with someone apparently just before he killed himself. He sounded just fine. When I found out what happened, I couldn’t help but think that if I had known, somehow I could have talked him out of it. It is just so sad. I’m so sorry your friend thought this was the decision he needed to make.
Prayers and sympathies for his family and those that knew him. There have been subtle, positive changes in The Free Times since he bought it. He sounds like the type of person Columbia needs more of.
This is a very sad story. Sadder still it is becoming far too common. For some reason suicide rates have skyrocketed in this country over the last few years. Middle age, white men seem to be most affected. Brad keep us posted if you hear any more.
Brad, thank you for sharing this. Charlie Nutt hired me to be his managing editor in Elmira, NY, in 1997. He was a fine man and excellent journalist. I had breakfast with him a year ago when I passed through Columbia. He was enthusiastic about his newspaper and it was so nice to spend time with him. I hope he is at peace now. My heart aches for his family and co-workers.
Hi, Jane. I learned the shocking news of Charlie’s death about three years ago when doing an internet search on what he was up to, as we hadn’t been in contact for almost 20 years. Charlie hired me as business editor of The (Bridgewater, NJ) Courier-News in 1988, and, like you — and I expect all others who worked with him — I found him to be an outstanding person and journalist. I recall his daily leaving his office and taking an anonymous seat in the City Desk area to give each day’s published edition his final review. That we all called him “Charlie” says much about his humility and accessibility. Then and now my heart aches in our loss of Charlie. Still today I wrap him in my figurative arms of care, wishing there were some way I, we could have helped him through that grievous moment. Seeking some good amidst the loss, I celebrate Charlie, a man who so positively influenced countless other people’s lives, including mine.
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Hey Charles, Later