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.