Owner, publisher of Free Times dead at 67

Charlie Nutt
Charlie Nutt

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.

“We are deeply saddened about the loss of our publisher,” said Eva Moore, acting managing editor of Free Times. “We ask that you respect the privacy of Charlie’s family at this time.” Moore would not comment further.

Nutt “cared immensely about Free Times” and “came to love the community it serves,” according to Dan Cook, the former Free Times managing editor who recently left for a position at the University of South Carolina.

“Charlie was a constant source of ideas, and he worked ceaselessly to stay on top of trends in the fast-changing publishing industry,” Cook said. “He was also unfailingly professional, kind and considerate toward his co-workers.”

Kerry Powers, a former associate publisher of Free Times, said Nutt was an “innovative publisher.”

“I am grateful for the time I worked for him, and I am keeping his family in my thoughts and prayers during this sad and difficult time,” Powers said.

Previously, Nutt was an editor for several Gannett Co. newspapers in New Jersey and New York and had been a metro editor for The New York Times, according to his online LinkedIn profile.

He was a member of the South Carolina Press Association executive committee, City Center Partnership executive committee and Central Carolina Community Foundation board of trustees.

“He was a very active publisher and a really nice guy,” said Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association. “It’s a great loss for the Free Times and personally for a lot of people.”

Rogers said Nutt was known as a forward thinker, “always looking at ways to improve the paper and deal with new technology.”

Matt Kennell, president and CEO of Columbia’s City Center Partnership, described Nutt as soft-spoken, deliberate and a good businessman. He praised Nutt for supporting the city’s “creative community” and fostering “real journalism” at the Free Times.

Just last week at a City Center board meeting, Kennell said, Nutt played a positive and productive role in discussions about future downtown initiatives. “When he said things, you listened,” Kennell said. “He seemed very passionate about this community.”

JoAnn Turnquist, president and CEO of the Central Carolina Community Foundation, said Nutt’s “keen understanding of community engagement” was evident in his work as one of CCCF’s trustees.

Nutt was one of the first champions of Midlands Gives, a 24-hour day of giving supported by the foundation that raised more than $1.5 million for nonprofits last year, Turnquist said. “He provided wise counsel and always had a tremendous sense of humor,” Turnquist said. “I am going to miss him.”

Staff writer Tim Flach contributed to this report.