Madison Magazine Editorial Director Neil Heinen to retire

Neil Heinen's last day is Sept. 15.
neil heinen speaking with doug moe
Photo by Nikki Hansen
Neil Heinen

After 28 years of community service through television and print editorials, Neil Heinen will retire in September.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege for more than three decades to represent owner Elizabeth Murphy Burns and the Murphy Burns family’s commitment to journalism, to South Central Wisconsin and especially to Madison,” Heinen says, currently the editorial director for WISC-TV and Madison Magazine. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to give voice to Liz’s belief in the responsibility of family-owned, local media to contribute, to partner and to lead. My career at WISC-TV and Madison Magazine has been challenging, satisfying and rewarding beyond my wildest dreams.”

Heinen, a Milwaukee native and oldest of 11 children, stepped in as Madison Magazine’s editor in 2004 after the magazine lost editor Brian D. Howell to lung cancer in November 2003, seven months after his diagnosis. Heinen and his wife, Nancy Christy, co-authored a monthly column in the magazine for 10 years that covered food trends, the slow food movement and the local food scene. He has also written a monthly column for at least 20 years.

In his time with Madison Magazine, he’s written annual cover stories for the magazine focused on leadership and visions of Madison’s future. After Howell founded the Best of Madison Business award program and yearly magazine feature in 2000, Heinen has penned many of the features and hosted many of the award programs.

“While I’ve dreaded this particular retirement announcement for some time, I couldn’t be happier for Neil, who will look back on an incredible career as a facilitator of important civic discussion and analysis. Neil has been our guiding light at the magazine in so many ways. He’s taught all who have contributed to the magazine that our work is so much bigger than entertaining readers with good storytelling. He sees the magazine as an incredible tool that allows readers to take an active role in citizenship and feel apart of their community — not only by reflecting Madison, its people and their ideas, but also challenging people to see what Madison could be,” says Madison Magazine Editor Andrea Behling. “Personally, he’s been a mentor, an advocate, a sounding board and a voice of reason. As the magazine’s longest-serving editorial staff member of about 17 years, he will be missed in so many ways on staff. We hope he’ll continue to write for us — that is, after some time to enjoy the start of his well-deserved retirement.”

Take a look at some of his recent Madison Magazine stories and columns here:

Heinen delivered his first editorial April 3, 1992, and has offered more than 7,400 TV editorials and hosted 1,500 episodes of the Sunday morning public affairs show “For the Record” in his time as editorial director. He has been the organizer and facilitator of WISC-TV’s community leader meetings.

Heinen has been instrumental in support of major community building projects, including Monona Terrace, Kohl Center and Overture Center for the Arts. He was part of a group to spearhead “Schools of Hope,” an initiative to help close the achievement gap in Madison schools. He helped launch “We the People/Wisconsin,” one of the first and most successful civic journalism projects in the country in the 1990s.

“To declare Neil Heinen a Madison institution is an understatement, and his impact and legacy will last forever,” said WISC-TV and Madison Magazine Vice President and General Manager Tom Keeler. “He’s one of the most recognized, revered and respected individuals in Madison today.”

He has been part of the National Broadcast Editorial Association and the National Conference of Editorial Writers since the 1990s. He has been part of the clinical faculty at the Kettering Foundation for 20 years and a community scholar at Edgewood College for 15 years.

Heinen’s last day will be Sept. 15.