The death of NNA’s Postal Chair Emeritus Max Heath, Shelbyville, Kentucky, on July 28 set off a period of mourning across the community newspaper industry.
Heath’s family told the National Newspaper Association/NNA Foundation Boards of Directors last weekend that Heath had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke on July 23. His wife, Ruth Ann of Shelbyville, and son Jason of Louisville, Kentucky, were at his side as local friends stopped at a Louisville hospital to pay respects.
Heath was 75. He went into semi-retirement as NNA’s Postal Committee chair in phases during the past several years as the new Postal Team led by NNA Past President Matthew Paxton, publisher of The News-Gazette in Lexington, Virginia, and Brad Hill, CEO of Interlink, began to pick up his many duties. Heath remained as a consultant to the committee until his death.
He was executive editor of Landmark Community Newspapers Inc., for 21 years before retiring into a consultancy that continued until the newspapers’ sale to Paxton Media in 2021. As editor and chief postal advisor, he oversaw 52 weekly and daily newspapers in 12 states, seven collegiate sports newspapers, seven free newspapers, 30 shoppers and more than 30 specialty titles. He was in charge of acquisition development from 2001 to 2008.
Heath stepped into NNA’s top postal policy position in 1989 when he joined the Postmaster General’s Mailers Technical Advisory Committee, a post he maintained in emeritus status through 2021. The Postal Service presented its first Special Achievement award at the National Postal Forum on Sept. 2, 1998. He served on numerous task forces and special committees to oversee the many changes in USPS and to guide its technical and logistical initiatives to preserve the affordable national mail delivery options of the community newspapers he so cherished. As NNA’s top guru, he conducted dozens of training seminars for NNA and other newspaper associations through the early 2000s, retiring only from the travel and never from the advisory function.
He was also called several times by NNA General Counsel and Director of Public Policy Tonda Rush to testify as the leading newspaper postal expert before the Postal Regulatory Commission, often educating the commissioners, staff and USPS logistics experts on how newspapers were being handled in the field by USPS. He was principal editor of NNA’s Postal Tips book in 1998 and monthly contributor to Publishers’ Auxiliary’s Postal Tips column.
NNA Foundation President Matt Adelman noted that as NNA and NNAF shifted its postal training into the Foundation, Max had remained a constant source of wisdom and support. NNAF will continue to use Heath’s educational materials to assist community newspapers, Adelman said.
“Max has long been a legend in the newspaper industry across the country as the go-to guy for anything postal and has always been a stalwart ally of newspapers of any size and shape, “ Adelman said. “He will be greatly missed as a true friend as well as a mentor, industry leader and invaluable partner in our constant struggle with postal issues on all fronts. His commitment and dedication to NNA and NNAF mirrored his passion for the newspaper industry throughout the many decades we have held him in such high regard. We look forward to honoring him and his immense level of service to our industry as we continue his work.”
NNA Executive Director Lynne Lance said NNA members would continue to receive postal advice and assistance through NNA’s Postal Hotline.
“Max’s generous way of helping people to understand the ins and outs of using the mail will live on in the education he provided his successors. No one will ever replace the knowledge Max had. But we pledge to honor his legacy by making sure community newspapers remain in the forefront of the Postal Service’s mission,” she said.