Carey Winfrey left this past fall after ten years as editor, and perhaps the most telling distinction of his tenure was the finding by an independent research firm that Smithsonian was the nation’s “most interesting” magazine. Not the most interesting magazine never to publish a profile of Lady Gaga, nor the most interesting one read by people who love Maya archaeology. The most interesting magazine in America. The same survey, done last year by Affinity, found that readers also ranked Smithsonian among the Top Five “most believable” and “most trusted” magazines.
Carey was too self-deprecating to trumpet those results, but as he recently reflected, his foremost concerns when editing a story were clarity and brevity. The magazine’s text editors all felt the sting of his “huh?” or “un-understand” penned in blue ink in a galley proof’s margin. Clarity, of course, is the key to brevity, and he was forever urging writers and editors to get on with it. “Right about here is where I’d be reaching for the remote,” he would say of a too-long passage. Many elements go into producing an engaging magazine, including terrific photography and art direction and tantalizing topics, but Carey’s insistence on lucid prose that respected readers’ intelligence and didn’t waste their time was the foundation of Smithsonian’s success. Nicely done, Carey.
As we prepared this issue for publication, Carey’s successor—only the fourth editor in the magazine’s 41 years—was named. He is Michael Caruso, most recently the deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal Magazine. A veteran magazine journalist, Michael has worked at the New Yorker, the Village Voice and Vanity Fair. He has served as the top editor at Los Angeles, Details and Men’s Journal. Saying it’s “a privilege to be following Carey Winfrey,” he added that his job was to “continue the legacy of journalistic excellence while evolving our brand for the future multimedia needs of our consumer.” Welcome aboard, Michael.
Terence Monmaney is the Executive Editor.