Time Traveler

Smithsonian gets a new publisher

It's a new year, and we have a new publisher and president, Thomas Ott, who comes to us with a quarter-century of magazine publishing experience. Most recently he was with the Reader's Digest Association, where he served as general manager and group publisher of the Home and Garden Group. "I love magazines," Ott says. "I love all the elements of the business, not just the marketing side but what it all means to the reader."

Before his Digest stint, Ott spent 16 years at Time, Inc., starting as an advertising account manager in Time magazine's Los Angeles office and taking on positions of rapidly increasing responsibility, including publisher of Time Canada. From 2001 to 2005 he was group publisher of Time, Inc.'s Field & Stream and Outdoor Life, both of which saw a redesign on his watch. Prior to that, he was publisher and president of This Old House, one of the most successful launches of the 1990s.

Ott, who grew up on Long Island, New York, and graduated from Providence College, began his career with Hearst magazines, where he worked in circulation and advertising sales. Ott lives in South Salem, New York, with his wife, Joan, and their children, Mike and Jessica. His goal for Smithsonian? To help the editors cover "what makes people interested in the world around them."

Michael Rosenwald's interest in viruses and in virus researcher Robert Webster, who probably knows more about avian flu than anyone, has its origins, Rosenwald admits, in his own hypochondria. As a kid, Rosenwald made his parents drive him to the emergency room with imaginary diseases so often that they finally suggested he take a taxi. "I heard about bird flu and I was worried about it," Rosenwald says, "so I proposed a story that would give me a chance to learn more." Rosenwald, who covers business for the Washington Post, profiled Webster for this issue. One of the places Rosenwald interviewed the researcher was at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, a major treatment center for catastrophic childhood diseases where Webster conducts his research. Surrounded by children of all ages, many of whom had lost their hair to the effects of chemotherapy, Rosenwald asked the physician if he found it difficult to work among young people who might not beat the diseases they are so gallantly fighting. "No," Webster answered. "Because every day you come in and see why you're doing it."

Time is running out: Entries for our third annual photo contest are due January 5. For categories, rules and on-line submission instructions, please go to http://photocontest.smithsonianmag.com.