Carey Winfrey jumps from People, replacing Moser
By Jeff Bercovici
The search for a new top editor at Smithsonian is over.
Carey Winfrey has been tapped to head up the two-million-circulation general interest monthly, published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Winfrey is making the jump from People Weekly, where he was an assistant managing editor.
He becomes the third editor in chief in Smithsonianís 31-year history and replaces Don Moser, who has held the post for 20 years.
As recently as last week it was reported that U.S. News & World Report editor Steve Smith, who founded now-defunct Smithsonian rival Civilization, was in contention for the job. Smith was subsequently dumped from the top spot at U.S. News in favor of executive editor Brian Duffy.
Winfrey takes the helm during a period of transition for the title and its parent, Smithsonian Business Ventures.
For years the magazine has struggled to find a clear identity apart from the Smithsonian Institution, and it has been somewhat hobbled by an editorial mix that runs to the eclectic, not unlike the network of museums that funds it.
By being a little bit of everything, Smithsonian occupies no one editorial niche that it can grow in and defend.
And for that same reason, it lacks any clear identity with media buyers.
Last fall, the magazine moved its business headquarters from Washington to New York and hired a new publisher, Amy Wilkins, with a charge to increase the titleís visibility in the ad community.
Winfrey, a former reporter for Time magazine and The New York Times, says any changes on the editorial side of the publication will be gradual rather than dramatic.
"I think there are opportunities to energize and freshen it, to introduce some more elements, perhaps make it a little more contemporary," he tells Media Life.
The goal, he says, is "to bring it a little more in line with the announced mission of the Smithsonian Institution, which is to connect the American people to their historical, cultural and scientific heritage."
Towards that end, he plans to phase in a smattering of new departments and columns. As far as features go, he says he would place more emphasis on American, rather than international, issues.
"I do think the American cultural experience will be the chief focus. That may suggest somewhat fewer articles about things beyond our shores."
Despite his four years at People, Winfrey says his approach to editing Smithsonian is not being shaped by any need to broaden its appeal to a mass audience.
"I donít have a network sensibility so much as a public television sensibility," says the editor, who won an Emmy as the producer of WNETís news program "Behind the Lines."
"I remain to this day somewhat celebrity-challenged. By that, I mean that I would be hard-pressed to pick Shannen Doherty out of a lineup."
In other words, donít expect "Smithsonianís 50 Most Beautiful People in History" anytime soon.
The 30th-largest consumer magazine in the U.S., Smithsonian saw total paid circulation inch up 1.1 percent to 2,051,045 in the second half of last year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Subscriptions account for more than 99.5 percent of its circulation.
On the advertising side, pages in Smithsonian fell by 5.9 percent last year, to 759.33 and ad revenue was flat at $59.4 million, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
Through the first four months of this year, pages are down 9.8 percent amid a general downturn in the advertising economy. Revenue, however, is up 8.1 percent to $20.5 million.
June 8, 2001 © 2001 Media Life
-Jeff Bercovici is a staff writer for Media Life.