Smithsonian Magazine Puts 'Lincoln' Out Front As Focus Shifts

Smithsonian's October cover, featuring Thomas Jefferson. Michael Caruso photo: Landon Nordeman for Smithsonian Magazine

New top editor Michael Caruso continues revamp of title with November cover featuring Spielberg's film.


Steven Spielberg's Lincoln - a movie in the awards conversation, starring Daniel Day Lewis as the legendary President - will grace the cover of a 2.1-million circulation magazine in November.

Just probably not the one you think.

Not Vanity Fair, or Entertainment Weekly - try Smithsonian Magazine, a formerly staid title that's undergone a slew of changes under new Editor-In-Chief Michael Caruso.

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Caruso comes to the magazine from stints at Vanity Fair, Details, Men’s Journal, and WSJ., the magazine at The Wall Street Journal. He's revamped everything from the physical (glossier, heavier paper stock) to the visual (shorter stories, more graphics) to the textual – breaking stories on current topics that intersect with the usual contents of the magazine. In the Lincoln issue, for instance, the cover story will be written by NPR's Roy Blount Jr., and features interviews with Spielberg, screenwriter Tony Kushner and Lincoln historian and biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin.

The magazine isn't walking away from its mission of reporting about the museums - in addition to stories about Smithsonian mainstays such as the American History Museum and the American Art Museum, the magazine's new focus will see coverage of subjects in the Cooper Hewitt collection (the National Design Museum), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden -- and even the National Zoo.

The approach has turned heads in the advertising community as well. Steve Giannetti, SVP of advertising and marketing for Smithsonian, has brought in new categories ranging from travel to pharmaceuticals to corporate - new accounts include Toyota (for the Prius), Ally Bank and Lockheed Martin.

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It's all in the name of breaking into the national conversation. Case in point: Smithsonian Mag's May 2012 interview with Matt Groenig, the creator of “The Simpsons." In that issue, Groening revealed the never before known fact that he based the town of Springfield on Springfield, Oregon – a city close to his childhood home of Portland, Oregon.

“We were doing a section on the theme of 'home' and it seemed like a fun idea to ask Matt about his childhood home, Homer (his father, his son and his creation) and the home he has created on the show," Caruso told THR. "When he told us the real identity of Springfield we knew this would rock the country - it's been one of television's greatest mysteries for the past 25 years.”

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