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Veranda Magazine Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary With Its Largest Issue In 10 Years And Its Own Testament To The Power Of Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Clinton Smith, Editor In Chief, Veranda Magazine…

August 28, 2017

“So many people have already received some first-bound copies that are going to be landing in subscribers’ mailboxes very soon. We’ve received several notes from those who have gotten those few first-bound copies, and they’ve said something along the lines of they can’t wait to spend their weekends with it. I can’t imagine anyone leaving work on a Friday afternoon saying that they can’t wait to spend their weekend with their phone or their iPad, I mean of course, they might like whatever they’re streaming online and can’t wait to binge-watch it that weekend, but for people to actually say they can’t wait to spend the weekend with the magazine is pretty special and remarkable and a testament to print.” Clinton Smith…

Thirty years and still going strong. Veranda magazine is celebrating a milestone in the world of print magazines and according to Clinton Smith, the magazine’s editor in chief, the hope is to continue to bring gravitas and authority to the subject of living well, while still approaching the topic with childlike wonder and bridging the two viewpoints. And with the 30th anniversary issue, the largest in ten years, Clint confirmed, the magazine is definitely proving that childlike wonder and magic are two components that Veranda will never outgrow.

Founder of the publication, Lisa Newsom, started the magazine in her home, with her children doing most of the work a normal magazine staff would handle. It was her baby, and very near and dear to her heart. Clint shared that originally the magazine was supposed to be called Traditions, which in retrospect, is still relevant to the publication today as it continues a 30-year tradition of excellence and creative innovation that its founder began.

I spoke with Clint recently and we talked about the past, present and future of Veranda. It was a bit of a homecoming for Clint and myself, as he began his magazine career here as a student in the magazine program at the University of Mississippi, where he attended, and where I was fortunate enough to have him as my undergraduate assistant in the magazine program.

In his editor’s letter for the 30th anniversary issue, Clint wrote: An anniversary shouldn’t be about wallowing in the past. A healthy bit of reflection is good for anyone, but the occasion should be about taking stock and focusing on the future and new opportunities that await. When we discussed marking this milestone, it was important to tip our hat to Atlanta, where the magazine was founded in 1987 and where it was based for 25 years. How we ended up doing that proved serendipitous.

Serendipitous, indeed. Or meant to be. Either way the view from the “Veranda” is one that is bright, beautiful and extremely wide opened to the possibilities. And now, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Clinton Smith, editor in chief, Veranda magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the relationship he had with Veranda before he became its editor in chief: I finished at Ole Miss in 1999 and immediately moved to Atlanta. And within a year, year and a half, maybe two years, I got the job at Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles. In Atlanta, the design community is very small and it’s very intimate. And of course, the publishing community in Atlanta is even smaller, there aren’t that many magazines there, at least compared to New York. So, I was always aware of what they (Veranda) were doing. I was a long-time fan and reader. And just at some of the industry events, I came to know that staff very well. I always thought they were a great group and very talented people. I always had admiration for what they produced every couple of months.

On that moment when he was offered the job as editor in chief of Veranda: I feel like the interview process was about 12 years in the making, because I had had contact with Eliot Kaplan (Vice President, Talent Acquisition, Hearst Magazines) back in 2004/2005, somewhere in there, about various positions over the years. And along the way I had also struck up a friendship with Newell Turner (Editorial Director, Hearst Design Group), and he had become aware of the work I was doing at Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles about seven years ago. So, I think they both had subscriptions to the magazine, of course, there were certain issues I wish they hadn’t seen. (Laughs) But they were well aware of everything that I was doing, and obviously, were impressed. But when the call came, it was exciting.

On how he took a regional magazine published in Atlanta to an international level that is now known worldwide: I think the reason for the success of the title is that when Lisa Newsom started the magazine, she had such a clear vision, and like you said, 30 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia, a mom with four children who decided to start her own magazine was unheard of. Again, the perseverance there is just amazing. And I think the reason for this longevity and success is that Lisa had her vision and she stuck to it. And then Dara came onboard and it was the same thing. Both Dara and I have been lucky in that neither of us has inherited a magazine that was in trouble, which anytime there’s a leadership change in publishing that’s sometimes the reason behind it. So, Dara came in and built upon what Lisa had done, and then I came onboard and inherited something that wasn’t broken, but of course, I wanted to put my stamp on it.

On what he might do differently with the 50th anniversary issue versus the 30th: We had 30 years of beautiful archival imagery to go through, but when I start thinking about the next 20 or 30 years and doing an anniversary issue again, I think about the speed in which things are changing so quickly now. The iPhone is only 10-years-old, and for the 30th anniversary issue, we had all of this beautiful filmed photography, and everything is digital now. Who knows in five more years how we’ll be showcasing homes and gardens. It may be all computer-generated. We don’t know.

On a few moments throughout his career that could be defined as his “Aha” moments: It seems cliché to say that you’re only as good as your last issue, but of course, my brain right now is on November/December. (Laughs) If the next issue can stand up to this one. But I do have to say that this was something that I’m extremely proud of, and not only because of the fact that we produced this beautiful 30th anniversary issue. But also the fact that I was able to come to the table with a vision and have such an amazing team who somehow saw parts of it perfectly clearly, and some of my more obtuse ideas they were able to interpret and make them all better.

On any major stumbling block he encountered while putting together the anniversary issue: The magazine world, as you know, has a very long lead-time. And so, for the most part, a lot of the homes and gardens that we feature in the magazine are actually photographed a year in advance. And of course, the front of book stories are done much closer to our print deadline. I think it was looking at every single page and asking ourselves what we could make new there, so it would fall into Veranda’s timeless look? How could we make it timelier for today? Just making sure that nothing we had photographed a year ago felt old to us. We wanted it to be as new and fresh as we could possible make it.

On what value he believes print brings to the 30th anniversary issue: So many people have already received some first-bound copies that are going to be landing in subscribers’ mailboxes very soon. We’ve received several notes from those who have gotten those few first-bound copies, and they’ve said something along the lines of they can’t wait to spend their weekends with it. I can’t imagine anyone leaving work on a Friday afternoon saying that they can’t wait to spend their weekend with their phone or their iPad, I mean of course, they might like whatever they’re streaming online and can’t wait to binge-watch it that weekend, but for people to actually say they can’t wait to spend the weekend with the magazine is pretty special and remarkable and a testament to print.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: What would I like people to know about me? I feel like I’m writing my own tombstone here, Samir. (Laughs) But I think it’s that I’ve done the best that I can do and I hope that I’ve inspired others to do the same.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m probably in the garden out in the yard watering plants, picking some herbs, sweeping, maybe raking. Or I’m going on a walk or a hike, that sort of thing. Anytime that I can be outside is my favorite time of day. Anytime.

On whether someone would ever find him reading something at home: I have a lot of design books, which I love, and I read a lot of biographies, more than any other genre. But the very interesting thing is, interesting to me, now that I think about it, is that I don’t have many magazines at home. I think that when I leave the office at the end of the day, even some favorite magazines, I might read them on the train or when I get back to the office, but at the end of the day I sort of want to be distracted by something else.

On what motivates him to get out of bed each morning: My Type-A personality, I think. And there’s this sense of what is new and what’s next. We’re not a trend-driven magazine, but as a journalist, it’s this sense of what’s around the corner; what are we going to wake up to today that will not only peak our interest, but make us think how we as journalists can translate that to the reader, so that they’re discovering something new and inspiring as well. At the end of the day, Veranda is an interior design magazine, but more than that, it’s a celebration of beauty in almost every form.

On what keeps him up at night: Everything. The next story idea keeps me up. Deadlines keep me up. Did I get the cover right; is the headline right? I’ll wake up at 2:00 a.m. and think maybe I should rewrite a caption. All of those little things, and millions of others. Did I return an email? Did they reply to my email?


And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Clinton Smith, editor in chief, Veranda magazine.

Samir Husni: Clint, congratulations on reaching a major milestone.

Clinton Smith: Thank you. Thirty is a big number.

Samir Husni: It sure is.

Clinton Smith: And we don’t look a day over 21.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) You and Veranda have a history, even before you became the editor of the magazine. As you mentioned in your letter from the editor, you pay tribute to Atlanta, which is where Veranda was located for almost 25 years. And you worked in Atlanta after you graduated, starting your first job there. Tell me a little about that relationship you had with the magazine before you became editor in chief.

Clinton Smith: I finished at Ole Miss in 1999 and immediately moved to Atlanta. And within a year, year and a half, maybe two years, I got the job at Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles. In Atlanta, the design community is very small and it’s very intimate. And of course, the publishing community in Atlanta is even smaller, there aren’t that many magazines there, at least compared to New York.

So, I was always aware of what they (Veranda) were doing. I was a long-time fan and reader. And just at some of the industry events, I came to know that staff very well. I always thought they were a great group and very talented people. I always had admiration for what they produced every couple of months.

It was as though I was on this parallel path, and all of us weren’t in the New York publishing industry, so to speak, even though the title was owned by Hearst at the time. So, we were all down in Atlanta doing our thing.

Samir Husni: Can you relive that moment when you were offered the job as editor in chief of Veranda?

Clinton Smith: I feel like the interview process was about 12 years in the making, because I had had contact with Eliot Kaplan (Vice President, Talent Acquisition, Hearst Magazines) back in 2004/2005, somewhere in there, about various positions over the years. And along the way I had also struck up a friendship with Newell Turner (Editorial Director, Hearst Design Group), and he had become aware of the work I was doing at Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, I guess now, about seven years ago.

So, I think they both had subscriptions to the magazine; of course, there were certain issues I wish they hadn’t seen. (Laughs) But they were well aware of everything that I was doing, and obviously were impressed. But when the call came, it was exciting. The interview process at that time wasn’t too terribly long, but again I think they were aware of everything that I had done up until that point, and it was just a natural fit. Or at least, it seemed like a great fit for me and that’s been four years ago.

Samir Husni: Some magazines when they’re born, the odds are against them; the odds of survival in the magazine business, as you know, are usually against any new title. Yet, when Veranda was started, after just five years, some people wanted to buy the magazine. But Lisa Newsom, the founder of Veranda, did not want to sell, it was her baby. But then Hearst bought the magazine, and to make a long story short, you came onboard. And now you’re celebrating the magazine’s 30th anniversary issue. Can you tell me how you took a regional magazine published in Atlanta to an international level that is now known worldwide?

Clinton Smith: I think the reason for the success of the title is that when Lisa Newsom started the magazine, she had such a clear vision, and like you said, 30 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia, a mom with four children who decided to start her own magazine was unheard of. And I hope I’m not being ungentlemanly here, but she started the magazine when she was 50 years old. To start something this epic at that stage in your life is something to be commended for. And I often wonder if I would have the stamina for it. (Laughs)

And what’s interesting is that in April, there was a panel discussion that one of our senior editors, Carolyn Englefield, moderated in Atlanta. And it featured all three editors, Lisa Newsom, Dara Caponigro, and myself. Lisa Newsom talked about a few things that I had never known. We knew that she had started the magazine from her house and her kids helped with circulation and production, just everything, but at one point she had to actually mortgage her house to keep the magazine afloat. And she did not tell her husband that she had done that. (Laughs)

Again, the perseverance there is just amazing. And I think the reason for this longevity and success is that Lisa had her vision and she stuck to it. And then Dara came onboard and it was the same thing. Both Dara and I have been lucky in that neither of us has inherited a magazine that was in trouble, which anytime there’s a leadership change in publishing that’s sometimes the reason behind it. So, Dara came in and built upon what Lisa had done, and then I came onboard and inherited something that wasn’t broken, but of course, I wanted to put my stamp on it. Lisa was always a huge supporter of what I was doing in Atlanta, and was always so complimentary of it, which is a real testament to her character.

And I think out of so many shelter magazines, each of us has stuck to our own visions and what we wanted to convey to the readers, without being wishy-washy or really bowing to the trends and looking at what others are doing and even copying them. Just let everybody else do what they’re doing, and we’re going to stick to our vision and what we want to do.

Samir Husni: And it paid off.

Clinton Smith: Yes, absolutely, with our 30th anniversary issue and the biggest in the last 10 years.

Samir Husni: As you look forward, if you and I are having this conversation 20 years from now, and you’re celebrating the 50th anniversary issue; what do you think you would do differently than you did with the 30th anniversary issue?

Clinton Smith: Whenever you do an anniversary issue, and I think I mentioned this in my editor’s letter, it’s good to take stock of where you’ve been and most importantly, where do you want to go, and what does the future hold. I do think a bit of nostalgia is good for everyone in looking back. So, for us, with this issue, getting the balance was tricky, because you do want to give a nod to the past, but you don’t want to be bogged down by it either.

We had 30 years of beautiful archival imagery to go through, but when I start thinking about the next 20 or 30 years and doing an anniversary issue again, I think about the speed in which things are changing so quickly now. The iPhone is only 10-years-old, and for the 30th anniversary issue, we had all of this beautiful filmed photography, and everything is digital now. Who knows in five more years how we’ll be showcasing homes and gardens. It may be all computer-generated. We don’t know. And I think that’s the exciting part about publishing. I wish I had my crystal ball to tell you, but looking so far ahead into the future, the sheer volume of material will be so much more than what we had to work with now, which is already a lot.

Samir Husni: You have under your belt now about 18 years of magazine experience; if you look at that timetable as you did with Veranda, is there one or two shining moments out of those 18 years that you would call your “Aha” moments? Ones where you knew that you’d made it or defined your career goals?

Clinton Smith: It seems cliché to say that you’re only as good as your last issue, but of course, my brain right now is on November/December. (Laughs) If the next issue can stand up to this one. But I do have to say that this was something that I’m extremely proud of, and not only because of the fact that we produced this beautiful 30th anniversary issue.

But also the fact that I was able to come to the table with a vision and have such an amazing team who somehow saw parts of it perfectly clearly, and some of my more obtuse ideas they were able to interpret and make them all better. And whenever you work with such a great team and surround yourself with amazing people who all want to get to the same end goal and make something better than it was last time, that’s just the icing on the cake. I’m extremely proud of this issue.

Samir Husni: What was the major stumbling block as you prepared for this issue and how did you overcome it?

Clinton Smith: The magazine world, as you know, has a very long lead-time. And so, for the most part, a lot of the homes and gardens that we feature in the magazine are actually photographed a year in advance. And of course, the front of book stories are done much closer to our print deadline.

But this entire issue essentially came together in the three months before the deadline. We’ve actually never turned around some of these stories as quickly we did for this issue, and cautioned our managing editor not to tell anybody that could be done, (Laughs) because everyone would want their stories published a lot sooner.

But I think it was looking at every single page and asking ourselves what we could make new there, so it would fall into Veranda’s timeless look? How could we make it timelier for today? Just making sure that nothing we had photographed a year ago felt old to us. We wanted it to be as new and fresh as we could possible make it.

Samir Husni: As you flip through the pages of this issue, knowing that we actually live in a digital age, what value do you believe print brings to the 30th anniversary issue?

Clinton Smith: So many people have already received some first-bound copies that are going to be landing in subscribers’ mailboxes very soon. We’ve received several notes from those who have gotten those few first-bound copies, and they’ve said something along the lines of they can’t wait to spend their weekends with it. I can’t imagine anyone leaving work on a Friday afternoon saying that they can’t wait to spend their weekend with their phone or their iPad, I mean of course, they might like whatever they’re streaming online and can’t wait to binge-watch it that weekend, but for people to actually say they can’t wait to spend the weekend with the magazine is pretty special and remarkable and a testament to print.

And the fact that we go into so many houses that people have, maybe not all 30 years’ worth, but they save a lot of them. They’re collectable and they really do have this true staying power. We’re so lucky that we have some of the best paper stock in the business, so I think that makes it even more special. And people covet it even more.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Clinton Smith: What would I like people to know about me? I feel like I’m writing my own tombstone here, Samir. (Laughs) But I think it’s that I’ve done the best that I can do and I hope that I’ve inspired others to do the same.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; on your iPad; watching TV; or something else?

Clinton Smith: I’m probably in the garden out in the yard watering plants, picking some herbs, sweeping, maybe raking. Or I’m going on a walk or a hike, that sort of thing. Anytime that I can be outside is my favorite time of day. Anytime.

Samir Husni: Do I find you reading something?

Clinton Smith: I have a lot of design books, which I love, and I read a lot of biographies, more than any other genre. But the very interesting thing is, interesting to me, now that I think about it, is that I don’t have many magazines at home. I think that when I leave the office at the end of the day, even some favorite magazines, I might read them on the train or when I get back to the office, but at the end of the day I sort of want to be distracted by something else.

Even looking through a beautiful cooking magazine, I might see some little idea that makes me think I could adapt that to a design magazine. I love magazines as much as I always have, but I don’t keep that many at home. And I certainly don’t keep them next to my bed. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: What makes Clint tick and click these days and motivates you to get up each morning?

Clinton Smith: My Type-A personality, I think. And there’s this sense of what is new and what’s next. We’re not a trend-driven magazine, but as a journalist, it’s this sense of what’s around the corner; what are we going to wake up to today that will not only peak our interest, but make us think how we as journalists can translate that to the reader, so that they’re discovering something new and inspiring as well. At the end of the day, Veranda is an interior design magazine, but more than that, it’s a celebration of beauty in almost every form. So, the fact that I get to get up every morning and share beauty; what else could you ask for?

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Clinton Smith: Everything. The next story idea keeps me up. Deadlines keep me up. Did I get the cover right; is the headline right? I’ll wake up at 2:00 a.m. and think maybe I should rewrite a caption. All of those little things, and millions of others. Did I return an email? Did they reply to my email?

One of the things that I remember from one of your design classes that I took is that if you want to work at a magazine, you work with groups of people. And if you want to write a book, you work in essentially solitary confinement. And I think another student said something about creating a magazine, and essentially it was that they wanted to do it their way and not work with all of those other people. And that’s when you said that if they wanted to do that, they should go write a book. Doing a magazine is certainly not a solitary experience.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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One comment

  1. Who is the lady on the cover with the twins?



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