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Cosmopolitan editor: Magazine encapsulates 'modern woman's life'

By Jay Kernis
Rock Center

“Every month I want Cosmo to feel like this intoxicating cocktail,” says Cosmopolitan Editor-In-Chief Joanna Coles. “A variety of things: career, fashion, beauty, sex, love, family, friends. All the drama that is a modern woman’s life encapsulated in one place.”

Coles has been running the place since September 2012 after six years of editing Marie Claire magazine.  Today, Cosmopolitan is the world’s largest magazine, with 64 international editions. In the United States, it’s the biggest-selling monthly magazine with a circulation of more than 3 million readers.

Coles told correspondent Harry Smith that her goal is to restore some of the “bones and muscle” the magazine had when it was led by the legendary editor Helen Gurley Brown, the author of “Sex and the Single Girl” who turned the arrival of Cosmo each month into a sexy and provocative event.

So in addition to features on what to wear to the beach this summer, and what accessories are necessary and fabulous, Coles also tackles more serious issues. She recently commissioned a long story about domestic violence and a magazine-within-the-magazine career guide edited by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.

Coles says it’s important to her that, “Cosmo is a place where we can talk about serious issues that affect young women.”

But no matter what changes Coles makes to the magazine, there will always be the extensive coverage of dating and sex.

“I don’t think relationships and love and sex are particularly racy,” Coles says. “I think it’s sort of essential to a good healthy lifestyle.”

Born in Great Britain and raised in working-class Yorkshire, Coles came to the United States in 1997 to report for The Guardian and later, for New York magazine. She says one of her obsessions growing up was watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show each week.

“I thought she was the most glamorous, interesting, magical creature I’d ever seen,” Coles declares.

And like Moore’s TV character, Mary Richards, Joanna Coles did make it after all. 

Editor's Note: Harry Smith's full report airs Friday, May 31 at 10pm/9CDT on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.