Magazine editor worked at ‘The Daily Iowan,’ ‘The Des Moines Register’
Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The new second-in-command at Cosmopolitan magazine sharpened her skills in the newsroom of The Daily Iowan, where as a University of Iowa student she reported on everything from wartime protests on the Pentacrest to policy decisions made by the Iowa Board of Regents.

Leslie Yazel, a Des Moines native who earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and English from Iowa in 1993, was named executive editor of the iconic magazine for women in May. She previously served as an editor at The Wall Street Journal and in the Style section of The Washington Post, was on staff at Glamour and Maxim magazines, and worked as a reporter at The Des Moines Register.

At Cosmopolitan, which has a staff of 50 in New York and a monthly circulation of 3 million, Yazel oversees the features team, fielding story pitches, making assignments, collaborating with the art director, and supporting the editor-in-chief. She says she knew from a young age that journalism would be her career.

The Des Moines Register landed on our doorstep every morning, and I thought it was a miracle that all the news of the world was right there in print,” she says. “Plus, I was always a curious person.”

Iowa's student newspaper drives success

As an undergraduate, Cosmopolitan executive editor Leslie Yazel worked as a reporter at The Daily Iowan.

The independent, student-run newspaper has a reputation for attracting top-notch students to the university and helping to launch successful careers in the field.

In fall 2013, The Daily Iowan was recognized as one of the top five campus newspapers in the country by the Associated Collegiate Press.

It was The Daily Iowan that drew her to the University of Iowa.

“I visited other universities with great reputations for journalism, but I thought I would be able to learn more at Iowa, where the newspaper was run by the students and where I saw students getting professional experience. The editor at the time was also stringing for Sports Illustrated.”

While still an undergraduate,Yazel was hired as a correspondent for The Des Moines Register. In fact, she always imagined herself working at a newspaper, but says she couldn’t pass up the opportunity at Cosmopolitan.

“I like to work at places with strong women. Cosmo is very much about female empowerment, and that spoke to me,” she says. “Under the leadership of editor-in-chief Joanna Coles, the magazine has evolved over the past 12 to 18 months to focus more on women’s careers, health, and money.”

This year the magazine nabbed its first-ever National Magazine Award, edging out GQ and Money in the personal service category. Yazel says she plans to continue producing content that makes a difference in the lives of women everywhere—and to remain cognizant of her Iowa roots.

“So many publications, including Cosmopolitan, are based in New York,” she says. “I feel it’s a little bit of my mission as a proud Iowan to remind staffers that we’re writing for readers all over the country and not create articles and packages that feel too ‘East Coast-y.’”