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Why Jill Abramson Gave Her First Interview to Cosmo

It's not just because Joanna knows Jill

Chris Keane/Getty Images News

Jill Abramson won’t say she was fired because of sexism. But in speaking out in women’s magazines and speaking to female reporters, she may be trying to communicate that women in media do need a boost. Abramson gave her first big interview since being ousted from The New York Times to Cosmo, and on Tuesday, Cosmo’s website posted excerpts from the piece. 

Cosmo doesn’t seem the obvious magazine for Abramson to talk to first. Though the monthly women’s mag has, under Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles, begun focusing more on work and career issues, it’s still known best for sex tips and health advice; the last three issues have featured Megan Fox, Katy Perry, and model Chrissy Teigen on the cover.

But is Abramson making a point of speaking only with women? In text messages later tweeted by her daughter, Abramson wrote, on her spate of media appearances this month: “Reporters I won’t talk to say media blitz of course. No one notices I’m just choosing women I think kick ass to do the interviews.”

This week, she’s scheduled to talk to Greta Van Susteren on Fox News; Katie Couric at Yahoo News; and Pat Kiernan and Rita Cosby on their radio show, “The Ride Home.” (“Kick ass” is a label that knows no political bounds, apparently.)

I asked Leslie Yazel, the Cosmo editor who, along with editor Laura Brounstein, interviewed Abramson at her house in Connecticut, how the interview came about. “Joanna Cole had met Jill and they just struck up a friendship,” she said. “When she was fired, Joanna reached out to her, thinking this would be an interesting time for her to talk to young women about what she’d learned in the workplace. She was totally game.” Indeed, in the excerpt published by Cosmo, Abramson says tactfully, “The whole issue of how women's management styles are viewed is an incredibly interesting subject.”

Writing in The New Republic last year, Jessica Grose made a persuasive case that serious journalism often gets overlooked if it’s published in women’s publications. It’s been over a decade, Grose notes, since a profile written for a women’s magazine has been nominated for the prestigious National Magazine Awards (NMAs); it’s been 15 years since a women’s magazine was nominated in the “essays and criticism” category. Meanwhile, profiles and criticism written for men’s magazines like GQEsquire, and Men’s Journal have all been honored with an Ellie. 

It’s worth noting that Abramson isn’t the only powerful woman to give a women’s mag a big scoop this year. Hillary Clinton gave the first excerpt of her memoir, Hard Choices, to Vogue earlier this spring. Perhaps a change in the ostensible un-seriousness of women's magazines is afoot.