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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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On the Next Episode of The Lead

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October 23rd, 2013
06:20 PM ET

The Lead Read: Jezebel.com's encyclopedia 'The Book of Jezebel'

The new book "The Book of Jezebel" compiles some of the most compelling features and segments popularized by Jezebel.com. The website was founded six years ago, in reaction to a lack of quality content for women.

One segment featured in the book is 'cover lies,' which documents magazine covers' misrepresentations and misleading headlines.

"Women's magazines in particular tend to have a way of fudging the truth on a cover in order to have it fly off the news stands, so we deemed these 'cover lies,'" said Anna Holmes, editor of the new book, and founder and former editor of Jezebel.com.

Every month, Jezebel staff would scan the covers of major women's magazines – Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Elle, Glamour, among others – and re-imagine them with more truthful, straightforward headlines. For example, translating "50 things to do butt naked" on the cover of Cosmopolitan, to "50 awkward things to do naked."

Shortly after the launch of Jezebel.com, the website made news with an untouched up version of Redbook magazine's cover featuring singer Faith Hill.

"She's a beautiful woman and there's no reason to have airbrushed her like that, but that's standard practice, it's not Redbook's fault, it's kind of society's fault," said Holmes.

The 'Photoshop of Horrors' became a regular feature, exposing the heavy airbrushing of photos and videos.

"A lot of women's magazines, or media in general was selling us a phony bill of goods, especially women who I think are under more pressure than men are to look a certain way, to behave a certain way, to buy certain things," said Holmes.

But many times the people setting impossible standards of beauty for women, are women themselves.

"I wouldn't single out any one female editor of any of these magazines as being anti-woman. It's simply what everyone has been doing for many decades," said Holmes.

Once magazines developed the habit of airbrushing cover photos, it became hard to imagine doing it another way, said Holmes.

"That said, in the past couple of years, you've seen a number of women's magazines that have put on their cover actresses and models that have been unairbrushed," said Holmes.

Since Jezebel.com launched, Holmes said she has seen other changes in the mainstream magazine industry. Take Cosmopolitan, which for Jezebel was a "worst offender," for ridiculous and condescending content. The magazine has a new editor, Joanna Coles, formerly of Marie Claire.

"She is kind of turning a corner with the magazine, which is to say they're not doing as many '100 sexy sex tips' or 'How to lose 30 pounds in 30 days' stories," said Holmes.

Beyond the change in women's magazines, there are now more women's websites online – many inspired by Jezebel.com. The pioneering website has certainly made its mark on pop culture. There was even a plot line in the NBC comedy "30 Rock" that featured a Jezebel.com-like website called 'Joan of Snark.'

Jezebel's homepage features a range of stories, from reality TV star gossip, to stories of rape victims denied justice.

"It may have felt incoherent to some people to have ... more serious content on the site coupled with more superficial content. But that was the problem with women's magazines that I'd had for years, this idea that women can't walk and chew gum at the same time, that they aren't interested in electoral politics and fashion, or celebrity," said Holmes.

"We just posted the stories that we wanted to post, that we thought were important, without over-thinking it too much. Because we'd believed that people would come, we believed there were other women and men who wanted this sort of content, and would react well to it. And they did," said Holmes.

CNN's Cassie Spodak contributed to this report.

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