Whenever the magazine runs a story on family-related problems, chances are Assistant Editor Bonnie Johnson, 40, is the behind-the-scenes person who has made it happen. "I am on the womb beat," she jokes. Since joining the staff in 1980, Johnson has reported and shepherded into print a dozen or more stories on abortion, adoption, teen suicide and surrogate parenting. In this issue she is responsible for arranging the moving interview, reported by National Correspondent Lois Armstrong, with a couple struggling to come to terms with the traumas of infertility (page 113).

For Johnson, the mother of Christopher, 3, the family beat is a natural. Returning to the magazine from a six-month maternity leave in 1984, she found a host of child-related stories coming her way. "In a sense it was typecasting," Johnson admits, "but because I had a natural interest in the subject, it worked out very well."

Fascinated by the strides medicine is making in the treatment of infertility, Johnson set out to find a husband and wife willing to talk freely about their experiences. "We needed folks who wouldn't mind being asked very personal questions," says Johnson. To find such a pair, she attended seminars on infertility and eventually through Resolve, the national support group for infertile couples, chose Deborah and Tom Newell.

They have her sympathy. "I can really relate to their unyielding desire to have a baby," she says. "Having a child is an experience I wouldn't have missed. My heart goes out to those for whom it doesn't work out."

Born in Brooklyn, the daughter of an accountant and a secretary mother, Johnson is a graduate of Brooklyn College. She went to work for LIFE in 1967 as secretary to fashion editor Sally Kirkland and to Richard Stolley, who became PEOPLE'S founding managing editor. She soon decided to be a writer. "It was more fun," she quips, "than making coffee."

Today, Johnson, who is married to cinematographer Stephen Ward, finds her interests at the office pay dividends at home. When Christopher entered his terrible 2s, she got to interview child psychologists Lawrence Baiter and Stanley Turecki. Now Johnson is working on a series of teen stories, which suits her fine, since her stepdaughter, Sarah, just turned 14. "In a few years I will be into geriatrics," Johnson says with a smile, "and my life will be an open book called PEOPLE."