Mary Sweeten took over for Weavers Way’s longtime communications director and editor of The Shuttle, Jon McGoran, when he stepped down in late March after nearly three decades with the Northwest Philadelphia institution.
McGoran went on to become editor-in-chief of Grid, a magazine that focuses on sustainability in Philadelphia. Sweeten comes to Weavers Way after many years at the Daily News.
NewsWorks caught up with Sweeten and McGoran about the change.
NewsWorks: Any particular reason why you decided to leave Weavers Way?
Jon McGoran: It was time. Working at Weavers Way was great in many, many ways and not the least of it was that it was very important to me to be part of that community. That was a big part of my life and still is. I’m still a member and still look forward to being involved in the Co-op in various ways. But it was time for a new challenge and when this opportunity came up, I’ve known Alex for a few years now and the opportunity to work with him was something that I had considered before and something that I was definitely excited about.
NW: What will you miss about Weavers Way?
JM: Mostly the people. If you had asked me that a couple of weeks ago, I would have said, I miss knowing where the pens are, I miss knowing how the coffee machines works – that sort of thing. I kind of familiarized myself with my surroundings a bit more [at Grid] so that, not so much. But I would say definitely the people. That’s the main thing. There’s some really great people there. I miss them, although I’m sure I’ll be seeing them sooner than later.
NW: What’s Grid been like so far?
JM: It’s been great to work with the group here. It’s a wonderful group of people and I’m very excited to be a part of it. I’ve been a huge fan of Grid from the very beginning. [Grid founder] Alex [Mulcahy] came out to Weavers Way when they were about to start and we talked about what he was planning on doing and it just sounded amazing. It was something that I was very excited about being associated with and something that I could definitely envision being a part of. For me, it’s pretty exciting to be a part of it now.
NW: What was intriguing about the editor-in-chief position?
JM: That’s something that I liked doing for The Shuttle. As the editor of The Shuttle it was nice to kind of be able to direct things to some extent, to react to things that come in and kind of juggle all of the moving pieces and see it through to becoming a finished product. I find that very rewarding and challenging sometimes, but fun. At Weavers Way, in ways, it was a bigger job because I was doing a lot of the layout; I was very involved in the advertising.
The Shuttle itself was also just a part of my job. I was doing the website, social media, PR, and answering questions and going to meetings and sorts of stuff. So I like the idea of just kind of focusing on a publication and just doing that, but also being more proactive and being able to conceive of issues and assign stories and really see things from start to finish – less reactive and more proactive.
NW: What does sustainability mean to you?
JM: Sustainable means doing things in ways that can be continued in an open-ended way. It means doing things in ways that don’t use up nonrenewable resources, fill up the landfills or ruin the environment, and it means doing so in a way that is equitable and just. It also means acknowledging the hidden or external costs of what we do.
NW: How would you grade Philadelphia’s sustainability efforts?
JM: Philadelphia is doing a pretty good job regarding sustainability. For the most part, Philadelphians get it. There’s a lot of energy around sustainability, and things like urban agriculture. And the Mayor’s office and other departments have devoted a lot of energy and attention to issues of sustainability. But there is always more to be done. Right now, sustainability is an ideal to be pursued, something that we are all working toward, but eventually, that ideal is going to have to become our mundane, everyday reality, or else we are all going to be in a lot of trouble.
NewsWorks then turned to Sweeten for an idea of what’s ahead for her at Weavers Way.
Newsworks: Have you covered topics related to health and food and co-ops before?
Mary Sweeten: Nope. For a long time I’ve been interested in all these issues. I’m interested in social justice.
NW: What’s the most interesting thing about Weavers Way to you?
MS: It’s being able to have control and being able to learn about where the food comes from and being able to contribute.
NW: Have you been to the [Weavers Way] farm? Do you have a farm experience?
MS: I’ve been up there, but I do a lot of gardening too. I used to work for a gardener who is sort of connected with the co-op.
NW: What do you look forward to the most about working at Weavers Way?
MS: Working with other people who share my interests and being able to do more of the stuff that I’m interested in.
NW: How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
MS: I’m the person that’s going to be bugging you to contribute something to the Shuttle.
NW: Are you going to be advocating for local issues around food?
MS: That’s the stuff that people care about. Local food, knowing your food sources, it’s a big deal and it’s what the co-op tries to do. Jon had a lot of stuff that he was interested in, working on and being outfront about. I’m trying to find my way. They have a lot of publications here. That needs a lot of attention, that’s a job itself. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing, making sure everything looks good when it goes out.