Shameless, driven, mortgage-free

Megan Griffith-Greene and Jeromy Lloyd have put off home ownership to chase their dreams

By David Hayes, The Toronto Star, August 4, 2007

Smart, savvy, independent-minded teenage girls don’t have a lot of choice in magazines. There’s Seventeen (“Get the latest fashion, beauty, dating, and health tips. Plus, win freebies, take quizzes, and check your daily horoscope!”); Cosmo Girl (“Need crush help? Get your astro-love forecast now!”); Teen Vogue (“Beauty crisis: How can you be a back-to-school bombshell this fall?”); and Teen (“Get makeup tips to look instantly bronze.”)

There are a few U.S. alternatives, though, like New Moon, for girls aged eight to 14, Teen Voices or Gurl, an e-zine available only online.

And in Canada, there’s Shameless, dedicated to empowerment, raising self-esteem and developing political and social awareness, rather than obsessively tracking celebrities, selling makeup and teaching girls to define themselves by winning the approval of others (especially boys). Through stories that raise awareness about violence against women and teach girls to prevent STDs and become their own bike mechanic, Shameless is the thinking teen girl’s magazine.

Today I’m sitting with editor Megan Griffith-Greene in Shameless’ corporate headquarters – the one-bedroom apartment in Riverdale that she rents with her boyfriend, Jeromy Lloyd, an editor and writer.

It has 4.3-metre ceilings covered in ornate stucco, huge windows and a fireplace lined with blue ceramic tiles. The main floor bedroom has an enormous walk-in closet and the large kitchen, where we’re having tea, is in the basement with one small window. (“I wasn’t so sure about that,” says Griffith-Greene. “But it’s fine. Cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”)
Renting is a natural fit for the 30-year-old Griffith-Greene.

“Both Jeromy and I did two degrees and now we’re in journalism, which isn’t the most highly-paid career. Even if we could afford a down payment on a house or condo, we’d be carrying all that debt,” she says. “And when you own a house and have a major problem with the roof leaking, you may have to come up with $20,000. If the roots of a tree in the front yard end up in the sewage pipes, you’re responsible. If anything like that happened, I couldn’t afford to be editor of Shameless.”

Next to the kitchen is a door leading to a large storage area, which doubles as the magazine’s archives. Stacked to nearly the editor’s height are about 80 boxes containing every issue since the launch of Shameless in June 2004.

The magazine was created by Nicole Cohen and Melinda Mattos as a prototype for a class project when they were students at Ryerson University’s journalism school. Against all odds – no grants, little advertising, staffed by volunteers – Shameless grew to nearly 1,000 subscribers. (In 2004 it was nominated for Best New Magazine and Best Design by Utne Reader, a bible of the alternative press in the U.S. A year later, it won Utne’s award for Best Personal Life Writing.)

When Cohen and Mattos decided it was time for a new editor to take over, Griffith-Greene was a logical choice. When she was a teenager, she was an activist – involved in social justice and education issues at her alternative high school – and her reading tastes ran to Ms. and Toronto-based This Magazine, which focuses on politics and culture.

With a degree in cultural studies and fine arts from York University, Griffith-Greene spent a year teaching English in Japan before studying journalism at Ryerson, where she was editor of The Ryerson Review of Journalism. After graduating she began freelancing and with a friend launched The New Pollution, a Web-based music magazine. Today, she’s running the research department at Chatelaine, a job that underwrites the time she puts into Shameless.

“I loved the autonomy of being a freelance writer,” says Griffith-Greene. “But nothing I was doing felt like the reason I got into journalism in the first place. I like what Shameless stands for.”

Griffith-Greene is especially attracted to community-building. She loved living in her last house, where roommates would take turns cooking communal dinners. Only half joking, she tells me that food is the real secret to leadership.

“With everyone volunteering, squeezing in meetings around jobs, you have to make it fun. You do a lot of hard work, then I come around and say, `here, have a cookie.'”

Thinking of the future, Griffith-Greene has a home ownership plan. Friends living in England will be returning to Canada and she and her boyfriend would like to buy a duplex with them, a communal ownership model she thinks can work. Until then, though, Griffith-Greene says, “I’m totally comfortable being a renter.”