A Heartwarming Tale of Staggering Generosity

Things were looking bleak for McSweeneys.net, until the McSweeneys of Massachusetts jumped in to save the Net zine.

Published March 28, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Every once in a while, buried among the stories of corporate greed and dot-com mania, you come across a tale of Internet-inspired neighborliness that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Just take the recent saga of McSweeneys.net.

McSweeney's Internet Tendency, the online home for the quirky zine McSweeney's (itself published by the author Dave Eggers), has been operating online on a shoestring (read: nonexistent) budget for over a year. The zine's pro-bono webmaster, however, recently announced his impending retirement, throwing the future of McSweeney's Internet Tendency into a peril.

Enter the McSweeneys, a lovely suburban family with four children residing in the Boston area -- and online at the address McSweeneys.com. The McSweeney family had struck up a correspondence with Eggers, having received a disproportionate amount of misdirected e-mail and site traffic intended for the zine. Upon hearing the tale of the impending demise of McSweeneys.net, however, the McSweeney family offered their help: Beginning April 3, McSweeneys.net will officially become a joint venture between the zine and the "Massachusetts McSweeneys," with the family maintaining the Web site and its finances for the impoverished (and accounting-challenged) zine editors. Free of charge.

"It's funny, this really kind of weird fantastic thing -- we don't even know these people, and they've just stepped in to save our hides," explains Todd Pruzan, associate editor of McSweeney's. "But NASDAQ has been good to them and they like to support these kinds of things." (Interestingly, McSweeney's seems to get a generous amount of support from its namesakes: outside of the "Massachusetts McSweeneys," there are nearly 50 subscribers to the zine McSweeney's who also bear the McSweeney family name.)

The Web site will remain editorially unchanged, although it will now refrain from printing profanity or obscenity, which might be inappropriate for consumption by little 6-year-old Molly McSweeney. Brendan McSweeney, the family's seventh-grader, will become the site's webmaster.

Mother Wendy McSweeney (who, incidentally, has yet to subscribe to the print zine or read Eggers' recent memoir), is modest about the offer. "We thought it would be a fun thing, and neat for Brendan and the kids to be connected in some way," she shrugs. "It just seemed to make sense."

Eggers & company have explained this tale on their Web site in a much more profound and witty way than I could; however, the story is worth repeating. This could perhaps be the first time in domain-name history that a URL mix-up has inspired such generosity, especially between an otherwise unlikely pair. Truly staggering and, hopefully, inspiring.

By Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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