Dear John

By Sheryl McAlister

I stumbled across this column recently by John Boyette, the Executive Editor of the Aiken Standard. Originally written in 2019, it is noted to have been updated in 2021. I hadn’t seen it until now.

After reading it, I realized I owe John an apology. After 38 years.

The column was about clippings and scrapbooks and things one does across a life or a career that are worth remembering. Saving to reminisce another day when the applause has stopped but the mind still remembers.

We all look back and fondly recall the times where we literally or figuratively hit it out of the park. We all likely recall those moments of regret as well. I apparently caused one of those moments of regret for John.

It was 1984, and I was a young sportswriter and editor. Out of college only two years in my first grown-up job, responsible for a team of part-time writers and stringers who covered eight high schools, a local college and two state universities along with Aiken’s horse racing. I was young and green. But at the Aiken Standard, we were fortunate to be given a lot of responsibility and the leeway to pull it off.

John was the best stringer I ever had. Good writer, good guy. Always accountable and reliable. Always met deadline. Always.

I remember the football season he wrote about in this column but for different reasons. Back then, the University of South Carolina made no accommodation for female sports writers to have fair and equal access. I was mostly left to fend for myself. Maybe I was thinking John would have the same issues. But he wouldn’t have, now that I think about it, because he was a male.  (I had to ultimately take a male reporter with me when I covered this school.) I don’t remember if I or someone else made the call that the game he referenced was too big for a part-time stringer to cover. But the decision was my responsibility, because I was the sports editor.

That decision has stayed with him all these years. He missed a chance to do something that meant the world to him. And I’m sorry I caused that. I’m sorry I discriminated against him because of his status in the proverbial food chain of an organization or his perceived lack of experience.

Truth is, that game probably was too big for a part-time stringer, as sound editorial practices would suggest. But not this stringer. And John had earned the right to cover it.

I think John might have been 19-years-old, and I was 24-years-old. Both new to the business. I hope he will forgive me my inexperience and naivete. I hope over the years I have grown more open minded about the value of youth along with the wisdom of experience. Getting older does that. At least I hope it does.

I remember John as a mature guy with a good sense of humor and a love for sports. I have thought of him often over the many years since we worked together. Followed his career through journalism back to where it all began for him. 

Over the years, what I’ve also learned is that the basic elements of a good storyteller and a good story boil down to this: knowledge, passion and the ability to tell it.

Mea culpa, John Boyette. Mea culpa.


Copyright 2022. Sheryl McAlister.

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