During my college years, the group of friends I ran with always maintained a standing rule of thumb on get togethers…
NO DISCUSSING POLITICS OR RELIGION
Why? Inevitably disagreement bubbled up, tempers flared and, rather than enjoying our time together, some floundered in a torrent of emotion. People got up and walked out. Once, a pair desired to come to blows…we broke that up quick.
I equate the entire concept to tastes in music. Everyone has different likes and dislikes. Some love the Beatles. Others love Taylor Swift. While others, again, are staunch country fans which frown upon Taylor. No one quite agrees on anything which is why 1,000,000 people hold dear to their hearts 1,000,000 million distinct playlists.
I am not opining that politics and religion are bad. People just carry varying ideologies. They do. Many take their credos quite seriously and emotionally struggle when those very beliefs get brought into question by those with countering ideas.
I’ve been a spectator to some of the heated arguments. No one ever wins. Those involved went away disgruntled or disappointed they could not sway the opposition to their line of thinking. A number of friendships dangled on the precipice. Some even fell over it…sadly.
The discussions turned out to have little value in the end. Why? Regardless of what others believe, our proclivity as humans drives us to perpetuate our own beliefs. It’s true. Anyone thinking otherwise lives in the complete dark.
“Believe what you want!”, I say. Just don’t impose your dogma upon me. I respect your philosophy on politics, religion as well as music. Please, respect mine!
Full Disclosure on Opining
I keep many of my opinions to myself. Outside of family, I do not talk about how I voted, political party affiliations, my religious beliefs or even opinions on public figures. I see people as people. One skin is no better than another. Men and women should be viewed as tantamount. Cats are as much fun as dogs. Dolphins are a beautiful as a a rose bush. Blue sky and starlight make for equally relaxing experiences. Though I may opine on the good and bad of announcing, you will need to drag me along with my fingernails digging into the asphalt to say an ill word about another colleague on the mic. I love them all!
Truth is, voicing slants amongst your closest of circles is safe. No one will exile me to the periphery of the solar system for liking this song or that senator. They could very well disagree with me but, an unwritten rule flows in the undertow which keeps it all from going to far. We agree to disagree congenially. That’s right. Harder for some than others. Oh yes! …but… rules are rules. Break them and suddenly the discussions shift from steep quasi-academic talks to bland reviews of the weather. Funny thing is some cannot even agree on that either.
Dangers of Public & Unfiltered
So… rolling ourselves forward to our current world fraught with polarized opinions. Let’s go ahead and give those opinions a platform for expression: social media. Now, every Tom, Dick and Henrietta can voice their views publicly…unfiltered. Public. Unfiltered. Boy, what kind of trouble could this create?
In the not too distant past, each of us could issue our stands pretty much in only a private manner. Only the brave stood on the soap box on the bern of a college campus. Most public views arrived in the filtered manner via the news media, press conferences or the like.
Today, good souls have become more courageous. They issue their postures right on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on. They feel they have something good to say and want to be heard. Maybe, they have something outrageous to post because they want the coveted “likes”. Whatever it may be, they hunger to post. So, they recklessly toss it out there for public consumption. Often, they discover what celebrities have known for decades. The public loves to punish more than reward.
The old days would have some poor unfortunate thing suffer through a torrent of news reports putting their bad behavior or denounced opinions on display for the world to criticize and scorn. Our current atmosphere uses the lightning to strike that same poor soul down until their lives and careers are burned to a crisp. What everyone is slowly learning is ‘ya can’t just say stuff without a consequence. You really can’t. I’m sorry to inform you.
The key is to come to terms with the words, public and unfiltered. Goodness people, public really does mean public. It means, quite possibly, anyone and everyone is reading and listening. This includes people who vehemently disagree, those loving to trounce on you for saying something they constitute as stupid, others wanting your job and some simply mean-spirited folks. Not just good friendly people use social media. Public means public. Not private. Public…like “public” address announcer.
Public is such a dangerous word that so few understand. Even those in the public eye don’t quite understand. Public requires care of a dainty nature and an intangible wisdom. Public Address Announcers, of ALL people, should know this best.
Example: A fire breaks out in the room in a section of a stadium. The news is delivered to administration that everyone must evacuate. What would happen if the public address announcer was directed to get on the mic and say, “Ladies and gentlemen, please, evacuate the stadium because of a fire in the facility.” Would people leave calmly? You know exactly what would happen.
Public means public. This brings in the word, Filter. You can’t just blurt out “Fire!” because that is unfiltered speech with dozens of wildly varying interpretations. Thought must be put into what gets communicated. Skilled individuals who know how address throngs need step in and sculpt language which a group of people might interpret in the sense of the concept at hand.
Imagine drinking unfiltered coffee. Ick.
For instance from the above example, little doubt the rhetoric would net potential catastrophic circumstances. With the help of good communications people, a more appropriate message lands upon the heads needing to know the information provoking reasoned response. Consider “Ladies and gentlemen, please, direct your attention to your nearest stadium attendant. For your safety, follow their direction as we need to evacuate the stadium.” Would this yield better results? Likely. Notice the less alarming nature. Yes, there is an emergency. Yes, people will need to leave. Was the message sensibly filtered? You decide.
The challenge with social media is the addition of the word, unfiltered. The typical tweeter spends little time filtering their communication. They type 12 words quick. It could be any twelve words. They add a link or picture. Off it goes!
“I hate the darn government. They only screw everything up for everybody.” – 12 Simple Words
Boom! Tweet! Retweet! Likes! Hearts! Comments! Supporters! Dissenters! Foul language! Threats! Cancel! Block! Bam! Boom! Bam! …all this but a million times as quick… Heaven forbid the pic or video contains compromising or salacious content, right?
Couple the aforementioned actions with all the emotion of polarized subjects such as politics, religion or race. How might a person land? Hard to say but, it went out unfiltered to the public. It reached the eyes and minds of those who may have a positive or negative reaction, potentially acute ones.
Good P.A. announcers stay out of the fray on the mic. They stick to the script. Sure, a bit of ad lib here and there is part of the gig. However, they manage their game or match as they know how. They read what administration gives them to read. The tend NOT to stray too much. The announcer often is the least swayed person in the house. Really good announcers do not even care who wins or loses. They announce the game. At the high school level, good ones don’t even inflect their voices for the home team. The just keep steady information flowing to the crowd.
The Play by Play Broadcasters have it a bit different. They talk about the players, issue opinions on the directions of teams, some are there specifically to provide color and so on. It’s their job. An abundance gets spewed out, even more for radio folks, every contest. The speak nonstop.
It recent times. Good announcers, who opine little to nothing in their positions in the press box, have subjected themselves to the social media world of the often unforgiving public. Oh brother! What have some of you done to yourselves?
I see it everyday. The thirst to post something clearly makes a few folks manic. Love this. Hate that. I like. I don’t. Look at me! Look at this guy! What a hot bikini! I disagree with this. I am totally behind that. Why does it have to be a person of color? OOPS! I don’t like that they chose a woman. OOPS! The Republicans did this to us. OOPS! Of course it was a man of the cloth. OOPS! OOPS! OOPS! OOPS!
How about posting a sexy pic of a person without their approval? OH NO!!!!
In a world where naysayers will strike a person down with the least little off-color remark, folks defenestrate their sensibility and, in some cases, careers to arrogantly issue out their two cents. OMG! 2 cents! The cost of that 2 cents turned out to be thousands of dollars and more for some.
Not long ago, an announcer in the southwest who had his pro gig locked down for the past twenty years (20!!!) created a secret social media account to vehemently attack an elected official with what were interpreted as threatening remarks. Now, he is quite unemployable in the microphone space. Unemployable!
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, in our connected world, they CAN find you.
Another play by play fella in a pro gig lost it all for an off-color remark on set when he thought the cameras were off. He got instantly labelled and ousted. Instantly! He’d been in his job and was beloved by his public for 30 years. 30!!! Now, he is essentially out of work, goodbye.
Yet again, a really good announcer lost his long-standing pro gig for opinionated remarks on social media about the organization he worked for. Fired! Tossed! Out! Our country’s favorite word, Cancelled!
The list goes on and on. Sadly, more not less will get added to what is already enough of a list to upset the stomach. The public arena is a dangerous place. You would not just go running into the mouth of a live volcano, would you? Then why, just because you have some angst on a matter, go typing willy-nilly into the unfiltered public….where like the volcano, things could blow at any moment…all over only you!!!
With social media along with the normal media literally destroying careers and lives before our eyes, why opine at all?! The thing for P.A. Announcers is the P stands for Public. Yes, they are in the public space. Thousands hear what they say. From this, thousands know who they are. This translates to a responsibility on and off the mic. As public figures, they represent the organizations they work for. If an announcer posts unfiltered opinions to the public, suddenly, their employing organizations must consider liabilities. It does not matter if you like it. It turns about to be very true.
When the push comes to the shove, will organizations support those over the line who have put them into a challenging public relations situation? I will tell you. They likely won’t. They will just fire rather than shoulder the burden for whatever their announcer put on social media or maybe said over the mic. This goes for broadcasters, too. Do you really think ESPN, ABC and others will stand behind the color commentator who goes off the reservation on social media. They are not in the business of babysitting their people. They are in the business of profitability and, they can only guarantee a future by protecting their brand.
In fact, they have already proven they will most certainly not. Nope. No way. Big organizations already shoulder onerous issues on their own every day. If their announcer or play-by-play person desires to opine his politics or share less than appropriate material in open forum, he signals to his organization risk. That’s right folks…like it or not…risk.
Why?! Why?! Why?! Why?! Why?!
Generally, folks do not care about a public figure’s opinion unless the president or congressperson puts one out there. When they do, yes, many might comment positive and negative feedback. Others posting colorful thoughts, more often than not, land in trouble so, why????? Why do it? Why risk your great gig at a Division I school or for a professional team? Why? Why? Why?
I’m not suggesting the peanut gallery should cease posting opinions on social media or expressing themselves in public. Quite frankly, I am in no position to suppose such a thing. What I am putting forth is public address announcers are not the peanut gallery. They are in the public eye, not just the ear.
Bob Sheppard was not just the voice of Yankee Stadium. Otherwise, we would not know his name or appearance. He was in the public eye. He knew he was in the public eye. Announcers need to wake up and realize they are in a role that thrusts them into the public view. The crowd harbors a greater awareness of them than many realize. They need attain an immediate sagacity that they can no longer just say whatever they want, unfiltered, into the public soup. Unless, they really don’t value being on the mic or in their job. If this be the case, I suggest they spare their organizations the pain and resign their post.
The P Means Public
The P means public. It does not mean politics. It, also, does not mean put forward. It does not mean predisposition or proclivity. It fails to stand for pompous or pounce. It comes nowhere near penalize. It is the first letter of public. Announcers are in the public. They speak to the public. They are seen in public. They are followed by the public. They are public figures…yes, I’ve said it, public address announcers are public figures. This comes with responsibility. Those that don’t want to hear that…tough. Part of the gig. Announcers too naïve to comprehend this should stay clear of a microphone.
An announcer is removed from the peanut gallery. They can’t just express their everything thought as they might have been able to as part of the masses. They represent more than themselves. They represent the people they work for…which is why it astonishes me how little input some colleges and high schools put into what their announcers say over a mic. C’mon people! The announcer speaks to your thousands. What?! You mean to tell me some colleges and high schools don’t care what they say? It is to laugh.
These days, if a good announcer or broadcaster of athletics wants to keep their job, they tend to transmit as little opinion or cavalier remarks as possible to the public in open forums such as social media. The self-imposed damage created far outweighs the benefit.
What was the point? To say something outrageous? To spark controversy? To express your opinion on politics? If you are not a political figure, the comments are innocuous. They net so little value. Maybe, the desire was much simpler: wanting attention, getting likes and hearts, gain a bit of popularity. Are a pile of emojis worth the lost of your gig? Think about it.
Good announcers on social platforms stick to positive posts only. They advertise their next gig. They keep clear of politics, religion, race and all the other tender subjects which leverage them or their organizations. It’s just not worth it. We have seen colleagues across the country lose their livelihoods right in front of us. The rest of us need to learn from this…and quick. The U.S. Capitol is not your mic stand. I know it is hard, when you are emotionally triggered, not to go spout off. As public figures, we must tone down the rhetoric, refrain from the off-color or controversial or end up without a microphone.
P means Public! Yes? No? Food for thought. You decide.
About Matthew C Wallace
Matthew C. Wallace is the owner of publicaddressannouncer.org. He is a public address announcer, writer, webmaster, historian, author as well as a former executive and musician. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and children.