The lessons of Bob Sheppard being "clear, concise, correct"

The voice of the New York Yankees and New York Giants through nearly every great moment of the post-World War II era, Bob Sheppard, had “clear, concise, correct” as his motto for public-address announcing.

It very well may have been his motto for living his life, which just ended at a young 99. His intonations were unique in their simplicity and deliberateness (which is not at all the same as slowness), and from that they drew their power. There were not mispronunciations or other errors, even if in later years, late-game events such as defensive substitutions were not always announced. The singular fame and reputation that he held in the public’s eye was due to his particular employers and his vocal gifts, but also to his humility and doggedness.

Sheppard’s life in itself is not a guide for humanity — we didn’t know that much about him — but it is a reminder of the value and rewards of certain values that, by their nature, are often obscured. That’s the broad, human lesson.

In some ways, I think, he was ahead of his time, particularly in media. Bob Sheppard would have never needed or wanted Twitter, I feel, even if he were a much, much younger man today. But could he have been great at it? I think so. Podcasts? Yes. Sure, his style may have taken a while to catch on, given its lack of histrionics and hyperbole, but his voice would shine on a podcast and his verbal discipline would tame the 140-character limits of tweeting. I wouldn’t have bet against him with a book or long-ish newspaper/online column, but those can often come off as forced and certainly are more difficult to make clear and concise.

On Twitter, especially, I believe that he would have combined reliability with the genial, cooperative spirit that is the best of social media, though it would have been interesting to see how that would play with the Yankees and Major League Baseball.

As for editing, Sheppard was not an editor, per se, but he is at the heart of my belief that we are all editors, but only some of us are experts of the craft. Attention to detail, diligence and solid, efficient job performance may not be the only components for success today, but they surely retain great value. And, as editors, we can take from Sheppard the humility, combined with the self-confidence made possible by great preparation, that can improve our work relations and our professional reputations.

We needn’t shy away from expressing the need for editing, curation and editorial guidance in the age of social media. But, like Sheppard and John Wooden showed, we can do it for a long time, and well, without anger or aggression.

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