Editors are like ogres


Just call me Shrek.

Not that I’m an ogre, green and suddenly moved to a swamp. Rather, I’m more like Shrek, full of layers that need to be unpeeled to discover the true me.

This layering seems to be the case literally lately since the weather is forcing me to dress for varying temperatures in a single day. I can start with a short-sleeve shirt, add a long-sleeved overshirt or sweatshirt and then top that with a lightweight jacket or sweater, followed by a heavy coat accompanied by a scarf, hat, gloves and fur-lined boots. (Can you tell I get cold pretty easily?)

And I will admit there were a few days in the past month or so when I was as grumpy and angry as an ogre. Fortunately, my husband is a patient man (most of the time) and knew just what to do to turn my frown upside down. A good movie and a cup of hot chocolate — doused with vodka for good measure. This also is an ideal way to deal with the colder winter temperatures.

But actually, my affinity with Shrek is more about my personality, and how my work has affected it.

It’s an affliction I have know about for awhile, but it wasn’t until I saw the animated movie a few years ago that I was able to truly understand this phenomena and how people react to it.

In the movie, Shrek explains to Donkey that he/ogres are like onions. Donkey replies saying that ogres stink and make people cry.

There is some truth to that. As a newspaper editor, while I don’t smell bad, there are often issues I have to deal with that do stink, and how we write about them can make people cry. Even me.

And there are sometimes days when frustrations are so high (deadlines will do that to you) that I leave the office in tears.

But it’s Shrek’s response that really rings true. It’s all about the onion’s layers.

Onions have tough exteriors. So do newspaper reporters and editors. We have to. We have to remain stoic to deal with the tragedies and controversies we write about. Those tough outsides are necessary to protect the soft inner layers.

Though onion skins can sometimes become brittle and break, it usually takes work to get to the inside.

For me, that work comes only with time.

First meetings are generally the roughest. My no-nonsense, focused approach to work have left people with the impression that I don’t care or that I’m mean and unapproachable. None of that is true. I just have a job to do and must get it done. That comes first.

That tough exterior also helps me deflect the animosity and criticism that comes with sitting at this desk. There hasn’t been a week in my time as editor that I haven’t received at least one comment about how poorly a job we are doing in covering news in the community or that someone didn’t dislike the way we presented an issue.

Yet, if you take the time to chat with me, listen to the various sides to each story, peel away the layers, that you begin to see the softer side and how being part of the community has touched my heart. That’s when the smiles replace the frowns, laughter replaces the growls and tears dry up and vanish.

It’s not always an easy task, but then again neither is slicing your way through an onion.

Maybe I should be more like Donkey’s other layered comparisons: cake and parfaits. They are generally sweeter, more well-liked and much easier to swallow.

Either way, there is no doubt that Shrek will be my alter ego for a long time to come.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.