The veterans were from Lake House
ACHIEVEMENT: Four out of the five veterans who were awarded
Gold Medals at Journalism Awards 2006 were from Lake House.
These are journalists who may have won such accolades for the first
time at an event which exclusively recognises service to journalism and
amidst a gathering of their own kind. No such event recognised
journalistic skills under any category at the time they were doing the
rounds half a century ago.
But, did that kill the fire in the journalists to grab a scoop? Or,
did it affect their style of writing that whetted the appetite and the
curiosity of the readers? And with the journalistic-flair they handled
the story, didn’t they hold readers their captives?
Today’s bright sparks are indeed fortunate! While they are being
extremely innovative and are giving new dimensions to journalism, their
skills are recognised year after year under varied categories.
And their precious moment of receiving the awards at the colourful
Awards Night is telecast on almost every TV channel and is well
publicised in the newspapers.
But, I am talking of journalists who practised journalism half a
century ago with no such glittering incentives in sight and at a time
when tape recorders, mobile phones, laptops, e-mail, internet, fax
machines, copy machines, electronic video photographic facilities and
“what-not” were no where on the scene.
At a time when telephone lines were chanelled via telephone
exchanges, direct telephone connections were a luxury and “trunk calls”
to outstations were possible only if connecting telecommunication lines
were available. Then too, it took hours to get a call through to the
The veterans nevertheless functioned with note pad and pen in hand.
Back at Lake House they thumped away their story on the faded keyboards
of the few manual typewriters available, very often rushing through
their creative-skills in order to beat the deadline.
Seeing the story in black and white in the newspapers which meant
that it had been passed by the News Editor or the Features Editor and
finally the Editor was the prize and joy these veterans received. There
were briefly a few in-house weekly prizes given at Lake House but that
did not continue.
One might argue that there was only a handful of newspapers at the
time to compete with and that it was then almost a one-horse race! But,
this was an era when high standards in journalism were set in motion by
the founder D.R. Wijewardene and journalists with no fanfare had brought
professionalism to journalism which made it a career worth pursuing.
Readers in turn had faith in Lake House newspapers which made
journalists responsible and committed to give them a story worth
reading. The fact that Lake House newspapers remained the highest
circulated newspapers in the island for well over half a century, is
proof of the faith readers placed in the Lake House newspapers.
Today, there is a wide choice of newspapers with new
journalistic-trends offered. The large number of journalists who
attended the Awards 2006 represented the new generation and it was from
amongst them that the winners emerged.
As a journalist who grew up nurtured in its rich traditions, I
wouldn’t like Lake House - the “Mahagedera of Journalism” to be left
behind. I hope the present Lake House journalists would not make
restrictions an excuse as good journalists could work even under the
most trying conditions.
Therefore, I hope there will be journalists from Lake House vying in
the future and going up the stage and receive Journalists’ Awards!
Getting back to the veterans, Mallika Wanigasundera who had joined
Lake House in 1956 and had served on the Daily News, the Sunday and the
Evening Observer, ended her career in 1981 as Features Editor of the
At Lake House even half a century ago, at a time when bra-burning was
an issue in the international scene, gender-bias did not exist and
Mallika wrote the same in-depth feature articles and news articles her
male counterparts wrote on politics, economics, development or reviews
of films and dramas.
She was perhaps the only woman journalist who took turns to write the
Daily News editorial for well over ten years besides being involved in
the sub editing and the production of the paper.
Vijitha Fernando who gave a serious twist to her gender-based
articles in the Daily News also wrote general features, news reports and
functioned in the sub editing and production as well. She also won
numerous awards for her creative writing.
Both these journalists as well as Sumana Saparamadu, a past Veteran
Gold Medallist who excells as a writer to both Sinhala and English
newspapers and one-time Editor of Tharunee continue to write to this
Roshan Peiris who joined Sunday Times after retiring from Lake House
newspapers where she was feature writer and sub editor and Hema
Gunawardene, feature writer on the Dinamina were also recipients of the
The former Editor of the Dinamina - G.S. Perera, a recipient of the
Veteran’s Gold Medal 2006, had a long career at Lake House and later
served as Director as well as consultant to Lake House group.
He crossed over later as editorial consultant to the Lankadeepa. T.
Sabaratnam better known as “Saba” was a versatile journalist who wrote
on politics, science and foreign news to the Daily News and the
Thinakaran. He was a winner of many journalistic awards.
Some veteran Lake House journalists such as Dalton De Silva, Benedict
Dodampegama, Edwin Ariyadasa, W.R. Wijesoma and Leslie Dahanayaka were
fortunate to receive the Gold Medals though many missed out. But the
following records may illustrate the number of editors and eminent
persons Lake House has made in the past fifty years.
Denzil Peiris, former Editor, Sunday Observer and all-round wizard
went on to edit the prestigious “South” magazine. Tarzie Vittachi,
former Editor of the Observer, joined the UNFPA and later rose to the
position of Under Secretary General of the UN.
Ernest Corea, one-time Editor of the Daily News/Sunday Observer as
Ambassador to the USA, was identified as one of the best Ambassadors Sri
Lanka had. His journalistic background was given as the reason for it.
Mervyn De Silva who was Editor-in-Chief of Lake House English
newspapers and Director/Editorial, was later appointed as
Editor-in-Chief of Times Group of newspapers. H.L.D.Mahindapala who was
Deputy Editor of the Sunday Observer during Denzil Peiris’ era and later
migrated to Australia, returned to Sri Lanka to edit the Sunday
Observer. He continues to be one of the most provocative writers here
and abroad on the ethnic issue.
Clarence Fernando who was one of the toughest news editors at Lake
House retired as Editor of the Daily News. Harold Peiris who began as a
journalist on the Daily News, had a long career as Editor of the Sunday
Several journalists who crossed over to Lake House from the former
Times Group, reached the top. Leading amongst them was Fred Silva,
columnist of Evening and Sunday Observer and the Daily News who rose to
the position of Editor of the Daily News.
B.H. S. Jayawardene and Geoff Wijesinghe were the other former
Times-Group journalists who ended their careers as Editors of the Daily
News. Perhaps Sri Lanka’s best cartoonist - W.R. Wijesoma crossed over
from the former Times Group and joined the Evening/Sunday Observer. He
ended his career on The Island.
Manik De Silva, formerly Editor of the Daily News is to date the
Editor of the Sunday Island. Gamini Weerakoon, formerly News Editor of
the Daily News, was Editor of The Island for 19 years.
Gaston De Rosyro, formerly of the Sunday Observer and later
journalist of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong was on his
return appointed Editor of the Weekend Express followed by Philip
Cooray, a former Editor of the Daily Observer.
Ajith Samaranayake from the Sunday Observer crossed over to the Upali
Newspaper Group and was briefly the Editor of The Sunday Island.
He later returned to Lake House and held the post of Editor, Sunday
Observer and Editor, Friday. Neville De Silva, former journalist of the
Daily News and the Sunday Observer served as Diplomatic Editor of the
He at present, contributes political commentaries to the Sunday
Times. Thalif Deen formerly of Evening/Sunday Observer is a
correspondent covering the UNO for several newspapers.
Sinhala newspapers were no exception as Lake House made Editors out
of Sinhala newspapers as well. Edmund Ranasinghe who was Editor of
Dinamina and Silumina at Lake House, crossed over to the Upali Newspaper
Group and founded and edited the Divaina and the Sunday Divaina.
Tilak Kuruvita Bandara who was Editor of Silumina/Sarasaviya and
appointed Editor of Silumina for the second time, is now the Editor of
the controversial Mawbima. Siri Ranasinghe, the present Editor of
Lankadeepa, was a journalist on the Dinamina. Upali Tennakoon who served
on the Dinamina editorial, was Editor of the Divaina and now the Editor
Both Merryl Perera and Gamini Sumanasekera the present Editors of the
Daily Divaina and Sunday Divaina respectively, were journalists of
Janatha and Silumina.
Mohanlal Piyadasa, the Editor of Irudina at present, was a journalist
of Dinamina. Edwin Ariyadasa who was mainly a journalist of the Sinhala
publications at Lake House, is today in the forefront of the mediascene
in both the print media and the electornic media.
The records show that former Lake House journalists have filled
almost all top journalistic posts in the country. Let us hope that Lake
House journalists of today will continue these rich traditions and