What’s the News Today? Interview with News Anchor, Therunee Karunaratne 

What’s the News Today? Interview with News Anchor, Therunee Karunaratne 

Unlike in the past, women nowadays are entering the work field more and more with each passing day, breaking barriers and redefining boundaries. In journalism, a field which is considered to be difficult to persist in as a woman, Therunee Karunaratne stands out. Starting as an aspiring presenter, she’s now a respected news anchor, defying stereotypes along the way. As part of our project, “Beyond the Labels,” we explore her journey, delving into the obstacles she faced, and the wisdom she shares with other aspiring women.

Therunee’s dedication is truly inspiring. While working as a news anchor for Sirasa TV’s ‘News 1st: Prime Time English News’, she also presents programs and coaches scrabble—all while pursuing her education at the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo.Recently, she earned her first nomination for ‘Best Television Presenter (English) – 2023’ at the Raigam Tele’es Nominations Evening 2024.

Below are the questions posed to Ms. Karunaratne during the interview, along with her insightful and inspiring responses.

1. What inspired you to pursue a career in journalism and become a news anchor on television?

I was always interested in presenting, probably owing to my background in elocution from a very young age. However, I wasn’t part of our school’s media unit for some reason. After A/Ls I thought of pursuing what I always loved and seemed to be good at, presenting. Be it news or programs, it didn’t matter to me. Print journalism certainly seemed interesting, but for me, going into broadcast journalism seemed to be my obvious decision. The rest is history. Ending up being a news anchor was part of the process.

2. As a young woman, what challenges have you faced in the industry , and how did you overcome them?

There were quite a few challenges as a young woman I had to face, and am still facing, in fact. Although I haven’t been in the trade for long, I have come to realize that many join with the intention of getting airtime, whether it is on TV or radio. Sometimes it is not even passion that drives them to join. That has made the industry pretty competitive, and as a result there are certain challenges and not-too-pleasant experiences that come linked to it. These challenges are posed by people of various ages.

I have learned that nothing work-related should be taken personally. That guideline definitely helps.

The key is not to ever feel discouraged. Personally I just think about how far I have come in a short span of time, and about the milestones in my career. That keeps me going no matter what gets in the way.

3. How do you balance your undergraduate studies with your demanding role as a news anchor?

As an undergraduate who pursues a full-time degree, I was compelled to join work as a part-timer. This does make my work hours a little odd, with night shifts after my lectures during the day. It can be quite exhausting, but the necessity to get good grades and the goal of getting into an Honors degree program is my driving force. I honestly do not have time to sit and study per se, not even during the weekends, so whenever I have time in-between lectures, or whenever I am home, I try to get some studying done.

4. Can you share a memorable experience from your journey as a news anchor that has shaped your perspective on the media industry?

Probably the first time I read news on TV. Definitely a day I will never forget. I realized that as much as you get the spotlight, you are also held responsible for what you say on air, or even your delivery. The process of preparing a bulletin is quite complex, in order to deliver a good quality news bulletin to the people. But no matter how good the content is, if the news anchor doesn’t do well, that can significantly reduce the impact of the bulletin on the audience. So the first time I went on air was when that realization hit me, and I have been trying to do a little bit better in every bulletin ever since.

5. How did your family react when you chose your career ?

My parents were definitely supportive, as they saw me grow and also my love for presenting. They are always there for me, no matter what challenge I face at work, to guide me through it and keep me going. I am truly grateful for their unwavering support right throughout.

6. Outside of your career, you’re also a scrabble coach. How did you discover your passion for scrabble, and what do you enjoy most about coaching others in the game?

I started playing Scrabble at a very young age, when I was about 8 years old. My mother taught me the game, and honestly, I didn’t even really like it at first. But my parents encouraged me to keep going, and I eventually started to love the game. Following many ups and downs, I got a Presidential Sports Award in 2019. That was the point where I decided to retire from competitive playing, and try to help younger students do better. I joined the administrative side of the sport. Even as of now, I am part of the National Selection Committee under the Ministry of Sports.

7. As a multi talented young woman breaking stereotypes and excelling in diverse fields, how do you hope to inspire the next generation of females to pursue their passions beyond societal labels? Any advice for aspiring young women?

Coaching is certainly a different process. I have come to realize that not every good Scrabbler is a good coach. I love interacting with my students, and try to make sessions as interesting and fun as possible. Scrabble is a very competitive mind game, but the learning process can be made very exciting and fun. It can develop long lasting friendships as well. The social aspect of the game is something missed by many who do not know the game. As a coach, I love experimenting new teaching methods, and seeing the students enjoy the learning process.

My goal is to reach new heights that society thinks a woman might find difficult to achieve. I enjoy pursuing a variety of paths. In fact, Journalism is not a field of study that I pursue in university. I think it is important to parallelly do as much as you can. Also, what matters is not what you have, but what you do with what you have.

I think females face a plethora of challenges on the way to the top of their careers. These come in many forms even as mud-slinging and harassment, from both men and women, of various ages. What I think we should understand is that this will not change anytime soon. So the key is to improve resilience. Draw a line between personal life and work. Do not lose yourself in the process of making it to the top. Do not let societal labels restrict you. Also, always look at the big picture and realize that one small setback or negative experience will not define who you are, or your future. We all can definitely achieve our goals, only if we try.

As we conclude our exploration into the life and career of Therunee Karunaratne, her story serves as a testament to the strength of women in the professional realm. Through her trials and triumphs, she underscores the significance of resilience, determination, and a steadfast commitment to one’s passions. We are truly grateful to have Ms. Karunaratne represent our project ‘Beyond the Labels,’ and we sincerely thank her for sharing her insightful advice, which will undoubtedly inspire countless others on their paths to success. We wish her continued success and fulfillment in all her endeavors.

Interviewed by Rtr. Senali Senanayake 

Written by Rtr. Michelle Perera

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