3 August, 2020

Blog

Overhaul At State-Run Observer: Two Senior Journalists Tender Resignations

As the state-run weekly English newspaper Sunday Observer owned by the Lake House Group embarked on a major overhaul, two of its top journalists – Hana Ibrahim and Dilrukshi Handunnetti – have tendered their letters of resignation.

Lalith Allahakkoon

Lalith Allahakkoon

Both Handunnetti and Ibrahim worked as Senior Associate Editors of the Sunday Observer, since February, last year.

However, sources close to the two journalists said the decision had nothing to do with the restructuring of the newspaper. “They have got better job offers. So, they have decided to resign. There is no link between the overhaul and the resignations. No journalist can reach new career heights in the so-called Sri Lankan state run media, ” the source said.

As part of the restructuring plan, senior journalist and Editor in Chief of Daily News, Lalith Alahakoon, has been appointed as the Editor in Chief of all English Publications of Lake House, including the Sunday Observer. Despite Alahakoon’s new appointment, Lakshman Gunasekera, who became the Editor of the Sunday Observer last year, still remains in the same position.

“Over the past 12 months, there was a steep drop in the circulation. There were complains that the paper did not meet print deadlines. To reverse this situation, the company set sales targets for Observer. The staff was asked to take measures to increase circulation by 10,000 within a period of 6 months. New recruitments were made to achieve this target and new workflow management systems were also introduced,” a source close to Lake House Chairman, Kavan Ratnayaka, told the Colombo Telegraph.

Dinesh Weearawansa, a sports writer known as a Rajapaksa stooge, was the Editor in Chief of the Sunday Observer before regime-change in January, 2015. During Weerawansa’s seven-year period, the Sunday Observer’s circulation came down by nearly 40%.

The new management too however failed to increase the circulation of the paper although they hired a few top English journalists in the country to revive the paper. Under the new management, the Observer circulation has dropped by nearly 10,000.

“We admit there is a drop. That’s why we have set new targets. With this fresh change, we firmly believe we can achieve the ‘lost status’ within six months,” the source said.

Colombo Telegraph did not contact ANCL Chairman Kavan Ratnayaka for a comment. Earlier when Colombo Telegraph questioned orders by the Prime Minister’s office to not carry Mahinda Rajapaksa’s “Medamulana Statement” on July 1, Ratnayaka said “I read Colombo Telegraph but I don’t question you,” he said in response.

Despite the overhaul plan, last week, the state-owned newspaper company sent its Sports Editor Callistus Davy on paid leave for two months over an alleged incomplete report on the Royal – Thomian big match. The journalist also failed to carry a photograph of Chief Guest and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe handing over the D.S. Senanayake Shield to the winning Royal College captain.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 11
    5

    So what CT? This is purely an internal matter. Is this news for public consumption ?

    • 3
      2

      Agree. Dilrukshi Handunnetti has been a problem case and she has nver held a job longer than one year since Sunday Leader. She was on Today and Daily Mirror, now here for just one year. She is jumping from branch to branch looking for a career break and overseas opportunity like her mentors Sonali Frederica did.

      Poor woman.

    • 2
      0

      This is a public institution and the public has every right to know what is happening inside. The PM is also on record saying media institutions are responsible to the the people.

    • 3
      0

      Editor in Chief of Daily News, Lalith Alahakoon

      “Dinesh Weearawansa, a sports writer known as a Rajapaksa stooge, was the Editor in Chief of the Sunday Observer before regime-change in January, 2015. During Weerawansa’s seven-year period, the Sunday Observer’s circulation came down by nearly 40%.”

      “The new management too however failed to increase the circulation of the paper although they hired a few top English journalists in the country to revive the paper. Under the new management, the Observer circulation has dropped by nearly 10,000.”

      Question: What is the root cause of the decline in print paper?

      1. The internet? If so can you sell on-line subscriptions?

      2. Fewer Readers of English Newspapers?

      3. The quality has gone down? How do you measure quality relative to the competition? How is the competition faring? Is this a trend you are seeing?

      In order to come up with a solution, you need to identify the problem or problems.

  • 6
    1

    Yes Ramani it is.
    You seem to have forgotten that this is a state-owned newspaper run by a state-owned institution. Therefore it is a matter of public concern, especially since the state has not divested itself of the majority shares which it should have done progressively.
    So as long as the state is involved and the tax-payer pays out of his/her pocket, it is a matter of public concern. The Sunday Observer which even at the height of the JVP troubles in the late 1980s when Lake House delivery vans and news agents were attacked had a circulation of 96,000 has sunk over the years to a dismal low. It is bought now for its advertisements rather than for its editorial content.
    Ramani should acquaint herself with the history of the newspaper and its ownership without rushing into print defending the situation calling it an “internal matter”. IT IS NOT. Remember also it is the government that plants a stooge as chairman and even directors to run the place.
    DOUGLAS

    • 4
      1

      I simply don’t get your point. Yes it is a state owned paper and these two people have resigned because they have got better offers. The management admits the circulation has come down over the years and they have put a system in place to resurrect the paper.

      So what is the problem?

    • 0
      1

      Koheda yanne malle pol?

      Newspaper circulations worldwide are down. That is a fact of life. The fact that the ANCL papers for the longest time were Rajapaksa’s personal dishrags (and poorly of content) certainly didn’t help. This has improved now somewhat. The future is in online media, which they at ANCL have probably woken up to at least now.

      You really need to look in to and understand how the funding model of ANCL works before making such broad based assumptions.

  • 8
    1

    Two people have resigned for the betterment of their own careers and Telegraph makes it news!! Are you drunk admin?

  • 5
    1

    Do not downgrade yourself to a two penny gossip site. Can’t two people resign from a job when they get a better offer ? Even this headline is misleading.

  • 4
    2

    Or Sri lankan journalists…. they are like prostitutes. they sell what they have to the highest bidder, media are owners are no different.

    No conscience, no standards, they help political parties to rob and destroy the country.

    What is the name of the hell that they go to ?

  • 7
    1

    I run a small kadey and my errand boy resigned last week. Can you report that CT?

  • 3
    0

    The daily Observer, Sunday Observer, Ceylon Daily News were respected, free and generally neutral newspapers – enjoying large circulations and netting substantial advertisement revenue. The quality of journalists, journalism, popular political cartoons were as good as anywhere in Asia. The arrival of Mrs. B’s 1970 Leftist regime destroyed the Free Press then thriving – in the guise of taking revenge on Esmond Wickramasinghe. The latter certainly had a lot of things to be said against him. But destroying the Free Press for Esmond’s foibles was a clear case of over-kill.

    Like our politicians and the political class of today – pygmies compared to those respected giants in the pre-70s – the enthroning of majoritarianism has destroyed a once vibrant country.

    Backlash

  • 1
    0

    I also think there’s no story here. Two people have resigned for a better offer. And there are internal changes. Those who resigned have said their decision had no connection with the changes. So what are you trying to prove? CT should allow Lake House bosses to do their work without wasting its valuable space for rubbish like this.

  • 1
    2

    What are the credentials of Ranil’s handmaiden Kavan Ratnayaka to run a media group?Is he close like Sagala?

    • 3
      0

      Ahaha Kavan is one of the most successful CEOs in the country with a great track record in the private sector; not a buffoon like you. :-D

  • 3
    0

    As noted by others – this is an Internal Issue – with ANCL. They have a good leader “Kavan” who can do a major turn and make it a profitable – worthwhile organization. Let him do his job. Why others worry! There are many to worry at our homes before looking to others worries. If Journalists are for money, let them jump like shrimps.. We need good Journalists like Kariyakarawanas, Ajantha Ranasinghe, Dharmasiri Gamage, Sunil Madawa (of course his father – Meemana Premathilaka) Also it is time to find photographers like Vernon Fonseka who captured many “Unbelievable Moments” for ANCL.

  • 3
    0

    Dilrukshi Handunnetti and Hana Ibrahim have created much trouble wherever they have been. They have been instrumental in creating trouble for competent people. There comes a time when even partners in crime get hurt.

    They are excuses for journalists and have tried to cover their incompetencies and other abundant negativities with a false show of competence. Thank God, Lake House had the good sense to get rid of this vermin.

    They milked the Ceylon Today newspaper dry, badmouthed and cut its editor, ridiculed the Chairman and all competent journalists and went away with a bang. So look what happened. This is a classic case of retribution. Karma somehow catches up with us. What good offers will they get, guess the spinster twosome are well past their retirement ages!

  • 4
    0

    Kavan ,the political appointee on the basis of Sagala/Ranil connection, is a good CEO? Is Ranil ,Sagala, Maythri or even MR a good CEO?

    The supporters who comment on such personal aspects in the comments column are doing so knowing very well that these are just opinions and not acceptable axioms.

    There is no such thing as a good CEO as a permanent feature of a person.In certain times, in certain circumstances a person may perform well as a CEO.But that is not saying much and not the whole story.

    Kavan was at Cargills and Dialog.In both these places he had to leave. Later he looked after his family while the wife was the bread winner.He is a decent and good man. But to be described as a great CEO on a purely subjective basis is not worthy of a serious discussion.

    • 0
      2

      I worked with him (not at, but whilst he was at) Dialog for a few years and he was loved by all his staff while showing results in that otherwise deadbeat corporation.

      Prior to that, he did a long stint as the country head of IBM and turned around a business that was looking to exit the country when he first took over. He also has an undergraduate degree (in physics I think) from UC Davis or Berkeley as I recall, and is a logical chap.

      Cargills is a corrupt and filthy tub of crooks and I am not surprised that Kavan could not survive with the despotic Ranjit Page (who will no doubt get his comeuppance soon when his empire collapses).

      And why drag his personal life into the matter? Sounds like you have an axe to grind…

      So what if he is a political appointee, so long as he has a track record in running a company? Who are the others you think were more eligible for this post, and where were they all this time?
      Gota and Sarath Fonseka were political appointees but I didn’t see you complaining when they handled the war successfully?

  • 2
    0

    State-run newspapers, government-mouthpieces, are so very yesterday. They went out of fashion about the time the Berlin wall fell. This was all compounded with the advent of social media.

    SO, when will the penny drop for LAKE HOUSE? Less than 1% of the population read its English papers. If it was a proper business it would have been put into receivership a long time ago. Mercifully. Because there are not enough sycophantic proprietors who are guaranteed to trumpet the ‘government’ line, those in power have to rely on their own rag to do the (dirty) work. Lake House is the poor man’s version of SriLankan. At least with the airline you get the choicest perks. The best the hacks can expect is a subsidised canteen, and a nice view of the trains pulling in and out of Fort station.

    Poor D R must be turning in his grave. He was such a noble son of Sri Lanka and his legacy deserves better.

    Mr Prez, Mr Pee-Em, do the honourable thing. Open the cage door and let this bird fly freely once more.

  • 0
    0

    Mr. Bahehot you are very hot on this CEO ! Hope you are not in the same club with Sagala !

    Political Appointees are appointed not for their competence but only for the loyalty o a politician.That is the general rule.Maybe this CEO is different. You know best !

  • 0
    0

    Amara says he/she does not “get the point”. That comes as no surprise. If you don’t understand the fundamental issue, then you are unlikely to get it.
    The point is that like any state institution ANCL should be answerable to the public.If the Sunday Observer and the Daily News are losing circulation then one needs to ask the basic question-why it is so. One cannot say that these newspapers have been losing circulation ever since ANCL was taken over in 1973. That is not so. Nor is the argument made by somebody else that newspapers worldwide are losing circulation is true. Newspapers such as the Sunday Times in the UK has been making profits last year with increased circulation.
    Planting chairman like Kavan Ratnayake because he is a friend or claiming that he has done well in other private sector jobs will not solve the problem. It is like making a pilot CEO of an airline. There is no relevance. What Lake House needs to do is improve the quality of its journalism. If it is to compete with other Sunday newspapers then raise its journalistic standards and provide quality reading. Just shifting personnel reminds one of the old Sinhala saying about changing pillows to cure a headache.
    CT is quite correct in focusing attention on the problems at Lake House
    Douglas

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.