Get to know Dasuni Athauda

By Mahika Panditha

With everything that has been and is going on in the world, it is only understandable that you seek reliable sources of information. With that being said, if you’re an avid Instagrammer, I’m sure you’ve seen your Instagram story feed brimming with reposts that detail a blue background and yellow and reddish-pink text – these are directly from our very own Dasuni Athauda.

Dasuni is a news anchor, news reporter, and law graduate. She is passionate about everything related to current affairs, international law, and animals, which we can see through her work, and we absolutely love it! Her goal is to complete her attorney’s exam before she turns 23 (we are rooting for you!), and just like most of us, Dasuni’s guilty pleasure is food and good music.

We had the chance to talk to her about her work and university life. Here is what she had to say.

What is your favourite part about being a news anchor?

The best part about this job is that it’s so dynamic and versatile. No two days are the same; it’s like you walk into a new office every day. There’s never a boring day at work. I work in a trilingual office, so it’s a really interesting work environment with people of all backgrounds and ethnicities working towards a common goal, even during times of adversity, with love and passion for the job and each other. That’s what I love about it the most; you’re bound to learn something new every day in a workplace as dynamic as that.

Any funny stories or memories you can share with us?

There are so many…and many of them a little too embarrassing to say out loud. But, this one time, I had to read a breaking news along with my Sinhala and Tamil colleagues. We usually stand in a straight line, but because I can never stand still, by the time I started reading, only half my body came into the frame every now and then because I kept swaying!

How did you start out in the industry? What was your experience like?

I started as a children’s TV presenter at TV Derana when I was chosen from school at the age of 15; actually, I walked into the wrong audition completely unaware of what was expected of me and to my surprise, I got chosen. From there on, I took part in another school announcement competition two years later and got selected to work at News1st at the age of 17.

I was the youngest recruit in the newsroom and my experience as a children’s programme presenter and a news anchor have been very different, but I enjoyed every bit of it. The skill and knowledge I got at 15 as a programme presenter certainly gave me an added advantage when I started off as a news reader. So I’m very lucky and grateful to have got such opportunities at a very young age.

Any advice for youngsters who want to be news anchors?

I think it’s very easy for young people to like this job because it seems really nice and easy when you see us on TV, but the reality is that there’s a lot of skill, practise, and learning that goes into becoming a news anchor. You have to be interested in current affairs, both local and global, because the moment you detach yourself from what’s happening in the world or in Sri Lanka, it clearly shows when you deliver the news.

Another thing youngsters must keep in mind is that this job comes with a lot of sacrifice, dedication, and responsibility as well as long work hours; many of you only see us on TV for 30 to 45 minutes, but we work eight hours or more on average each day to put out that flawless news bulletin on air. Like I mentioned before, this looks easy to the viewer, but remaining calm during a special breaking news segment or even when there’s technical difficulties during a live news bulletin comes with practise.

The more you dedicate your time and effort to improve yourself, the better and more prepared you will look on TV. So if you feel like you’re ready to put in the work off camera in compiling, reporting, and even editing the news while working on your skills as a news anchor, you’re bound to succeed.

You are also a law grad. What interests you the most when studying law?

Yes. I completed my LLB and graduated last year. Since I was 16, it’s been my goal to complete my degree before I turned 21, so I was very happy when I managed to successfully do that. What interests me the most is that in most cases, there’s no one right way of looking at it. It really depends on how creative you get with your legal knowledge.

So that level of thinking and creativity really sparked my interest when I was first studying law for my Advanced Levels (A/Ls). Another thing that got my attention were the loopholes and lacunae in the law we study; it was fun to discuss those aspects with my friends as well.

Let’s talk about work-life balance. How was it for you?

My university life was great, thanks to my extremely supportive friends who really helped me out during those three years. As I was working and studying at the same time, it wasn’t an easy task. My work schedule and lecture timetable often clashed; I had to miss out on lectures, but my friends made sure I didn’t fall behind on my lessons, especially during the last few months of my final year when I fell sick and was on bedrest for about a month, but my friends went out of the way to even come to my house and teach me the lessons I was missing out on.

All of us wanted to graduate together and they made sure no one was left behind. I think the friends you choose at university, especially when you’re trying to balance work and studies at the same time, are very important, because if you don’t have supportive and understanding friends, it’s going to be really hard for you to keep up with the lessons you miss out on.

I’m so thankful for the friends I made at university; I just wish I had more time to spend with them, because I didn’t get much time to hang out with them after lectures or take part in a lot of extracurriculars because it was impossible to do everything at the same time. But most of us still keep touch and meet up often, so that’s nice.

What would you say to students currently studying law?

My only advice is to start studying law only if you are really interested in this area of study, because it’s nothing like you see in TV series; it requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice, especially if you’re working and studying at the same time. It’s very easy to get disheartened or start disliking this course once you actually start studying it. You must be willing to study for long hours, do extensive reading and research, and sometimes even sacrifice a bit of sleep to make sure you cover all the areas for the exam; if you are willing to put in the hard work, the results will undoubtedly be very rewarding.

Also, going back to my earlier point, make sure your friends at university are also as interested in the subject and are supportive too – it makes it a lot easier for you to enjoy your university life while at the same time reaching your goals with a bunch of like-minded people who will turn out to be lifelong friends even after you graduate.

Other than that, what do you like to do in your free time?

Free time is a luxury I rarely enjoy, but I make sure I have one day or half a day, at least, each week where I could just do something for myself apart from study and work. Apart from working and studying, I really love to travel, so I like to plan my holidays well ahead, especially if it is an overseas trip.

I love taking a day off and heading to the southern coast of Sri Lanka and just enjoying a day at the beach; there’s something so beautiful and relaxing about Sri Lankan beaches that I just can’t get enough of. Other than that, I could mostly be found out and about in Colombo trying new food at cafés and restaurants, watching a movie, and hanging out with my friends.

How has the lockdown been for you?

The lockdown has been quite an experience for me because I have been very busy and very relaxed at the same time.

Busy in the sense that I’ve had to report to work a lot more during these times, but when I’m not working, I’m at home and I’ve got all the time in the world to try out new things.

What I’m mostly thankful for during this period is that I’ve been so busy trying to manage work and studies that I would often miss out on spending time with my family, which I can make up for now; we cook and bake together as a family, and even just play board games or even watch documentaries. It felt like I went back in time to relive all the things I used to do back when I was a kid.

Lockdown might be hard or difficult to adapt to at first, but if you look at it positively, you could use the free time you’ve got to try out new things or even just spend some quality time with your family. Make the most of the time you have!