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  • Writer's pictureHeather Sherman

Kindness Through the Eyes of Journalist Cynthia Mulligan

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

The first stop in my television career was Citytv, a local Toronto television station as famous for its non-conformist, razzmatazz style of broadcasting the news, as it was for the unforgettable cast of characters populating its newscasts, including Anne Mroczkowski, Colin Vaughan, Bob Hunter and Jojo Chintoh, to name a few.

My dream of working in a newsroom, writing stories, going on shoots and helping out at live events & elections, actually came true thanks to the kindness and generosity of someone who became one of my first mentors, and a friend, CityNews reporter Cynthia Mulligan.

Cynthia has been covering Toronto’s education, politics and general assignment beats for more than 25 years and she is as beloved by viewers and local leaders, as she is by her peers.

In 2017, Cynthia won the Adrienne Clarkson Award for Diversity in Reporting for her in-depth series on Danica Rain, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in Thailand (click here to watch Part 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 of the series, plus an update).

When Cynthia first brought me in to Citytv, she took me under her wing, showed me the ropes and helped me get my foot in the door (I started ‘volunteering’ once a week wiping down Dwight Drummond’s traffic boards, before I lucked into a full-time position in the stock tape library).

In a ‘sink or swim’ industry like broadcast news, you’ve got to have thick skin and a solid dose of ambition. Cynthia has both in spades and taught me not to sweat the small stuff (or the small people) and mainly, to keep my eye on the prize.

I watched in awe as Cynthia rose in the ranks, from writer to videographer, to reporter and anchor, despite being told consistently that it was never going to happen. Her determination, hard work and persistence eventually payed off as she is now one of the most recognizable faces at CityNews, and a sought-after speaker and event emcee for the many charities that she supports.

Everything I learned about resilience in my early career, I learned from Cynthia. And I wanted to know how she stays so grounded, so empathetic and so KIND - after many years in the spotlight, reporting on really tough, often heartbreaking, stories, and dealing with personal challenges as well.

Read my Q&A with Cynthia below and click here to follow Cynthia on Twitter (@citycynthia)!

Cynthia, you’re well known for keeping our politicians honest, but in a respectful, yet relentless way. How important is kindness in our everyday interactions, especially now?

I think kindness has never been more important. People are struggling during this unprecedented time. They’ve lost jobs, they can’t see family or friends, some have lost relatives, lives have been turned upside down and there are so many unknowns.

So even if someone is not at their best, I try to be kind. We just don’t know the strain they are going through and maybe even just a smile could help them, even just a little.

Since Covid began, it feels like it’s all bad news, all the time. But can you tell us about some of the good news that you’ve witnessed first hand?

It does feel like it’s all bad news out there, doesn’t it? But there is so much good news. I see it in the love I have watched many times: a daughter who goes to see her father through the window of his long-term care home. A restaurant owner who is cooking for people in need. One of my neighbours has made thousands of sandwiches for the homeless, since Covid began.

These are simple beautiful acts of love and generosity and I think we all need to take the time to recognize and appreciate them, and if possible, pass that kindness forward.

What is the most impactful act of kindness that you have experienced this year?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just one act of kindness. My station did a story about a woman who gave fitness classes to seniors on the lawn below, as they socially distanced on their balconies. I thought that was amazing. I also interviewed a woman who told me a worker at her father’s long-term care home held his hand as he died so he wouldn’t be alone.

My street has truly represented kindness, it started with a nightly porch tribute to frontline workers, but evolved into a nightly check-in with each other to make sure everyone was ok. On Friday nights, my neighbour, who is a beautiful performer, would sing for us and it always brought tears to my eyes. Music is healing and brings people together.

In August we held a concert on our lawns. We had several musicians playing for the neighbourhood while they socially distanced. It was such a beautiful reminder of community and the power of love and friendship.

How can each of us make a difference in our communities? What is the best way to help others, while we’re social distancing?

I think we can make a difference by making sure everyone has someone there for them, if they stumble. Maybe it’s knocking on your elderly neighbour’s door and chatting with them for a few minutes from afar, or offering to get groceries or bring in their garbage bins. Say hello to a stranger and smile, or tell someone you appreciate them. I think even the smallest gesture can make someone’s day.

You are an inspiration to so many people, especially young women. What is the best life lesson that you have learned?

When I went through breast cancer, I learned to take each day as it came, with grace. That is my favourite word, grace. We can’t control what happens to us in life but we can control how we deal with it.

I think it’s important to always keep life in perspective. It can be painful and hard but it is also exquisitely beautiful. Cherish the amazing moments with the people you love, and they will help you get through the hard ones.

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