Mutsumi Takahashi has earned a lifetime achievement award for her work as lead anchor of Montreal's top-rated newscast.

The Radio Television Digital News Association, RTDNA Canada, honoured Takahashi at a ceremony in Toronto Friday night for her work as the familiar face and voice behind CTV Montreal news for more than three decades.

“I have worked with Mutsumi for every one of those 30 years. She is not only one of the hardest working journalists I know, she also approaches her work with intelligence, compassion, and wit.   I am proud to work with her every day. This an honour so very richly deserved,” said CTV Montreal Executive Producer Barry Wilson.

A pillar of the Montreal community, Mits (as she is known to friends) started her career straight out of university as a reporter and later as an anchor for CFCF, now CTV Montreal.

For 20 years Takahashi shared the anchor desk with another RTDNA lifetime achievement award winner, Bill Haugland, until his retirement in 2006.

“For CTV Montreal viewers, Mutsumi is the brand, with number one ratings that would make any anchor blush,” said Haugland in a special video presented Friday night.

Since then, she has worked alongside Brian Britt, Todd van der Heyden and now Paul Karwatsky.

During her acceptance speech, Takahashi acknowledged the many changes to the business of journalism during her tenure.

“The times are tougher, we’ve all heard that. The fundamentals of what we do are still the same. It’s still about morals, it’s still about integrity, it’s about telling a good story. When what we do – which is the search for what’s true and fair – is now more important than ever,” she said.

“There’s a Japanese word called ganbaru and there isn’t an equivalent in English, but it’s a combination of defiance and pride and determination when you’re working for something that you know is right, and I think we all do that,” she said to her colleagues in the crowd.

Born in Shiroishi, Japan, the trilingual Takahashi studied piano at the Toronto Conservatory of Music at the age of six. She is a graduate of Vanier College and Concordia University, holding both a B.A. and M.B.A.

In the spring of 2013, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Concordia University.

“Mits, you are an icon of Montreal and one of the faces of our city. Your dedication to Montreal has always been obvious. Congratulations on your achievements both on camera and off,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the dedication to her.

Takahashi also volunteers her time by supporting countless charitable and community organizations. She was co-chair, along with the late Jean Beliveau, of the McGill University Health Centre fundraising campaign that helped make the new Glen site hospitals possible.

She is also known as a patron of the arts.

“You are simply the exceptional,” said Montreal Symphony Orchestra Maestro Kent Nagano in his message to her. “The integrity with which you deliver the news has made you truly an icon and all of us who live here feel privileged to have you as part of the community.”

Takahashi has a strong foothold in the anglophone community in particular, and is referred to in a Montreal Gazette profile by her friend Bill Brownstein as “unarguably, the most highly visible member of the anglo media in Montreal — and among the most highly trusted.”

Sylvia Martin-Laforge, director of the anglophone association Quebec Community Groups Network, underscored that point.

“She understands our community. She has this in-depth knowledge and commitment to the community, not just as an anchor. She has a real stake in our community. She’s the real deal. She’s our Mutsumi,” she said.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre quipped that the national recognition should have been bestowed upon her long ago.

“Finally Toronto recognizes your lifetime achievement – they should have called me. Everybody knows here in Montreal since day one that you’re an amazing role model,” he said, adding, “I think it’s well deserved. We’re very, very happy for you.”

The secret to Takahashi’s success may be her work ethic and determination, or it may be her poise and preparedness -- but her wit has always shined through.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned in 30 years of TV journalism as a woman,” joked Takahashi, “is that hair matters.”

Takahashi is one of three prominent journalists being recognized during the 2017 National Conference & Awards Gala this year for devoting decades to news and current affairs.

Keith Leslie, who spent much of his career with The Canadian Press, and Scott Metcalfe, news director of 690 News radio in Toronto, are also being honoured.