Lisa J. Ling is an American journalist and writer, best known for her role as host of Our America with Lisa Ling on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, former co-host of ABC's The View, host of National Geographic Explorer, reporter on Channel One News, and special correspondent for The Oprah Winfrey Show and CNN. She was the host of reality television show, The Job. Ling is the older sister of journalist Laura Ling.
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I’m a 20 year news veteran, host of OWN’s ‘Our America’, former co-host of The View, and previous correspondent for ABC News and Channel One. My new show, This is Life with Lisa Ling debuts on CNN this Sunday 9/28 at 10pm ET. I hope that you will take the time to watch the show and open your hearts and minds to the worlds we’re going to explore together. Ask Me Anything.
Edit: Thank you all so very much for the incredible questions and comments. I am so moved by your interest and support in my work. I am so excited about the conversation that will be ignited around THIS IS LIFE on CNN, hope you'll watch and let me know what you think!
Hi Lisa! I grew up in the midwest watching you every morning in my homeroom on Channel One news lol! I've always thought you were an intelligent and savvy journalist. My question is for all of the budding female journalist/reporters out there with a dream of becoming succesful, what are some of the footsteps you have taken that it would be helpful to follow in?
Know how to write. To me, a good writer with stories to tell can be a good journalist. I start writing and reporting furiously and submitting your stories to various news outlets, as there are many. I would also ask to shadow people your admire. You may get a lot of doors slammed in your face, but someone may just agree.
Why don't any of the cable "news" networks have investigative reporting divisions anymore, and doesn't that just make the "news" corporate infotainment/propaganda now?
I wish I could answer that, but am unfortunately not in a position to do so.
I read your book on the experiences you and your sister went through during the time your sister was imprisoned in North Korea. I have to say it was one of the best books I have ever read and I highly recommend it. With that said, I have one question to ask.
Why do you think the media hasn't covered the gulags in a North Korea as much as other less relevant stories like Dennis Rodman?
Also, to get it out of the way before this AMA gets covered with it, You have been banned from /r/Pyongyang.
Thank you so much for reading the book. I am still in awe of how my sister handled herself during her captivity. I don't think the media covers the gulags because there is so little confirmable info about it. Recently, I heard a fascinating report from a guard who had escaped and told harrowing stories of what he had to do. It was on NPR, you should check it out.
I absolutely LOVED "Our America" and am looking forward to "This is Life." What was the most difficult story for you to cover personally? What about it made it so tough?
Thanks so much! Definitely when I went into the sex offender colony and was told about the egregious things these men had done to children. I was sick to my stomach but had to try to maintain my composure. I am still haunted by the experience.
How terrifying was it filming, "Inside North Korea"?
At any point, if discovered, I could have been arrested and kept in the country for an endless amount of time. It wasn't until my sister was abducted, did I realize how serious what I was doing over there was. It is unlike any place in the world.
Hello Lisa! What, please, is your favorite ice cream?
I'm addicted to Haagen Daz's peanut butter chocolate....
Who is the kindest person you have ever interviewed/met?
That's a tough one. I will always love meeting and interviewing the former, deceased Prime Minster of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto and His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Recently for THIS IS LIFE, I met two extraordinary young men--twins--who have just entered the priesthood. Though I am not religious, these two men displayed such Godly love to people they interacted with and I was so moved.
You were my high school crush when you were on Channel One.
Crunchy or Creamy Peanut Butter?
Aw thanks :) I love them both, depends on my mood.
thank you so much for answering my question and for your sound advice. Have the best day!!
thank YOU so much for your support!
Hi Lisa - I know I'm not alone in saying this, but you were definitely my inspiration in studying Journalism in college, where I got the chance to attend a lunch with you when you came to visit at Marquette University - all your work continues to rock, I look forward to your new show!
You've had an incredible trajectory in your career, starting from a young age, which has put you in a place to see many changes throughout your career - You are a household name now, but, as an aspiring storyteller (who has landed in corporate television to pay for life in nyc), I was wondering if you have any advice on how to stay current as a producer and journalist wanting to continue to tell stories on a 9-5 schedule?
Thank you so much for the kind words! Firstly, in journalism, there's no such thing as a 9-5 schedule. When I'm in the field, we start before the sun rises and end whenever we finishes--which is sometime close to midnight. Only to start back before the crack of dawn. You have to be willing to lead a life that is not predictable, one in which scheduling is a luxury. It's passion that has to drive you, not the money or the job.
You said you have bigger balls than most male hosts.
Lisa, how big are your balls, and are they bigger than Anderson Coopers?
lol...my proverbial balls aren't as big as Coops--he has taken a lot of risks in his career.
What's your favorite animal?
I love reptiles, particularly snakes.
What question do you have for reddit?
Are there any stories that you feel need to be told?
I still get chills thinking about the family addicted to heroin you covered for Oprah. As a recovering addict it was so close to home and reminded me about how much I could lose. So thank you for that- just witnessing the pain those people felt as their world fell apart is something that still resonates with me.
I know there was an update a few years ago but have you kept in touch with the surviving family members? How are they?
That story became so personal for me. Not sure if you saw, but Darla, the mother of the boys died of an overdose. It was terribly devastating. Her husband Mike recently got out of prison for warrants that he never paid. He is actually doing well and trying very hard to contribute to society. I consider Mike a friend and have faith that he will be able to succeed. good luck in your recovery, truly.
Hi Lisa! I'm a big fan of "Our America" and I can't wait for "This is Life" ... you're such an excellent interviewer. How do you remain unbiased when you're interviewing all of these controversial/complex people?
I try very hard to give people an opportunity to tell their stories. I always try to keep in mind that this person is someone born of a mother who loved him or her, irrespective of what they've done. It's not always easy, but I really make an effort.
So excited to catch this - you are incredibly brave and inspirational!
Journalism is pretty much already a boys club, but given the nature of your stories and locations, have you noticed and experience any particular hardships or complications being a woman (and a woman of Asian descent at that)?
I really want to get into documentary filmmaking but going to certain countries worries me as I'm an Asian woman myself.
Also you rock!
You know, I don't think much of my gender and ethnicity when reporting but if anything, I think both things have been an asset in what I do. I'm not sure people would respond the way they do to me, the same way as they would a man. BUT, having said that, I absolutely think we need more women in this profession. So go for it!!
Hi Lisa! I grew up watching you on TV and you are part of the reason why I majored in journalism in college. I've wanted nothing more than to become a foreign correspondent and produce informative/investigative pieces like you. You are such an inspiration and I wish more journalists were like you. If possible, I have two questions.
I wanted to know if you had any advice for recent college graduates who are trying to get into foreign reporting?
Also, as a woman reporting overseas, did your gender ever make it more difficult for people to cooperate/work with you in different countries? If so, how did you work around that? Thank you!! :)
Wow, thanks so much! I'm not going to lie, there are a lot of challenges for women working in certain parts of the world. But that shouldn't stop you. I would try to solicit as much info from women who've worked overseas so you are prepared for things you may have to deal with. There is nothing like living and working in the world though, nothing.
was The View at all scripted ?
not at all...other than suggested questions, it was a free for all.
Did you always know you wanted to be a journalist?
The opportunity to travel to distant worlds--Afghanistan, Iran, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, opened my eyes to the fascinating stories that exist beyond our borders and propelled me to want to tell stories to a wider audience.
First off, congratulations on your new show! As a student building himself up in the writing profession, I find you and your work extremely inspiring and influential. It's your ability to search and find the deeper story behind the story plus your humbling character alongside.
My question would be, what would you say is the number one element towards building your character in today's journalism, and writing fields? Thank you so much!
Thank you so much and good luck in your writing career. I would say, try to leave your comfort zone as often as you can. The best journalists are those who've had some kind of life experience--they know things about particular issues, they know something about the world. If you can travel, it will change your life.
What would you say is the most rewarding part of your career? What has been your best experience in your 20 year span career?
That is so tough. To be totally honest, everything is rewarding about my career and I am so grateful to be able to be the vehicle through which people can experience different worlds and different people. On those occasions when I've provoked people to think, I feel tremendously rewarded.
Hello Mrs. Ling. Your reporting on China's baby girl problem relating to it's one child policy several years ago had me in tears. How has the problem evolved since?
Thank you, it was a very special episode to me. Well, adoption from China is now much more difficult that it used to be. And if you are a family of means, you can have another baby. Also if you are in the countryside and have a baby girl, you might be able to try to have a boy. The problem is, it's not something that you can guarantee. I'd be remiss if I didn't say that as a result of the OCP, the gender imbalance in China is out of control. It's estimated that there are tens of millions more men than women there.
Hey there, this is my first year of Journalist in Oxford university.. i would like to ask you that how to be a great Journalist in the world any experience you would like to share. ?
Thanks for what u doing
Thanks! I would say try to leave your comfort zone and immerse yourself in other worlds. The best journalists are the ones with the most diverse arrays of experiences. To the extent that you can, travel. Travel can be life changing and provide you with extraordinary insights.
The headline on Huffington Post right now is your quote about the relative size of your balls.
I'm not disputing your testicular fortitude, but would you rather they'd picked another quote to use as the headline?
Haha...somehow I knew after I said that, it would re-emerge. I'm okay with it though, I think I've earned it. Thanks :)
what are your favorite indulgences?
online shopping (i'm often in random hotels with only my computer) and french fries. I'm also a massage addict. You'll often see me getting airport chair massages between flights.
I remember watching "Inside North Korea" and being terrified for your life. What do you remember most about your time there? If the opportunity arose again, would you make another trip out there?
It was, in retrospect, a crazy experience. I just remember how vivid it was to see the cult of personality firsthand. And no, I will not make an attempt to go to NK again unless there is a complete regime change.
How afraid are you of the ISIS ruthless record?
Frankly, terrified. The world is such an unpredictable place right now.
I loved NatGeo's Inside North Korea. During the making, I assume there was a few "close calls" of being caught. How scared were you and at what moment did you think, "they know and they're just playing along"?
The whole trip was unpredictable. I just tried to be a friendly and obsequious as possible and fortunately was able to exit the country with the medical team. I really don't think they knew who I was at that time.
Firstly, thank you for being such a positive female role model for myself and others. Your dedication, integrity, and strength are incredibly admirable.
Just a couple of questions:
What is your favourite documentary series or episode that is a) one of your own, and b) by somebody else?
Which episode of any of your documentaries was most difficult for you to create (either logistically, emotionally, or otherwise)?
And lastly, a less serious question: what is your favourite piece of jewellery? (I work for MIE in Australia and am insanely jealous of your Pyrite necklace!)
Thank you for the kind words! I have to day, I love Bourdain's show, "Parts Unknown." I actually find that I learn a lot from it and it is shot so beautifully. The best TV to me, is TV from which you can take something away. The most difficult documentary for me to do was one about a sex offender colony. When I heard what men were doing to children in their own voices, I was aghast. It was terribly hard for me to just sit there and not react.
How did you first get started in journalism and what skills and qualifications did you need?
What are some of you favorite examples of journalism, historic or contemporary?
My first reporting job was for a show that was seen in middle and high schools across the country, Channel One News. It really open the doors and my eyes to the incredible stories taking place in the world. I was young, only 18 when I started. The most important thing for a journalist to be able to do is write. And I think having perspective outside of your comfort zone always really helps.
It's not because my show is on CNN, but I do think they've done the best job of covering stories on the ground. I am a huge fan of Nick Robertson, Ivan Watson and Arwa Damon. They take tremendous risks to get stories in the field. On the print side, I love Philip Gorevich.
Congratulations on your new show! What is your view on the future of America and China/Asia in the coming decade? Thanks
Thank you! I think America will continue to be a leader globally, but we need to focus our attention and resources more toward educating our youth. American's children are our future leaders and we need to enable them to be able to succeed and lead. As for China, it's rise in such a short period of time has been meteoric. No society has industrialized as quickly. But it all faces massive challenges which is why is has really been cracking down on its people of late.
Hi Lisa! Just wanted tot spot by and say Hi to a fellow Del Campo alumni! What do you remember most about going to school there?
Hi fellow Cougar! I had great friends and a mad crush on a boy who just saw me as a friend. Whenever I think of HS, I think of myself pining away for that boy. Great school, great teachers though.
First of all, I want to say how much you inspired me as a young woman growing up fascinated with social and political issues. My question for you is, do you consider yourself a feminist? Also, what do you think the biggest hurdles are for American woman and girls today?
Thank you so much! Yes, I absolutely consider myself a feminist. Until women are afforded the same opportunities and are paid as much as men, there will be a need for a feminist movement. As a new mother, I will say that it is SO hard to be a professional with a family. We, women need help in trying to balance these two worlds and I think it needs to be legislated.
You are absolutely amazing, and you have the most soothing voice. What is your favorite episode that you have done so far from Our America?
Why, thank you! Oh I loved so many OUR AMERICA eps. I loved Faith Healers, and the foster care show. I am so proud of what we did at OWN.
What's Dave Choe like in person?
haha...I can't answer that in a short period of time. He's complex but has a big heart. I love him.
What's your favorite kind of soup?
Hot and sour!