Journalist Ling shares her own story

Lisa Ling, a reporter for National Geographic Explorer and a correspondent for Oprah Winfrey, addresses listeners Thursday at the Lied Center. Ling has covered issues ranging from AIDS in Uganda to the drug war in Colombia.

Highlights from Lisa Ling’s lecture:

¢ She spends two to three weeks on an assignment.

¢ She worked alongside Anderson Cooper, a CNN news anchor, during her seven years at Channel One.

¢ Her resistance to accepting a network anchor position at age 26 in favor of international reporting brought her the chance to work as a correspondent for Oprah Winfrey and National Geographic Explorer.

¢ She described her three and a half years as a co-host on “The View” as empowering, but said it didn’t offer her the opportunity to tell stories that interested her.

Luck, a sense of adventure and social responsibility have led Lisa Ling to find numerous untold stories throughout her successful career in journalism.

Ling, a 35-year-old National Geographic Explorer host and reporter, has been bringing global and national stories from war-torn countries, U.S. prisons and cocaine fields in Colombia to enlighten Americans. She brought her own story to the Lied Center Thursday night to an audience of about 600 people. The event was sponsored by Student Union Activities.

“It’s a responsibility, because people, in some cases, have risked their lives to share their stories, and so for me as a journalist, I bear the responsibility of trying to convey their stories accurately and empathetically,” she said. “And hopefully people will respond.”

Her story began in Carmichael, Calif. She was a young Asian American, whose parents divorced when she was 7, and TV was her favorite baby sitter. Connie Chung, a prominent Asian-American network TV anchor, became her idol.

Ling’s first journalistic opportunity came when she was one of four teens chosen to work on “Scratch,” a nationally syndicated teen magazine show in Sacramento. Later, at age 18, Ling worked for Channel One, an international network, as one of its youngest reporters and anchors. She was “sent to cover the world,” she said.

Ling’s first assignment to Afghanistan, at age 21 in 1994, changed her life, she said. She described a scene where she got off a plane and was surrounded by young boys “with guns bigger than they were.” She wondered where they would be in a decade.

“Ten years just happened a couple of years ago, and we’ve all heard of the Taliban,” she said.

The unique job experience introduced her to “impressive journalism,” something lacking in mainstream media networks today, she said. She and another famous reporter, Anderson Cooper, covered stories, such as the civil war in Afghanistan and the genocide in Rwanda.

What she valued then about being globally conscious remains true today.

In her work as a host on the National Geographic Explorer program, Ling has gained access to places, such as North Korea and a maximum security California state prison in Sacramento. She shared a few clips from some of her documentaries during the lecture.

In North Korea, Ling went undercover as part of a Nepalese medical team to observe how a doctor healed patients who went blind from cataracts.

She witnessed Americans meeting their Chinese daughters for the first time as she investigated China’s one-child policy. She also shared a poem she wrote about the experience.

Educational opportunities abound across the world, Ling said. And there are infinite stories to be told. That’s why she continues a career that has taken her to so many dangerous, desolate places.

She encouraged students to take advantage of their youth and immerse themselves in other cultures. Though she has traveled across the world, she said her one regret was not spending at least a year in one place.

“I’m not an expert, but I always hope to be a student of the world,” Ling said.

Tyler Enders, a Kansas University freshman, said he appreciated Ling’s work because she shares stories that people care about, but that aren’t necessarily at the forefront in the news media.

Ling closed her lecture with something she picked up from Oprah Winfrey: “Now that you know, you can’t pretend that you don’t.”