Friday, June 8, 2012

Lisa Ling's Passion for Journalism Shines on Our America

Photo courtesy of OWN

We were recently invited to have lunch at the OWN offices with journalist Lisa Ling to discuss the latest season of her show Our America with Lisa Ling. Over chicken wings and mac 'n' cheese we discussed, swingers, nuns and American Idol, which pretty much sums up why we love Lisa. While she is probably one of the smartest women we have ever met, at the end of the day she's just one of the girls.

She's got her finger on the pulse of what's going on in the world and her show takes viewers into a diverse group of American culture some of us never even imagined existed. Yet she's down to earth enough to sit down over a meal and chat about pop culture.

During the presentation Lisa showed excerpts from the first two episodes of Our America. One dealt with the child beauty pageant world, a group that has been criticized based on TV shows like Toddlers and Tiaras. The second show took us inside the lives of cloistered nuns. Once again, visiting a place many of us have never stopped to consider as a way of life for ourselves, let alone anyone else.

Lisa once described the show, "This series, without passing judgement, encourages us to explore worlds that we're not familiar with." Lisa dives deep into the lives of people who we often prejudge before hearing the whole story including beauty pageant kids, nuns, teens moms, swingers, sex offenders and the unemployed.

But the thing that impressed us most about Lisa is her commitment to doing this work. She stated, "Opportunities like this come around almost never. As journalists we have this desire to tell powerful and important stories but the market doesn't always allow us to do so. I've been given this golden opportunity, for which I pinch myself every single day. I can't believe that I'm able to do this show that has some take away value and really provokes people to think differently about people they may encounter every day or a story that they may hear about every day."

She said that in doing the series, even her own perspective changed with each topic. She said, "Every time I go into a story I always think that it's going to be one way and inevitably as soon as I start working on a show I realize that there's no easy answer, every story is so complex. That's what I love about the show. It challenges me to become more open minded and it challenges me to see things for the reality, not just what we hear about or read about. So it's been an incredible journey for me."

After the press event we had a few minutes to talk one-on-one with Lisa and we asked her what she is most passionate about. Her answer will not surprise you. "My biggest passion is journalism. I just love learning and trying to communicate the things that I've learned to other people. It's something I feel like I'm supposed to do. Like God has exposed me to these stories because I think that there's a desire for me to share them to try and increase awareness. That really drives me and I love it." She did add that there is a downside to her drive, "I sometimes wish that I wasn't as passionate because then I would slow down a little bit and be a better wife, but it's infectious."

She also told us that if she could walk in the shoes of one pop culture icon it would be Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. She acknowledged, "To be a woman trying to navigate through foreign policy in the world is so much more challenging than anyone even imagines. And I would love to be able to do it. I would love to be at the helm and see if I could promote or inspire greater diplomacy. I've learned a few lessons from my travels and the kinds of things that I do and I'd like to have a stab at it." Something tell us she'd be great at it.

Here's Lisa talking about which Our America stories have impacted he the most. And check out our other video clips from interview with Lisa Ling on our YouTube channel. And watch Season 3 of Our America with Lisa Ling beginning on Sunday, June 10 at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. Central on OWN.

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