Lisa Ling — Exploring Subcultures, Learning to Feel, and Changing Perception (#388)

“It requires time and energy to get invested in other people’s stories, but I do in my heart of hearts believe that you emerge a better and smarter human as a result of taking that time.”
— Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling (@lisaling) is the host and executive producer of the CNN Original Series This Is Life with Lisa Ling. It returns for its sixth season on Sunday, September 29 at 10 p.m. ET. In each episode, Lisa immerses herself in communities across America giving viewers an inside look at some of the most unconventional segments of society. In 2017, the series won a Gracie Award.

Lisa is also host of the CNN Digital series This Is Sex with Lisa Ling, which explores the taboos around sex in America and This Is Birth with Lisa Ling, which explores how healthcare legislation, income inequality and cultural shifts shape how people have children in America.

Before coming to CNN, Lisa was a field correspondent for The Oprah Winfrey Show and contributor to ABC News’ Nightline and National Geographic’s Explorer. She has reported from dozens of countries, covering stories about gang rape in the Congo, bride burning in India, and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, among other issues that are too often ignored.

Lisa got her start in journalism as a correspondent for Channel One News where she covered the civil war in Afghanistan at 21 years of age. She later went on to become a co-host of ABC Daytime’s hit show The View, which won its first daytime Emmy during her time at the show.

Lisa has also served as a special correspondent for CNN’s Planet in Peril series and is a contributing editor for USA Today’s USA Weekend magazine. In 2011, her acclaimed documentary journalism series Our America with Lisa Ling began airing on OWN.

Lisa is the co-author of Mother, Daughter, Sister, Bride: Rituals of Womanhood and Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home, which she penned with her sister Laura. In 2014, President Obama named Lisa to the Commission on White House Fellows.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, StitcherCastbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.

#388: Lisa Ling — Exploring Subcultures, Learning to Feel, and Changing Perception


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Want to hear an episode with another journalist who got an early start? — Listen to my conversation with Ezra Klein in which we discuss influencing the rules of the game by which this country is run, how Ezra lost 60 pounds, and his ascension into the ranks of the most respected media companies in the world (stream below or right-click here to download):

#208: Ezra Klein — From College Blogger to Political Powerhouse


QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Lisa Ling:

This Is Life with Lisa Ling | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Note from the editor: Timestamps will be added very soon.

  • Lisa touches on her motivation for pursuing journalism and the path that led to her becoming a correspondent in Afghanistan as a fresh-faced 21-year-old with Anderson Cooper as her colleague in the early ’90s.
  • As someone who hadn’t done much traveling prior to this experience, what was Lisa’s impression of Afghanistan and her first few days there?
  • How does Lisa cope with the emotional toll taken by being in proximity to the worst aspects of humanity, and does getting close to her subjects ever backfire?
  • Lisa details one particularly heartbreaking interview with a girl who had been sold into commercial sexual exploitation — and how her subject was the one who consoled her and her team.
  • What Lisa hopes people take away from her work, and why she really loves what she does.
  • Coming from a family that wasn’t particularly communicative, how did Lisa train herself to feel and discuss emotions more openly? How did learning to open up affect her relationship with her mother, put her own situation in perspective, and ultimately make her a stronger reporter?
  • What did Lisa do to lay the groundwork that allowed her mother to finally connect and share her story for the first time? Why do Lisa and I urge listeners (particularly men) who have difficult relationships with their parents to similarly connect?
  • Knowing how it turned her own life around, how might Lisa suggest someone in need of therapy find the therapist who’s right for them?
  • What was Barbara Walters’ most valuable advice to Lisa when they worked together on The View, and how did Lisa go from someone who didn’t really want to have kids to becoming obsessed with the idea?
  • Was Lisa able to take Barbara’s advice at the time it was given, or did it take a while to sink in? Is there any other advice Lisa has received that she wasn’t able to take in the moment but only later realized its value?
  • After six seasons (and counting) of This Is Life, How hard does Lisa have to push to tell the stories she wants to tell?
  • Reflecting on the humanity-elevating and fund-raising power of Oprah, and Lisa’s satisfaction at raising awareness and understanding — of everything from cultural differences to gender fluidity — in her own way on her own show.
  • Lisa still has to remind herself to break out of her own bubble in order to understand the world and the people who live on the other side of it — even if those people are affiliated with MS-13.
  • What can we expect from the upcoming season six of This Is Life, and where and when can we catch it?
  • How does Lisa choose which subjects to pursue, and how many of her pitches get made into shows?
  • What parents need to know about their children’s access to pornography, why young people may not be able to separate the fantasy of pornography from its realities, and how one woman is crusading against artificial pornography by producing real sex videos for the masses.
  • Why the benzodiazepines episode has been the most difficult episode for Lisa to make this season, and what it tells us about a medical culture that’s quick to prescribe potentially addictive substances without having an escape plan when it’s time to kick them.
  • What we should all be doing more regularly when we’re prescribed medication of any kind.
  • What books has Lisa gifted or recommended most?
  • How to develop, flex, and maintain a healthy dose of empathy.
  • What would Lisa’s billboard say, and why would it serve as a reminder to herself as well as the world at large?
  • Parting thoughts.



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