In some circles, Lisa Ling is best known as that Asian-American woman who was on “The View” and isn’t Lucy Liu. But Ling left that chat show nearly a decade ago.
Since then, she has pursued what she really loves: serious, in-depth journalism.
You can now see her every Sunday night on “Our America With Lisa Ling” on the new OWN network where she tackles subjects ranging from sex offenders to transgendered people to online brides. She is currently in her second season, having already aired hours focused on amateur porn (with time in Georgia) and modern polygamy.
Next up this Sunday: sex trafficking, followed later by an hour a week later on post-traumatic stress disorder among war veterans.
She is also doing a piece on African-Americans in prison, spending time in Georgia.
“I don’t want people to watch this and be aghast by the numbers,” she said earlier this month after she spoke at the O You! conference at the Georgia World Congress Center. “I want people to recognize as a society that we continue to close doors on people. On every application, we ask people if they’ve ever been convicted of a felony.”
“Who wants to hire someone with a prison record?” she continued. “As a culture, we sentence people for life even after they’ve done their time.”
She believes in forgiveness and providing job skills and opportunities to reduce recidivism. “We have more people locked up than any other country,” she said.
Before joining OWN, Ling did international stories for National Geographic. Her focus now is domestic. “In some ways,” she said, “the shows on OWN have made a bigger impact on me because they’re happening within our borders.”
She enjoys tackling stories in a way that isn’t sensationalistic or judgmental, even if the people themselves have done horrendous things. The sex offenders, she admitted, were the most challenging to empathize with and the toughest episode for her to do to date. “We treat people with dignity,” she said.
Her style is very empathetic, introspective and low key. “I’ve never had more creative freedom,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be able to do this anywhere but OWN.”
Not surprisingly, Ling has nothing but praise for Oprah herself: “It’s been incredible. She’s so active. She sees all my shows and offers suggestions and notes. I’m grateful to be able to work with one of the greatest storytellers of our time.”
She has worked with CNN doing free-lance work in the past. She admires the Atlanta-based news organization for its efforts to remain a non-biased source of news in the face of what she calls “the loudest voices on TV.”
“I’m so happy it exists,” she said. But “it’s hard to compete.”
And she’s also a fan of CBS’s sturdy “60 Minutes” and NPR.
Ling’s work life is so serious, she does Bikram Yoga to reduce stress, which involves yoga in 110-degree heat. Her favorite TV shows? “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire” on HBO and ABC’s “Modern Family.” Though her tolerance for reality programming is low, she enjoys “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “American Idol.” (She’s a fan of Daughtry.)
“Our America With Lisa Ling,” Sundays at 10 p.m. OWN
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk