Veteran journalist and television host Lisa Ling isn't afraid of a challenge. From reporting as a war correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan to exchanging words with child sex offenders, she's made her mark in the world of journalism.
In her latest documentary-style show on Oprah's OWN network called 'Our America with Lisa Ling,' she features controversial sub-cultures across America, bringing viewers an in-depth look at thought-provoking topics.
Now, she's entering the world of reality TV by hosting Mark Burnett's latest show, 'The Job,' where qualified applicants compete for their dream job.
Despite her busy schedule, Ling finds time to volunteer. She recently teamed up with IKEA, to support the Life Improvement Project. By collecting and sharing stories of innovative home improvement projects, she hopes to build a community of people who can inspire one another.
Find out what Ling says about some of the tough topics she's covered and get a sneak peek at what’s next:
What is your favorite topic that you’ve tackled?
"The episode about faith healers,” says Ling. The show featured a man in a wheelchair who was determined that God would heal and allow him to walk again. Although he was never healed, "he ended up putting his hand on my head and said, ‘Look, I don’t worry about this. I’m going to walk one day whether it’s here on Earth or in Heaven.’ And for me it just confirmed the fact that — if you lose hope, then what else do you have?”
And the most difficult?
Ling says she struggled most during an episode about child sex offenders, which required her to interact with people who had been convicted of really “egregious” crimes against kids. “It was challenging to sit across from them and not, in some cases, assail them for what they’ve done,” she says.
How often do your subjects change your own mind about certain issues?
“All the time,” says Ling. “There’s so much grey to every story — nothing is so black and white.”
Ling admits to having gone into the episode entitled "Pray the Gay Away" — about an organization that advocates gay men and women surrendering "to the Lordship of Jesus Christ" — "with an ax to grind" because she has many homosexual friends. But by the end of the experience, she says she was able to understand the choices made by those in the group, but took issue when they tried to force their beliefs on others.
“If he [the President of Exodus International] chooses to be married to a woman and have children with a woman, that’s his prerogative,” she concluded. “My issue is when they tell people that they are wrong.”
You featured an episode on child pageants and have probably heard of TLC’s "Honey Boo Boo." What is your opinion of Alana and her family?
"I have not watched Honey Boo Boo," says Ling. However, she notes that she was surprised by the number of active parents — especially dads — in the pageant community. “For all that is negative to say about the pageant world, these dads could be doing anything with their time. Sunday is a big football day and they could be spending all day long on the couch watching games, but so many of them are out there with their daughters cheering them on.”
You’re telling real life stories on ‘Our America’ and you’re also hosting a new reality show called ‘The Job.’ What is your opinion on the intersection of reality TV versus real life?
“At the end of the day TV is supposed to be entertaining,” says Ling. “But it’s important for me that there’s some take-away value from it.” Watching applicants go through the interview process has a real value, she says, especially "at a time when more and more people are having to go through job interviews themselves.”
What is your ultimate hope for “Our America”?
“My hope is that when people watch this, they will do so with compassion and have a better sense of how our fellow Americans live,” says Ling. “It’s been so fulfilling and illuminating to interact with people who live lives that are so drastically different from mine.”