• Inaara Dharas

Lisa Ling Takes Over the World with Empathy

How this die-hard feminist leads with empathy and grace while taking over the world with CNN series: This Is Life with Lisa Ling

By: Innara Dharas

Lisa Ling is a world-renowned journalist. She started reporting when she was in high school and continued to do so in her adult years, where she's done broadcast journalism and produced her own documentaries. She went on to create and produce her own series on CNN called This is Life with Lisa Ling in 2014. It may seem easy to produce and tell stories, but it takes a certain degree of authenticity and empathy to connect with viewers. Uncovering many stories from a local to an international levels has led Lisa Ling to quickly become one of the top industry leaders. She also claims to be a “die-hard feminist.” Personally, I am drawn to Ling’s authenticity and her passion to tell the stories of people who would otherwise not have a voice. She is dedicated to her work and I know she will change the world with her storytelling.

This is Life with Lisa Ling quickly became the go-to for people when they wanted to be informed of the world around them. This is Life is a great work of journalism, and it has achieved this by doing things like:

  • Using empathy to connect with the stories and the people.

  • Staying authentic to herself and the stories of the people she is representing.

  • Conveying the stories of different people with dignity.

Using empathy

When Ling first entered the field of reporting and journalism, she did so with an empathetic mindset that made her different from other reporters. In an interview with Rip & Tan, Ling talks about her start and what kinds of stories caught her attention. She saw things like, "young boys armed to the teeth in Afghanistan, children being forced into slave labor in India, girls married off to older men at the age of eight-years-old.” Ling had to adapt a new mindset if she was going to tackle the harsh realities of a huge part of our population. Journalists are always forced out of their comfort zones, but not everyone can do it gracefully.

Staying authentic

Ling has always believed in authenticity. It is what she owes herself and the people she is representing with her storytelling. Ling stays authentic to herself by standing her ground and knowing what she is worth. This is especially important when someone is working in a male-dominated industry. Staying true to yourself and knowing what you are worth becomes increasingly important when you start reporting and producing for big companies like Ling has done over the years. She says, “while I certainly think that there have been some benefits to the fact that I am an Asian woman, I do believe that I and those like me have suffered from not being seen. I have noticed pay inequity throughout the years… It’s imperative for women, when they recognize a blatant injustice that they speak up for themselves and women everywhere.”

When it comes to her staying authentic to her stories and the people telling these stories, she never wants to shift focus away from what is being told. To keep people focused on the important matters on hand, Ling wears muted, neutral-colors, and keeps it basic with simple V-neck t-shirts. Ling states that “My shows are not about me; I’m just the vehicle through which people can experience cultures that are different from theirs.” With Ling acting as that vehicle, the people and stories she is representing help change the way people think about certain people, cultures, countries and communities.

Lisa Ling and James Jacob
Lisa Ling and James Jacob

Conveying stories with dignity

Ling dedicated one of the episodes from This is Life to film at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, California. This episode shows detail about a reading program that helps prisoners facing life sentences get connected with prep school students. One story told on this episode is about James Jacob. Jacob is an inmate at the prison in Soledad and he is 40-year sentence for a murder he committed in 2004. He has spent the years after that working on himself and bettering himself as a citizen. Ling took time and gave James’s story dignity, regardless of the crime(s) he committed. By giving everyone and their story dignity, you are treating everyone equally and giving them the chance to better themselves as human beings.

Lisa Ling exemplifies what it means to be good journalist. She is a journalist that cares about the stories she is covering and the people who represent those stories. She does not discriminate, but instead she sees every situation as an opportunity to shine a light on marginalized communities that some people may not know about. I am honored to call Lisa Ling an inspiration, and I only hope my storytelling in the future is as transformative as hers has been and continues to be.

About the Author

Inaara Dharas is a driven and passionate Journalism and Public Relations student at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Inaara will graduate with a BA in May of 2022.