Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling

Born in Sacramento, CA, Ling's parents divorced when she was seven and she and her younger sister, Laura, were raised by her father, a Chinese-born aviation supervisor for the Air Force. Ling's television journalism career began at the age of 16 when she co-hosted "Scratch" (1991-94), a syndicated news magazine for kids. At 18, Ling was able to cover more serious topics for another syndicated news magazine, "Channel One News," which was broadcast in schools. Over the next seven years, Ling became the program's senior political correspondent, reporting from more than 30 countries, including Russia (to report on election referendums), Afghanistan (to cover the Taliban's takeover of the country), and Iraq, among numerous others. Despite a punishing 40-hours-a-week workload for the channel, Ling also attended the University of Southern California, making the Dean's list her freshman year. Due to her numerous commitments, she left college in her junior year. In 1999, Ling joined reporters Barbara Walters and Meredith Viera, comedienne Joy Behar, and former lawyer Star Jones on a new daytime talk show, "The View." Ling contributed the "twenty-something" perspective on women's issues for the admittedly fluffy talk show, but maintained a busy schedule of pursuits on the side. In 2000, she became a contributing editor at the newspaper USA Weekend, and in 2001, her youth appeal was tapped to host "The Day it All Changed" (WB Kids) an hour-long special addressing teens' concerns about the events of September 11th and terrorism worldwide. Perhaps Ling's most personally rewarding side project was her participation in the 2001 Boston Marathon, which she undertook to raise money for pediatric cancer after a pair of devastating deaths occurred in her family. Her cousin Alison succumbed to liver cancer at the age of 14, then Alison's father - Ling's uncle, John Pierce - who was training to run the Boston Marathon to raise awareness for a fund he had established in his daughter's memory - died during a mini-marathon. With only two months to train, Ling stepped in for her uncle and ran the 26-mile course in 4 hours and 34 minutes, raising over $100,000 for his fund.The following year Ling's interest in returning to serious journalism and international issues led to her departure from "The View," where, during her three-year run, she had shared three Emmy nominations with Walter, Vieira, Jones and Behar. She landed on "National Geographic Explorer," serving as the show's first female host in its 20-year history. Taking a typically hands-on approach to her new position, she investigated the drug war in Colombia, went behind bars to experience prison life, and traveled to the bottom of the ocean in a submersible in search of sunken treasure. She also contributed to the network's "Ultimate Explorer" (2004), an eight-part news magazine commissioned by MSNBC, for which she studied the effects of prison incarceration on the children left behind. In 2005, Ling also began contributing reports to "The Oprah Winfrey Show," increasing awareness on such human rights issues as child trafficking in Ghana and dowry-related domestic violence in India. Ling contributed to CNN's four-part special "Planet in Peril" in 2007, joining Anderson Cooper, Jeff Corwin and Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an investigation into the potential impact of the earth's increasing population and deforestation, among other man-made dangers.In 2008, Ling was nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy Award for a "National Geographic Explorer" piece entitled "Inside North Korea." In a cruel twist of fate, that same nation would place her firmly in the spotlight for very different reasons the following year. Ling's younger sister, Laura Ling, who was also making a name for herself in television journalism, became the subject of international news in early 2009 when she was detained by North Korean officials while shooting footage for Al Gore's Current TV near the China/North Korea border. Laura and her colleague, Euna Lee, were charged with illegal entry into North Korea and sentenced to 12 years in a hard labor camp. Both families were devastated and everyone did their part - from holding public vigils to both Al Gore and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attempting to secure their freedom. Ling insisted she would never give up hope for her sister's release, and five months later after several covert negotiations, former President Bill Clinton was sent on a humanitarian visit to speak with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il. The women were pardoned and released on Aug. 4th. Ling was reunited with her little sister in Los Angeles the following day, amidst a maelstrom of flashbulbs as the two freed reporters and Clinton disembarked the plane.