I first became aware of Lisa Ling when I was in junior high and watched "Channel One" every day. The next time I heard from her was when she joined "The View." Leaving the daytime gab-fest may not have looked like a wise decision from someone so early in her career, but Ling knew she was meant to do more than have conversations around the table with celebrities. She was meant to talk to real people.
The first episode of "Our America" I saw was "Pray the Gay Away." Having had quite a bit of those same conversations in my own life, it was astonishing to see it play out on national television. There it was, being told out in the open. She also recognized that the story didn't end when the cameras stopped rolling and she revisited the subject. Not only was she a witness to the change, but her coverage also became a catalyst for the change. Exodus Ministries, the largest of the ex-gay movement ministries, shuttered and through "Our America," men who had been profoundly hurt and scarred were given the opportunity to confront the man behind the ministry. Some of the men found closure and maybe even forgiveness.
My personal favorite episode was actually about present day nuns. I tell people about it all the time. More than being an informative and enlightening hour of television, it was a masterclass in journalistic storytelling. Every angle was covered, every woman's story was told fully and with such care. The decisions of these women were honored by Ling in a way that made each of their stories important and meaningful. The amount of care shown left an impression on me that I haven't forgotten.
I'm going to miss "Our America." Ling has a way of telling the whole story, all sides and facets, and remaining as objective as a person can be while remaining present in the moment. Whether it was a gay christian, a man wrongfully convicted, a transgender person, a drug user or teenage mother, Ling allowed the stories of Americans to become thought-provoking and teachable moments. I know that her career doesn't end with "Our America," it continues to rise as she moves to CNN to continue her work, but I will miss this show. In an age where television channels are full of nonsense "reality" TV, "Our America" was TV that mattered and had the power to change lives.
Thank you Lisa.