Terry Morrow: Lisa Ling returns 'home' to Knoxville

Lisa Ling talks about the influences in her journalism career, which got its start in Knoxville.

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Lisa Ling talks about the influences in her journalism career, which got its start in Knoxville.

With a journalism career that has her delving into powerful drug cartels and exposing sex trafficking rings, Lisa Ling developed her scrappiness in Knoxville years ago.

“Truly I would not have the career I have now if it weren’t for Channel One in Knoxville, Tennessee,” Ling said Thursday prior to speaking at the Women’s Fund Luncheon at the Cherokee Country Club.

She was only 18 when she started working at Channel One, the ambitious early-1990s Knoxville-based project from entrepreneur Chris Whittle. It was her first journalism job, and the position afforded her international assignments, exposing her to both good and ill.

“That job took me all over the world,” said Ling, who was never based here. “I was sent all over the world — Iran, Iraq ... It was overwhelming. It changed my life. It made me a better person. It made me a smarter person.

“It really fueled my desire to keep telling stories.”

From there, Ling’s career skyrocketed. She became a co-host of “The View,” where she worked with Barbara Walters, and now headlines her series “Our America,” seen on Oprah Winfrey’s cable channel OWN. She’s also been a CNN contributor and worked for National Geographic Channel.

She’s been in the middle of civil wars and leaped out of helicopters to get her story. Knoxville gave her that first push, though.

“Knoxville had a huge impact on my career,” Ling, 38, said. “I might not be here in Knoxville today if I hadn’t worked for Channel One.”

“You never know where life will take you because of one possibility. It’s always important to keep an open mind ... You never know where it may lead you.”

The key to being a “descent journalist” is to keep an open mind and be dedicated to the story at hand, she said. “Every time I work on a story I always think it’s the most important one I have ever worked on,” Ling said.

“I wonder, sometimes, if I’ll ever get tired of this. It’s hard on a personal life, but I cannot imagine not (being a journalist). This is what I am meant to be doing.”

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Comments » 5

Debt writes:

Lisa Ling was the beginning of my love for Asian women. She was the best part of going to school:the hot chick on channel one! woo!

and to think, shes only 8 years older than me..oh the possibilities :)

Drax writes:

Anderson Cooper also got his start as a fact checker in the New York office of Channel One and went on to become a superb reporter there.

boonhower writes:

I remember one time in seventh grade when Channel One was reporting on the civil war in Yugoslavia, and they were reporting on the goings-on in the city of Bihac. It was pronounced Bee-yahtch. We never laughed so hard in all our years of schooling, and even the teacher had to give in and laugh with us. I truly think that is where that slang pronunciation way of saying that word started. Every grade school kid in America heard it, and some have used it that way ever since. Thank you Chris Wittle for that contribution to popular culture, the beginning of many young boys' attraction to Asian women, and the many monstrous out of place McMansions your exectutives built in established neighborhoods in Knoxville which dwarfed the homes surrounding it.

boonhower writes:

Oh, and thank you for the ginormous building that takes up half of downtown that the taxpayers got for half the price it took you to build it.

NotMike writes:

What is a "descent" journalist? One who covers spelunkers and submariners?

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