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Award-Winning Journalist Lisa Ling to Keynote United Way Luncheon
By Ashley Ford and Jillian Rivera
Award-winning journalist Lisa Ling will be visiting the Valley soon for Valley of the Sun United Way’s “We Are United” Luncheon taking place on May 8 at Camelback Inn. The event will help fund United Way’s efforts to battle hunger in the classroom, including its WeekEnd Hunger Backpack and Breakfast in the Classroom programs.
Frontdoors Media had a chance to speak with Lisa before her visit and ask her a few questions about her passion for storytelling, why she supports the United Way’s mission of ending poverty, and her work on “This is Life.”
Storytelling has become a tool to portray the needs of others. How vital do you think it is to experience these things to tell these compelling stories?
Someone asked me recently what the key is to being a good storyteller, and I think that being a really good listener and embedding and spending time with the people that you are profiling is really important. I think these days, there are a lot of people who are talking at and talking over issues, and I find that to be really dangerous because I don’t think that you can speak in an educated way unless you have experienced the things that you’re discussing, or at least met face to face with people who are dealing with issues you are talking about. It’s crucial for a story teller, if you’re going to be a good story teller, to be able to interact with people and have hands on experience in the worlds that you’re covering.
You have covered so many international crises around poverty and people in need. Why do you think it’s so important for people to focus on their needs of their communities locally?
I think it’s vital that we focus on our immediate community because this is our home, this is where we live, this is where we raise our families. I think it’s crucial that we not only cover these stories but take ownership of these issues because they are in our own backyard.
You’ve traveled the world – what’s the favorite place you’ve ever been to?
That’s so hard! It’s really so hard because I think one the reasons why I’m a fairly decent journalist is because every story in every place becomes the most important place to me at the time. There are a couple of regions that I particularly love. I love the Himalayas, Nepal, Bolivia, Columbia, I can never get enough of India. Those are among some of my favorites, but everywhere I go becomes the most important and my favorite place at the time.
When filming, “This is Life,” what was the most memorable take-away from the series?
I think the most memorable takeaway always is that, at the end of the day, no matter how different we are, what our values are, where we reside, what we look like — ultimately, we all want the same things. We want stability, we want to be able to provide for our families, we want to be safe and irrespective of what someone may have been accused of doing, irrespective of how obscure a lifestyle you might live, ultimately, we all want those things. Right now in this climate of hostility and partisan divisiveness and division, I really find there to be value in the work that I do and the stories that I’m able to tell. Because our objective is trying to allow people to better know and familiarize themselves with their fellow humans. And I truly believe that as a result of knowing your fellow humans better one becomes a smarter person and ultimately a better person.
Is it possible to give us a preview of the upcoming “This is Life” that is airing in the fall?
Like every season we cover a diverse array of worlds within our world, and I am incredibly proud of this season. The people that we’ve interviewed have really trusted us to tell their stories responsibly, and for that I’m really appreciative.
You’re speaking on May 8th in Phoenix for United Way. What is it about United Way and their mission of fighting poverty that you identify with?
I’m a huge fan of what United Way organizations do all over this country. They really are on the front lines of trying to address issues of poverty in their respective communities. With the exponential growth of families who are homeless in this country, I appreciate that United Way is really there trying to not only provide people with aid and services but trying to raise awareness about it as well.
What should guests expect to hear from you at the event?
As a journalist I’ve covered so many kinds of stories, both internationally and here in America and I like to just share a collection of stories that I’ve reported on that have really propelled me to think a little differently. I also will be talking about some of my own experiences reporting on homelessness, commercial sexual exploitation, incarceration in America — all of which are issues that United Way deals with in their efforts to help people in need.
For more information or tickets to see Lisa Ling speak at the “We Are United” Luncheon, visit vsuw.org/luncheon.