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With OWN's new series, 'Our America,' Lisa Ling wants people to 'think differently.' Is that enough?

Ll For Lisa Ling, the e-mails never cease. And given the name of the sender, she’s reading every one of them ... no matter when they reach her inbox.

“I always get e-mails from Oprah [Winfrey] at, like, 2 a.m.,” she said. “It just never stops.”

The late-night pings are all with good reason. Ling is helming a series on Winfrey’s new network.

“Our America,” which premieres Tuesday, examines controversial subjects: online brides, sex offenders, drug addictions and religious movements among them. The result is an hour-long episode that aims to provoke discussion through the accounts of varied experiences, Ling said.

"She wasn’t so involved with the production of the series," said Ling, who spoke via telephone from Upstate New York, where she is still working on the tail-end of the series. “But she has been so effusive about this series. I’ve definitely kept every e-mail she has sent. “

Ling, who was a co-host on “The View” from 1999-2002, has been a field correspondent for “The Oprah Show” for years, reporting on topics such as bride burning in India and child trafficking in Ghana. When murmurings about launching a full-on network began, Ling said she was approached about being a part of the endeavor.

“Even though I’ve been working in this business for over 20 years, I’ve never gotten a chance to do some really provocative programming,” Ling said. “OWN has really let me work on stories in a way that I wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else.”

She cautions, though, that there is no agenda to what she presents in the documentary anthology.

“I really want people to think differently about these topics or these issues or these people -- differently than they thought about before,” she added. “And to recognize -- to really sort of expand -- what the whole idea of what being an American is.”

But amid the “Teen Moms” and “The Real Housewives” -- the show’s cable competitors for its premiere episode-- is such a task feasible? 

“I think that given what else is on television, there’s a need for this on TV,” Ling said. “I don’t think audiences are offered the opportunity to have these experiences that are not sensationalized and are not being directed to the lowest common denominator. By the same token, every one of the episodes included in ‘Our America’ is as shocking and -- I keep using this word -- provocative as anything you’ll see on any other network.”

And that’s something that Winfrey said she strove for in creating her own network. During her appearance at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in January, Winfrey made it clear that ratings were secondary to the “new kind of television” she was presenting to viewers.

“A new kind of television where people would respond to the idea of something meaningful and positive in their lives,” Winfrey said. “Not just feeding them sweetness, but feeding them something that could be nurturing."

“There are a few shows [on OWN] that even if [viewers] don’t respond, I’m keeping them on anyway because I can, because I like them,” Winfrey added. “And in time, [the programs] will grow on [the audience].”

In its fifth full week, the network was down 34% compared with last week among women ages 25 to 54 in prime time (54,000 vs. 82,000).

In the first episode of “Our America,” Ling visits a faith-healing revival in Fort Mill, S.C., to meet with people seeking cures from faith healer Todd Bentley.

“I was very, very skeptical,” Ling said. “But let's just say that what happened in the end was so shocking to me that it provoked me to think differently about the whole idea of faith. It really changed my notion of faith forever.”

Show Trackers, will you be tuning-in?

Here's a clip:

--Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Lisa Ling, host of "Our America with Lisa Ling" on Oprah Winfrey's new network. Credit: Jamie Cary / OWN

Comments () | Archives (15)

I just saw your interview with Lawrence O'Donnell and you mentioned a faith healer that you interviewed. Can you give me any information about that faith healer?
Thank you.

Congratulations for you, your wonderfully brave family, and I hope to see you soon on OWN. This was a different viewpoint for not only for the reminder of news repression, as a gov. device; but that your scope of reporting cannot be contained with preset icons from the past.

Lisa, I love the concept of your new show. I too believe we have become dumbed down during the past few generations (although you didn't say it as brusquely as I just did).

How about a segment on just how effective (successful) the Pro Life Movement has been on 'Getting Out the Vote' and swinging elections to the Right?

Because our country is so evenly divided, their support has become a 'tipping point' in elections with the Republican Party recognizing this notion. But no one is talking about the effects of this 'tipping point", especially how they have organized their members to vote for Pro Life candidates, attend rallies, book signings, protests, etc. to make it look like there is more everyday support than there actually is by the general public.

A recent example is all the hoopla Sarah Palin received during the 2008 elections, and since then her book signings. But in real life, according to recent polls, it appears most individuals have become aware just how ill equipped Palin really is to hold public office. (Someone should also research what's going on, how they lie about what Planned Parenthood provides for women and their families, etc, etc.)

What do you think?

Hello Lisa (should you even read this),
I met you once, I honestly can't remember if it was last year or the year before that. You came to our school here in Hawaii, and talked about extremely touching topics in a very child friendly way. I think the sixth graders really appreciated that.
We talked for about one minute.
I don't think I conveyed at all, as most ignorant tweleve/thirteen (as I said I can't remember the exact year) year olds are. Since your visit, I have become much more knowledgeable about the topics you presented us with, and I now want to one day be able to change the world.
I thank you for the way you cover stories, and the way you don't let the public deter you from choosing touchy topics.
You're an inspiration to all young teenagers like myself, and I look forward to watching your future episodes on OWN.

How do I send an idea for a show?

Great show last night on the Transexuals! Wow! Talk about an eye-opener for America! Long over due. Kudo's to you-Lisa Ling! You are very very Brave, and an amazing woman! I wish there were more women like you in the USA.
I am in tears though because of this article about the Obama Administration today. I thought, maybe if you knew about this, you could bring it to light?

" The Obama Administration" has announced that it will no longer defend Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in court because it is unconstitutional.

Here in California, the supporters of Prop. 8 are trying to force the people's elected Attorney General, Kamala Harris, to appeal the federal court ruling overturning Prop. 8 -- even though doing so would go against her oath to defend the United States Constitution.
They have introduced an alarming bill, SB 5, that would force the Attorney General to defend unconstitutional ballot measures that are challenged in court, as well as allow the unelected individuals who place these measures on the ballot to defend them on behalf of all Californians -- something only our elected Attorney General should be able to do. It’s the latest attempt by the supporters of Prop. 8 to change the law to alter the outcome of the federal case against Prop. 8.

We have to stop this new attack on the federal case against Prop. 8, and we have to do it fast. We need to stop SB 5 and advance LGBT equality across California.

Let’s be clear: Special interest groups -- whether they are anti-LGBT, anti-labor or anti-choice -- shouldn’t get special rights. They do not get to play Attorney General in court when they don’t like the decision of the person the voters selected for the job.

Help us stop SB 5 and advance equality. Let your legislators know that you want them to oppose this politically motivated bill.

Equality California is working hard to defeat SB 5 and defend the power of the Attorney General’s office. At the same time we’re sponsoring 11 bills that would secure greater equality -- for LGBT youth, for same-sex couples and for people across the state. We’re working hard in Sacramento for your rights. But we need your help, and the stakes are high.

Just like the Obama Administration and DOMA, our Attorney General should choose when to defend a law in court, and they should never be forced to defend a law that goes against the very Constitution they have sworn to uphold. We have to keep SB 5 from progressing. Please.
Update: A group for our rights filed motions today demanding that all loving couples be allowed to marry immediately and urging the courts to act fast. We thank them for their leadership and for making it clear that every day that same-sex couples and their children are denied the protections and dignity of marriage is another day they are irreparably harmed. It breaks my heart to see such division within our own country, and if they only understood that everyone just wants to be treated fairly. Not asking for more than anyone else, just asking to be treated equally. Can you help?

I watched your show on Todd Bentley, the so-called faith healer. This was the most outrageous thing I have seen in a while. I suppose I don't keep up because I had never even heard of him. Do we just let anyone start a church? Not to mention he is just a complete fake. Does noone have any control over these kind of people? There is no telling how much money he takes from these poor people.

There is another thing, start a church and you can take people's money and pay no taxes on it. I think churchs should pay taxes anyway. Especially theives like this Todd Bentley. It would go far in helping our economic situation our country is in.

I just feel so sorry for these poor people that he takes advantage of, but I suppose as long as there are people giving him money it will continue. Because we all know that money IS the reason for this type of behavior. He is a complete disgrace to mankind. He needs to go back to Canada. or I probably could think of somewhere even better for him to go. Complete disgust.

BUT, I did enjoy your informative show and will certainly watch it again. Thanks for your reporting.

I am a little disappointed to say the least. To have such icons with huge voices to do good things with, you have given more power, more voice, more media attention and more promotion to a man such as Todd Bentley? A man that has committed rape, violence and blasphemy. I am shocked and disappointed. In your interview with him you are smiling and letting him gloat and lie, when not only should he be behind bars, let alone be on your new series in this manner. I am no longer going to watch your show.

I truely hope this reaches mrs. Ling and others with speed. The episode of faith healers, had beared a name that was used multipul times in correspondence of something that was good, and should get respect and praise. However it deserves NOTHING of the sort. it deserves only to be destroyed by Christ, the king and master over heaven, earth, and all exsistance. The name "Morning star" was said mult. Times, thats one of many names given to evils saten. There must be a showed aired immeditally exposing this truth, and all those who gave it praise need to denie what they have said, and pray for the holy, mighty loving lords forgiveness. There need be no focus on men, or churchs. The world needs to all praise christ and give him their loving devotin. He needs to be famous, for Jesus Christs blood set us free. Lisa i pray you do whats right and fix this. evil was able to decivingly be mentioned. when evil does not matter, nor should ever be acknowledged. we need only to care, love and worship. our king Jesus Christ

Lisa Ling i hope you change the mistake that was made. my name is keith friese and i serve christ with all of my soul, devotin, and heart. I am not a perfectly obident christian, but i strive to one day be. This world doesnt need stories of people saying they are healers and using the name "Morningstar" its deciving and evil. LISA LING, this world needs to learn of christ, teach them of his love and kindness. teach people how to repent for their sins, that we were freed from by the blood of Christ. Our savior and king Jesus Christ deserves to be famous. Please, do whats right, expose the evil, decetful, name used by faith healers. Expose the truth, and tell people the the power of healing and life. Is within giving the hearts and soul to Jesus Christ and presuing their lives to be like him, our king is the most powerful being and will give his punishment to those who dont stop evil. And now u know what happened in that episod, so Christ has used me to educate you. testing you faith by what you will now do.

So, just watched the marriage tour show.
Did they live happily ever after?
How can we find out?

Its amazing that where Lisa went has come full circle. It is the former home of Heritage USA, Jim and Tammy's hotel. wonder what Jim thinks of it becoming a church again ?

Lisa, I missed the heroin addiction show that aired on 03/18/11. I have seen every one of the "America" shows. You are perfect for this show. There is no other news correspondent that would work, only you.

Please reveal the encore presentation of the show which show cased the herion addicts in the Heartland.

Also, I am a Christian and have seen with my eyes people get up from a wheelchair and walk after being prayed over. Not everyone will get up, if God commands it, it happens, just an FYI.

I watched your follow-up part of program with the gay man who was following Jesus and was celibate for four years. I am a born-again charismatic christian and that is exactly what I'd do if my husband died, though I am not gay. I would not be sleeping with anybody and be following Jesus. No sex except in marriage to someone of the opposite sex. I have been tempted for a year and a half by adultery and I with Jesus never gave in. Your young man is right on, if you ask me. Jesus is so great He deserves all our honor and praise with every aspect of our lives.

I have watched this for the 4th time now , and I am sickened by the greed of Todd Bentley and Morningstar church!!!!! . This is Tammy Fay and Jim Baker all over again, Plain as day!!!!! And I am not proud to say I am from South Carolina anymore!.
I grew up in a very profound Christian home and have studied the Bible relentlessly as I have had a Mother that made sure we as kids were at church every Sunday and Every Wednesday and every time the doors of the church were open.
There is one thing I know for certain, the Masaya Jesus Christ never charged for his service, miracles or messages and never sported rings on every finger of his hand as a symbol of self wealth. This goes without saying the boasting Todd had for his truck and mutable Lazy boy recliners !!!! This is not concurrent with the life that a messenger of god would partake. Shame on all of you, as there were no real healing revealed in this airing.
Shame On Morning Star Church and Todd Bentley as your money making skim is not inline with the teachings of Jesus Christ!
Move over Tammy and Jim — Here come some other to Join you.
Shane Mac !
Lisa ,, No disrespect to you. You are a awesome caring and passionate journalist that I admire greatly !


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