My school brings in incredible speakers from time to time to present their experiences to students. When I was looking at Mizzou’s calendar of speakers at the beginning of the school year, I saw that Laura Ling was coming to speak on September 6 and became immediately filled with excitement. I knew some of the details about Laura’s journey from journalist to captive in North Korea and knew the event would be powerful and inspirational. Laura, of course, delivered inspiration and then some. Below is a short event review piece I wrote for my Principles of American Journalism class following the event. I even got to meet Laura following the event and she signed my copy of “Somewhere Inside” (eep!!):
“Throughout her 140 day captivity in North Korea, journalist Laura Ling sat every night in prison thinking about an event in the day for which she was thankful. Recognizing what we have brings us peace Ling said. And so, Ling would be grateful for a day with minimal interrogation sessions or three meals instead of two.
The words striking and moving come to mind when describing Ling’s outlook on life. Despite the unbelievable hardships faced by Ling in prison, she repeated the phrase “always have hope” in her speech and signed copies of her book “Somewhere Inside,” co-written by Lisa Ling, with the same words.
Ling’s speech certainly inspired me to appreciate my life. Her passion and vigor for life, as well as journalism, further touched me. Ling reminds us, especially aspiring journalists, that we must truly care about our stories. With empathy and humility, Ling has tackled a wide range of topics from drug-related violence in Mexico to issues affecting teens in the U.S. Ling’s raw emotions were evident in the video footage shown in the presentation of her reports on such topics.
Concluding the evening, Ling signed my book with her signature phrase and kindly took a photo with me. I asked if her experience had affected her belief in human goodness.
“It almost made me believe in it more,” Ling said.
The world needs more people like Laura Ling to encourage us to have hope despite our circumstances. The field of journalism needs passionate storytellers such as Ling even more.”
After months of sitting on my bookshelf, I finally had the chance to read “Somewhere Inside” over my break. The book is written from the perspectives of both Lisa and Laura, alternating chapters between the sister’s words. The book tells an amazing story of love between the two sisters – Lisa’s efforts to bring Laura home were incredible – and, in its contrast of America and North Korea through the alternating chapters, the book gave me a new appreciation for the freedom I have in my life and in my craft. I would absolutely recommended “Somewhere Inside” to anyone, but the story is especially relevant to any young journalist. Lisa and Laura’s journey speak a great deal about the importance of journalism in a society. Laura’s defense of the story she was writing about North Korean defectors when she captured and her brave protection of her sources is further moving. One of my favorite quotes from the book came from Lisa as she reflected on her experience.
“Though my sister’s ordeal was the most trying of her life and our family’s lives, I am proud of what Laura was doing. But just because she’s home doesn’t mean the story is over. I am reminded of the importance of journalists out in the world, often away from their own families, because they are determined to bring these stories to light. The only way things can change is for people to change them. But people cannot change things they don’t know about. It’s the job of journalists to raise awareness about what’s happening in the world. And there are so many stories to tell.”