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Journalist Lisa Ling lands at CBS News after 9 years at CNN

Lisa Ling attends the P.S. ARTS Annual Fundraiser
By Stephen Battaglio Los Angeles Times

Lisa Ling, whose long-running CNN series became a cost-cutting casualty, is joining CBS News.

The network news division announced Wednesday that Ling will become a contributor starting in late summer, focusing on in-depth stories for its programs, including “CBS Sunday Morning.”

Ling, 49, is a veteran journalist whose documentary series “This Is Life” ran for nine seasons on CNN and is still available on Max, the streaming service owned by the news channel’s parent Warner Bros. Discovery. The program was canceled in November 2022 as part of cost-saving measures implemented by CNN Chairman Chris Licht.

Ling devoted each episode to a single subject. She got a close-up look at groups and trends on the fringes of society, including Satan worshippers, polygamists and sex workers. Her series was ahead of the rest of TV news on many topics such as artificial intelligence.

Ling’s run ended when Licht discontinued CNN Original Series supplied by outside production firms. “This Is Life” was produced by Part2 Pictures.

“I was disappointed, but I also felt so proud of the nine seasons that we were able to produce there,” Ling said in an interview. “You can look back even from Season 1, and all of those episodes are as relevant and watchable.”

Ling, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters, said she hopes to carry on the spirit of her previous program at CBS News. She sees her work as an “anthropological exploration” of the country.

“I think the thing that they like about my style is that it is experiential and really human-driven,” Ling said. “During these times, when there’s just so much vitriolic partisanship and algorithms are thinking for us, the need for human-driven reporting is more important than ever.”

Ling is the latest outside hire at CBS News, which, despite tightening budgets, has added to its roster of on-air talent since Neeraj Khemlani was named co-head of CBS News and Stations in April 2021. Khemlani succeeded Susan Zirinsky, who now heads a documentary unit for parent company Paramount Global.

The network added former NBC News personality Natalie Morales, who has appeared on “48 Hours” and “CBS Mornings” in addition to co-hosting “The Talk,” and poached onetime ABC News anchor Cecilia Vega, who became the first Latina correspondent on the long-running newsmagazine “60 Minutes.”

CBS News also beefed up its Washington ranks, bringing in former Washington Post correspondent Robert Costa and veteran Capitol Hill reporter Scott MacFarlane. The network also added CBS Sports personality Nate Burleson to “CBS Mornings,” which has increased its share of the morning news audience since his arrival.

Khemlani said the division’s focus on in-depth storytelling — which now gets additional exposure on its 24-hour streaming channel — is becoming a draw for journalists.

CBS News is under the same financial pressure as other newsrooms, as Paramount Global struggles to replace lost revenue on the traditional TV side while investing in streaming.

But the division responsible for the most watched news shows in prime time and mornings — “60 Minutes” and “CBS Sunday Morning” — has avoided the discord of some of its competitors, such as CNN and ABC News, which have both downsized and fired high-profile personalities such as Don Lemon and Amy Robach.

Fox News is still absorbing the shock of a $787 million settlement to Dominion Voting Systems and the termination of its top prime-time star, Tucker Carlson.

For a news division that has had its share of turmoil over the years, a period of calm is no small achievement, and Khemlani wants to capitalize on it.

“CBS News is incredibly stable and gives the highest-profile talent an opportunity to really pursue their crafts,” Khemlani said. “You’re seeing a really interesting line of people hoping to get in.”