Journalist’s experience inspires students

Key note speaker Laura Ling shares about her experience being held captive in North Korea and the importance of journalism in the world. Photo by Aditi Shrikant.

Crossing the border into hostile North Korea is not something anyone would expect a sane person to do. Then again, Laura Ling is not a sane person: she’s a journalist.

Today in Anaheim, Ling and her sister Lisa attended the JEA/NSPA National Hight School Journalism convention and  shared their journalistic experiences with newspaper and yearbook students from across the nation, including some of our own Sidekick staff.

In her speech, Laura talked about a terrifying time in her life, when, on assignment in China, she wandered across the border into North Korea and was captured and imprisoned for 140 days. It was not until former President Bill Clinton met with North Korean President Kim Jong Il that she was finally released.

She detailed her struggles, such as her brutal capture and beatings, the intense interrogations and the conditions of the prison, as well as the surprising kindness of her guards. As she spoke, thousands of hopeful young journalism students listened in awe of her bravery.

“Laura is a very inspiring person,” junior Madison Ford said. “She didn’t just go through a big ordeal, but she took something positive from it and she brought purpose to what we do as journalists. Just because you go through situations that are harrowing or disturbing, you can take something away from it that will affect and change the world.”

Junior Wren Culp was also motivated by her story to improve himself as a journalist.

“She has tremendous guts,” Culp said. “To live that [experience] first hand is unbelievably brave. It makes me want to be a better reporter. It makes me want to dive deeper. This whole convention makes me want to do it, but especially Laura’s story. I care about journalism so much more now. It makes me want to find the humanity in my stories.”

After Laura and Lisa made their speech and answered questions, they signed copies of their new book Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home.

Laura offers encouragement to young journalists and challenges them to seek out important stories.   

“Keep trying to raise awareness about things that are happening in the world,” she said in her speech. “We need young journalists to be our voices for what’s happening.”