There has been heartache and grief over the untimely death of former WGN-TV anchor Allison Payne. The 57-year-old news anchor died on September 1 at her home. A cause of death has not been announced but numerous reports indicate that Payne had suffered from a number of health problems recently.
The beloved journalist was a familiar face and trusted news source for more than two decades in Chicago. Many outside of the Windy City are learning for the first time about the award-winning reporter who was a standard-bearer among Black journalists.
“Allison was young, vibrant, sharp,” said WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling in a video tribute. “You looked at Alison, you thought here’s a young journalist who has the world before her, and one could only speculate where that incredible career was going to go.”
The Chicago branch of the National Association of Black Journalists posted a message stating, "NABJ Chicago sends heartfelt condolences and prayers to former WGN-TV Anchor Allison Payne. She passed away at 57 years old, inspiring so many Black journalists during her time. We will never forget the legacy she set for the next generation. Thank you Allison."
Here are four things to know about Allison Payne including how she got her start in the business and why she remained an inspiration to so many who tried to follow in her footsteps.
Payne was born in Richmond, Virginia but grew up in Detroit. The daughter of an educator, Payne graduated from the University of Detroit and Bowling Green State University. Her journalism career began at WNWO in Toledo, Ohio where she worked as an intern and later a reporter for the ABC News affiliate. Chicago’s WGN hired Payne in 1990 at age 25. She quickly climbed the ladder through hard work, jumping in to cover everything from politics to sports, before becoming an anchor. Payne earned nine Emmys for her outstanding work during her tenured career.
The Chicago Sun-Times said that Payne’s door was always open to help aspiring journalists who sought her guidance.
Her producer Vicky Baftiri recalled Payne taking the time to review scripts and give effective feedback like “no other anchor did.” Her generosity extended beyond the office. As a gift, Payne paid for a professional makeup artist to make Baftiri feel special on her wedding day and for her baby shower.
The Chicago Tribune reports that in 2008, Payne had a series of mini-strokes that contributed to her suffering from depression. That kept her off the air for much of that year. Payne also revealed in the 2010 news report that she had a 20-year battle with alcoholism.
The anchor used her platform to dispelled rumors that her addiction was the reason why she wasn’t on air. Drinking “was not the issue when I was out sick. … My right hand was numb. I had no use of my right hand. They diagnosed me with mini-strokes."
Payne actively mentored students who wanted to pursue a career in journalism through her Foundation Through Excellence in Journalism. She also lists Payne Productions on her LinkedIn profile as one of her latest ventures. Payne was more interested in producing special reports and documentaries saying, “There are so many stories that mainstream television ignores because the content is out of their comfort zone. Leaders in the Chicago business community and beyond want to finance that kind of work. I'm just waiting for one of them to roll the dice and trust me to tell the story.”
Before her death, Payne also considered becoming a journalism professor at a Detroit community college after leaving Chicago.
“I hope my work as an anchor has inspired at least one young girl watching me to go after her dreams,” she told the Sun-Times.
Courtesy of Twitter