Former Chicago TV anchor Allison Payne, a nine-time Emmy award-winning journalist, died on Sept. 1 in her hometown of Detroit. A popular newscaster for two decades on the independent Chicago TV station WGN-TV, Payne inspired a generation of Black women reporters, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Payne came to Chicago in 1990 after WGN-TV hired her in 1990 when she was 25.
She went on to cover numerous important stories across the globe, including tracing former President Barack Obama’s roots in Kenya and traveling to the Ivory Coast alongside the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
“Allison was young, vibrant, sharp,” meteorologist Tom Skilling said in a WGN 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.”
Payne was instrumental in helping many Black reporters and producers in their own careers. She advised aspiring young journalists, routinely reviewed scripts and offered feedback in a way “no other anchor did,” said Vicky Baftiri, one of Payne’s longtime producers.
“She loved fearlessly, she mentored not just me but countless interns,” Baftiri said. “She was so instrumental in my career.”
One of the journalists she inspired was TV host Shaun Robinson.
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“Allison Payne was one of my early career role models,” tweeted Robinson, who is best known for hosting NBC’s daily entertainment show, “Access Hollywood,” and the TLC reality TV series “90 Day Fiancé”. “I remember watching her when I was an aspiring journalist and being so proud that she was from my hometown Detroit. She inspired so many young black girls because we could see ourselves in her.”
Payne left WGN in 2011 after she suffered a series of “unfortunate health events,” the station said.
Her cause of death has not been made public, but before she departed from the station, Payne described suffering a series of mini-strokes. She also spoke publicly about struggles with depression and alcohol dependence, ABC 7 Chicago reported.