Nine time Emmy award winner Allison Payne, the former anchor at WGN, passed away earlier this month at age 57, her former employer announced over the weekend.
Payne was with WGN-TV in Chicago for 21 years, covering everything from politics to sports. According to WGN, she traveled to Kenya for a story on former President Barack Obama‘s roots there, covered the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and traveled to the Ivory Coast with the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Payne served as co-anchor of the WGN Midday News from 11 a.m.-1 p.m
While Payne was a Detroit native, she eventually called Chicago home for many years, playing an active role in the community by mentoring students and eventually establishing a foundation for students looking to enter the journalism field.
Payne moved back to her hometown of Detroit in 2011 to form her own production company in 2011 and died at her home on September 1 in Detroit. The cause of death hasn’t been released.
Payne was born in Richmond, Virginia, on February 12, 1964, to Dana and Kathryn Payne. When she was five, her parents moved north to Detroit, Michigan, where Payne attended St. Rita’s Catholic grade school. She was a graduate of Renaissance High School in Detroit and held a B.A. in Liberal Arts from the University of Detroit Mercy. Payne attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio for her master’s degree in radio/TV/film. Payne was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
The Chicago Tribune reported in 2010, 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 dispel 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.”
Allison 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.
Many fans and colleagues took to twitter to share their grief including The Chicago Chapter of National Association of Black Journalists, Afua S. Owusu, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, Dean Richards, and Cheryl Burton.