Former WGN anchor Allison Payne dead at 57: ‘She was proud of excellence’

Allison Payne, a nine-time Emmy Award winner was the face of WGN-TV for two decades.

SHARE Former WGN anchor Allison Payne dead at 57: ‘She was proud of excellence’
Former Chicago newscaster Allison Payne, pictured in 2008.

Former Chicago newscaster Allison Payne, pictured in 2008.

Provided by WGN-TV

Allison Payne, a nine-time Emmy Award winner who was the face of WGN-TV for two decades and inspired a generation of Black women reporters, died Sept. 1 in her hometown of Detroit, the television station reported. She was 57.

Payne made Chicago her home in 1990 after WGN hired her when she was 25.

“Allison was young, vibrant, sharp,” meteorologist Tom Skilling recalled 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 became a reporting powerhouse for WGN, covering everything from politics to sports. Her stories took her all around the world.

Payne was known for being generous with her time and resources. Payne once footed the bill for her producer to join her in Washington, D.C., for a story when the station declined to fund her trip.

Payne also would routinely buy gifts for her colleagues. Vicky Baftiri, one of Payne’s longtime producers, said she still has some of the Tory Burch purses, wallets and jewelry Payne gave her. She also said Payne paid for a makeup artist to beautify Baftiri on her wedding day and baby shower.

“She just wanted to show her gratitude, not just by words but by gifts as well,” Baftiri said.

Payne played an influential part in many Chicago reporters and producers’ careers. Her door was always open to aspiring, young journalists, who looked to her for advice. She routinely would review scripts and offer feedback in a way “no other anchor did,” Baftiri said.

The daughter of an educator, Payne loved sharing her wealth of knowledge so much so that she looked into becoming a journalism professor at a community college in Detroit after she left Chicago. Payne also started a foundation for students looking to enter journalism.

“She loved fearlessly, she mentored not just me but countless interns,” Baftiri said. “She was so instrumental in my career.”

IMG_7221.jpeg

Vicky Baftiri posed with Allison Payne during a trip to Washington D.C. for a story.

Provided by Vicky Baftiri

Payne and WGN parted ways in 2011 after she suffered a series of “unfortunate health events,” the station said.

Her cause of death was unknown. Before her departure from Chicago TV news, Payne described suffering a series of mini-strokes. She also opened up about struggles with depression and alcohol dependence.

Skilling, who worked alongside Payne during her 21 years at the station, said Payne was a delight.

“She was a kind human being, so sweet,” he said.

Other tributes flooding social media shared Skilling’s sentiment.

Tyra Martin, a senior segment producer at WGN, described Payne as “hilarious, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident.

“She was not fair weather or lukewarm about anything. She was proud of excellence... hers, yours and anyone else’s,” Martin wrote. “And she made those around her want to be the same. She’s the kind of person you didn’t want to let down.”

Reflecting on 20 years at WGN, Payne told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2010: “I hope my work as an anchor has inspired at least one young girl watching me to go after her dreams.”

That’s just what she did for TV host Shaun Robinson.

“Allison Payne was one of my early career role models,” Robinson tweeted. “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.”

The Latest
Nearly 200 people lined Cicero Avenue, holding signs and chanting. They say the company is putting profit ahead of its employees. Flight attendants at United Airlines also planned to protest at O’Hare Airport later in the day.
LaVine said his knee surgery was a minor cleanup and have been no issues since.
Caruso wanted to honor the late Bill Russell, who died in July, by no longer wearing No. 6. But the NBA said no because his Bulls uniform sold too well.
Alternate streams, including additional camera angles and betting-focused streams, will also be part of the app’s viewing offerings.
Here is a look at the recruitments of a few top uncommitted prospects in Illinois and where they stand with their recruitments.