Allison Payne

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Allison Payne (born February 12, 1964 in Richmond, Virginia) is a nine-time Emmy Award winner, a 21-year anchorwoman with WGN TV, a veteran international journalist, a popular public speaker, and an actively involved community builder.[1] She was a longtime anchor and reporter at CW affiliate and cable superstation WGN-TV in Chicago, Illinois. Payne served as co-anchor of the WGN Midday News from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. She has since left WGN-TV after 21 years.[2] Payne is the sole owner of Payne Productions, Incorporated, a television production company which also serves to help students interested in the broadcasting business.

Allison Payne
Born (1964-02-12) February 12, 1964 (age 53)
Richmond, Virginia, US
Alma mater University of Detroit Mercy
Bowling Green State University
Occupation Former News Anchor at WGN-TV (Chicago)
Years active 1988-2011


Payne was born in Richmond, Virginia to Dana and Kathryn Payne. At age five, her parents moved north to Detroit, Michigan where Payne attended St. Rita's Catholic grade school. She is a graduate of Renaissance High School in Detroit and holds 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 is a member of Delta Sigma Theta.[3]

National Anchorwoman for Superstation WGN-TV[edit]

Payne began in television news as an intern at NBC affiliate WNWO (channel 24) in Toledo, Ohio, within months was promoted to main anchor of the station's late evening newscast. Payne later moved to NBC affiliate WNEM-TV (channel 5, now a CBS affiliate) in Saginaw, Michigan as the co-anchor of the 6 and 11 p.m. newscast.[4]

She moved to Chicago in 1990 as a general assignment reporter for WGN-TV, and anchored the station's 9 p.m. newscast until 2009. From 1993 to 2008 in the evening and since 2009 at midday, Payne has been paired alongside Steve Sanders in the anchor chair.[5]

Global journalist[edit]

As an international journalist, she has gone to all corners of the world in search of inspiring stories. Her adventures have included travels to Kenya to trace Barack Obama's roots, and to the Middle East to cover the Reverend Jesse Jackson's peace negotiations between Israel and Lebanon.[6]

Payne has said, "travel is the best education... I feel much better reading stories on Africa and the Middle East now that I have been there." Payne has paid her own fare for some international journeys because she believes strongly that "getting from behind the desk and out into the world" makes her a better anchor.

In 2006, she travelled to the Middle East with the Reverend Jesse Jackson to report on tensions between Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. Also in 2006, Payne was the first Chicago broadcaster to travel to Kenya to report on the African roots of Senator Barack Obama. In 2011, Payne has been in the process of developing a comprehensive report on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 in New York City, and its influence on local and global events.[7]

Awards and recognition[edit]

During her tenure with WGN, Payne has won numerous awards including nine Emmys [8] for reporting, including:

  • Outstanding Achievement within a Regularly Scheduled News Program – Specialty Report/Series — Politics/Government: Jackson & Jackson: Allison Payne, Reporter; Pam Grimes, Producer. WGN
  • Outstanding Achievement for Individual Excellence On Camera: Programming – Program — Host/Moderator/Contributor: Allison Payne – People to People. WGN
  • Outstanding Achievement within a Regularly Scheduled News Program – Specialty Report: — Religion: Blue Eyes, Black Soul: Allison Payne, Reporter; Pam Grimes, Michael D’Angelo, Producers. WGN
  • Outstanding Achievement for Informational Programs – Public Affairs/Current Affairs: People to People: Gloria Brown, Producer; Allison Payne, Steve Sanders, Hosts. WGN
  • Outstanding Achievement for Individual Excellence On Camera: News – Reporter: Allison Payne – Composite. WGN

Health issues[edit]

In recent years, Payne has dealt with various health problems that have led to periodic absences from the anchor desk.

In January and August 2008, Payne went on medical leave after suffering from a series of mini-strokes. In November 2008 WGN-TV announced that Payne would take an indefinite leave of absence because of ongoing health issues. Payne admitted in an interview with Chicago Tribune media columnist Phil Rosenthal that she sought treatment for depression during her absence months earlier.[9]

In January 2010, Payne publicly admitted that she was a recovering alcoholic, after having previously battled alcoholism for 20 years. “Substance abuse can become a problem," she said at the time. "I wanted to make sure that nothing in my life got out of hand.” [10]

In late December 2010, Payne took a leave of absence from WGN-TV to rest her vocal cords. Greg Caputo, news director at WGN-TV, told TimeOut Chicago columnist Robert Feder in an interview that “she was diagnosed a few months ago and tried to tough it out . . . (but) her doctor wants her to stay off the air till they can fix the problem.”[11]

Career plans 2011[edit]

On August 2, 2011, Payne and WGN-TV station management agreed to a buyout of Payne's current contract, ending her 21-year relationship with the station; she left WGN-TV in September 2011.[12]

Regarding her future after WGN, The Chicago Sun-Times reported: "I hope to continue working in broadcasting in some capacity and will consider other professional opportunities," Payne said. "I also fully intend to continue my work in the community here."[13]

On her blog on August 4, 2011, Payne added: "Down the road, I plan to begin producing my own documentaries. I also plan to produce occasional reports which I will share with you on this website. I am not ruling out a return to the anchor desk, but for now I need new intellectual challenges. I’m open to applying my communication skills to the business world as well."[14]

 In February 2017, Payne met with representatives of her alma mater, Bowling Green State University and discussed returning to the campus to teach in the school's esteemed Radio-TV-Film Department.  Payne has always credited her education at BGSU for the start of her successful career in TV news.  "Bowling Green has everything going for it.  If you really want it, you can get it at BGSU.  And I will always treasure my time there for the life I went on to lead."


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