Allison Payne, Chicago TV News Anchor and “Incredibly Talented Journalist,” Dies at 57


Sep. 11 2021, Published 10:59 a.m. ET

The Chicago media industry is mourning the death of Allison Payne, a TV reporter and anchor who worked for more than two decades in the Windy City and who died in Detroit, Mich., on Sept. 1 at age 57, according to WGN-TV, her old workplace.

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Allison Payne's cause of death has not yet been revealed.

No cause of death has been revealed, but Allison was candid about her health issues—namely a series of mini-strokes—before her 2011 departure from WGN. Read on for more info — but first, a look back at Allison's impressive career.

Allison won nine Emmys during her television career.

According to the Daily Herald, Allison was a native of Richmond, Va., but grew up in Detroit. She attended the University of Detroit and Bowling Green State University. After interning at WNWO in Toledo, Ohio, she got a job as a news anchor at WNEM in Saginaw, Mich. in 1988.

Two years later, a news director at WGN discovered Allison and hired her to co-anchor the 9 p.m. weekday newscasts alongside Rick Rosenthal. Allison also anchored the channel’s midday news show.

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Allison traveled the globe during her 21 years at WGN, reporting on former President Barack Obama’s roots in Kenya and accompanying Rev. Jesse Jackson on a trip to the Ivory Coast. Along the way, she won nine Emmys, mentored students, and set up a foundation for aspiring journalists.

In January 2008, Allison took the first of multiple medical leaves from WGN, and the station later told viewers she was recovering from a series of mini-strokes, according to the Chicago Tribune.

That August, she apologized for appearing unsteady on air, saying her workload exacerbated her recovery from the mini-strokes. “I don't want to play a violin, but I am still recovering,” she said at the time. “It's a process. I have to ask people to be patient with that in terms of slurring and things.”

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And in January 2009, as she returned to work and started anchoring WGN’s early evening broadcast, she told the Tribune that she had also sought treatment for depression.

“It was brutal getting out of the house, I couldn't get out of bed,” she said. “It was really bad. I would roll out of bed and into a blazer and over to [WGN]. … I’ve been down before, but now I know what depression is.”

Allison left WGN two years later and returned to Detroit.

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Colleagues remember her as a “great anchor” and an “incredibly talented journalist.”

Upon the news of Allison’s death, other TV veterans shared their memories of the 57-year-old. “Allison was a sweet, kind woman; a great anchor, who had an adorable smile,” journalist Roland S. Martin tweeted. “She suffered a lot of health issues the last several years. Gone so soon.”

TV producer Afua S. Owes tweeted, “I am heartbroken over the death of Allison Payne. For 21 years she was the face of WGN News for me, a little black girl living in Bolingbrook, Ill. A decade-plus later, I started working at WGN. [Allison] took me under her wing. She was kind, gracious and an incredibly talented journalist. Allison Payne understood the importance of lifting others up so they too could have an opportunity to shine.”

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