Detroit native who was longtime Chicago TV anchor dies after health issues

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Allison Payne, a Detroit native and former longtime TV anchor in Chicago who crisscrossed the globe for various stories and won nine Emmys, died earlier this month after a series of health issues. She was 57.

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. She died Sept. 1 in Detroit. The cause of death hasn't been released.

"To lose Allison — and to have this happen to someone of such talent and once so full of life — and for Allison to depart this world and do so at the young age of 57 is a tragedy difficult to put into words," said meteorologist Tom Skilling, who worked with Payne at WGN, on Facebook.

Detroit native Allison Payne was a 21-year TV anchor in Chicago. She died Sept. 1.

Payne left WGN in 2011 after a series of mini-strokes that had lingering effects, including depression, according to the station and the Chicago Sun-Times. She also was open in the past about struggles with alcohol addiction. 

Payne was a graduate of Detroit's Renaissance High School and the University of Detroit Mercy, where she received her bachelor's degree. She received a master's from Bowling Green State University, according to WGN. Payne, who said she was inspired by Mary Tyler Moore to pursue a career in broadcasting, joined WGN in 1990.

"I grew up watching that show," she wrote on Facebook in 2019. "...I knew I was born to be a newscaster."

Skilling said Payne's talents "were so clear."

"She was bright, articulate and full of life," he said. "She was such a joy to be around."

In 2012, Payne created a foundation, Foundation for Excellence in Journalism, to help other aspiring journalists.

"I remember years and years ago when I was an intern, I didn't get the instruction I needed from the professionals around me," she said in a video on Twitter. "That's when I became a professional journalist, I made it my mission to reach out to students."

Cheryl Burton, an anchor for ABC7 in Chicago, remembers working in Peoria and Wichita, watching Payne every night "and praying that one day I would return to my hometown of Chicago and anchor the news just like Allison Payne."

"Allison was brilliant, brave and beautiful," wrote Burton on Facebook. "Her connection to the community made everyone relate to her and she made you feel special everytime she talked with you."

mfeighan@detroitnews.com