Allison Payne dominated Chicago television screens for 20 years as one of WGN-TV’s lead anchors but left the news station in 2011 after a lengthy battle with health issues.
Payne recently opened up to the Chicago Citizen sharing some of her experiences since leaving the public eye and reflected on her health and life after WGN-TV.
Payne officially left WGN September 2011 and says her departure was a mutual agreement between her and station management.
“It was just time to go,” she said. “Twenty years is a long time to work some place.”
Prior to leaving WGN-TV, Payne dealt with a series of medical problems including suffering a series of mini-strokes. However, she said that she didn’t notice any change in herself prior to her health decline.
“The scary part of mini-strokes is that they are an indication that you are probably going to have a big stroke,” she said. “They (doctors) did a cat scan of my head and had found I had 3 or 4 (mini-strokes).”
Payne said her doctors could not immediately tell when she had the initial mini-stroke, but thereafter, every time she got anxious she began to have them.
“Whenever I got really nervous, I would start having them like I was having a panic attack or something,” Payne said of the episodes.
But Payne is forging ahead despite her health problems. She has established a media production company, Payne Productions and is currently pursuing projects where she helps corporations showcase their businesses through videos.
Payne has also started reaching out to Black students who are interested in news media careers. Because of what she perceives to be a lack of people of color in executive level roles in newsrooms, Payne, has set her sights high on helping African Americans successfully land these positions.
“I really want to reach African American students who are interested in this business,” she told the Chicago Citizen. She sees the outreach as a way for her to “give back” to those who helped during her career.
A native of Richmond, Va., Payne grew up in Detroit, Mich. where she graduated from the University of Detroit. After earning a masters’ degree at Bowling Green State University, she started her broadcast career as a reporter/anchor at WNWO-TV in Toledo, Ohio. She soon moved on to WNEM-TV in Saginaw, Michigan where she was chief anchor for two years.
In 1990, WGN named Payne co-anchor of its “9 O’clock News.” She served in that capacity for 19 years before moving to WGN’s Midday News. And throughout it all, Payne became a nine-time Emmy Award winner.
Payne’s close relationship with her father, who calls her every morning, may be the secret to her successes.
“I have the best father on the planet,” she said. “My father calls me every morning to pray. He started doing that my last year at WGN. It’s kind of like my wakeup call.”
Payne is an avid collector of owls and says they are “a symbol of wisdom.” “I figure I can use as much wisdom as I can get,” she added.
Optimistic about the future, Payne thanks the Black community for it years of unwavering support.
“I know it was my community that made me a hit,” she told the Chicago Citizen. “I wouldn’t have lasted six months if Black people hadn’t embraced me. I just really want to say thank you.”
By Thelma Sardin