News / USA

VOANews.com Executive Editor Dies

VOA's Jack Payton, then a reporter for United Press International, shakes hands with Pope John Paul II during an audience at the Vatican in 1982VOA's Jack Payton, then a reporter for United Press International, shakes hands with Pope John Paul II during an audience at the Vatican in 1982
x
VOA's Jack Payton, then a reporter for United Press International, shakes hands with Pope John Paul II during an audience at the Vatican in 1982
VOA's Jack Payton, then a reporter for United Press International, shakes hands with Pope John Paul II during an audience at the Vatican in 1982
Jack Payton, executive editor of VOA’s principal English-language web site, www.voanews.com, has died at the age of 69.

Payton suffered an apparent heart attack while at a movie theater with his wife Sharrie on Friday (Oct. 4). He had served with the web site since 2012 after a 45-year career in print and broadcasting that took him around the world and included many of the biggest stories of his time. He had held a number of senior positions since joining VOA’s news division in 1999.
 
VOA Director David Ensor lamented his passing as a huge loss for the Voice of America and his many friends in the agency. "He has left behind a legacy of  young people who learned their trade at his side and will carry forward his high standards of journalism."
 
VOA  reporters and editors expressed their personal shock and sadness in a wave of heartfelt messages, with many remembering Payton as a mentor whose advice and guidance helped shape their careers.
 
"Jack was an old fashioned newsman in the classic sense," said VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone. "He had that perpetual curiosity and an appreciation for a good story.  As an editor, Jack made all of us better writers.  He was one of those people who brought out the best in his co-workers."

Payton was born and educated in New Orleans. After earning a degree in English literature and philosophy at Tulane University, he began his career in journalism there with United Press International.

The wire service brought him from New Orleans to its New York headquarters in 1972, and onward to Europe a few months later. Based in Brussels in 1973, Payton traveled widely in drought-stricken West Africa. Later that year he was appointed bureau chief for Israel, arriving just a month before the Middle East war that broke out on October 6, 1973.

Jack Payton (r), then a reporter for UPI, accompanies Pope John Paul II to Rome after a trip to Turkey in 1979Jack Payton (r), then a reporter for UPI, accompanies Pope John Paul II to Rome after a trip to Turkey in 1979
x
Jack Payton (r), then a reporter for UPI, accompanies Pope John Paul II to Rome after a trip to Turkey in 1979
Jack Payton (r), then a reporter for UPI, accompanies Pope John Paul II to Rome after a trip to Turkey in 1979
Payton became UPI's manager for Italy in 1976, and from his base in Rome covered stories that dominated the world’s attention over the next seven years, including the rise of Red Brigades terrorism in Italy, and Pope John Paul II’s travels to Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.  He reported from Israel and Lebanon when fighting broke out in 1978 and again in 1982, when Israeli forces invaded Lebanon and advanced into Beirut.

Payton left UPI as its foreign editor in Washington to join the St. Petersburg Times newspaper in Florida in 1985. He supervised a network of foreign correspondents and reported from capitals around the world, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the first Gulf War in 1991.

Those experiences informed Payton's decisions when he joined the Voice of America in 1999 as an assignments editor, responsible for discussing and arranging news coverage with foreign and domestic correspondents and reporters. 

Co-workers praised Payton’s skills as an editor and mentor, and the lifelong passion for journalism that was evident throughout his career. As VOA Europe Correspondent Al Pessin said, “He had the ability to help you do your job and let you do your job at the same time.”

Veteran VOA correspondent André DeNesnera became news director of the U.S.-funded broadcast network soon after Payton arrived, and the two became close friends. DeNesnera noted that Payton keenly understood the need for objectivity and balance in all news reports, and was the strongest advocate of the VOA Charter, which requires its staff to sustain those values. DeNesnera said Payton defended VOA journalists and their stories, “whether or not [they] ruffled feathers anywhere up or down the line.”

Payton is survived by his wife Sharrie, his mother and two sisters.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs