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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid