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Les Payne

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Information about Les Payne

Profile image of Les Payne

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Newspaper Reporter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fish
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cape Town, South Africa
Favorite Quote:
Achieve Immortality Before You Die.

Birthplace

Born:
7/12/1941
Birth Location:
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Newspaper Reporter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fish
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cape Town, South Africa
Favorite Quote:
Achieve Immortality Before You Die.

Birthplace

Born:
7/12/1941
Birth Location:
Tuscaloosa
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Biography

Journalist and author Les Payne was born on July 12, 1941 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As a child, Payne was always interested in writing. He graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1964 with B.A. degree in English. Serving six years in the United States Army, Payne worked as an Army journalist and wrote speeches for General William C. Westmoreland. While on assignment in Vietnam, he ran the Army’s newspaper, and when he was discharged, he had attained the rank of captain.

Payne joined Newsday in the late 1960s, serving as the associate managing editor for the paper’s national, science, and international news. In 1968, as an investigative reporter, Payne covered the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther, Jr., and in the 1970s, he covered the Black Panther Party. He won a Pulitzer Prize for The Heroin Trail in 1974, which was a Newsday series in 33 parts that traced the international flow of heroin from the poppy fields of Turkey to the veins of drug addicts in New York City. Later, it became a published book. He also covered the Symbionese Liberation Army and authored The Life and Death of the Symbionese Liberation Army. As a Newsday correspondent, Payne reported extensively from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and the United Nations. During the 1976 Soweto uprising, he traveled throughout South Africa and wrote a series that was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in foreign reporting. Payne was also responsible for Newsday’s Queens edition, whose news staffs have won every major award in journalism, including three Pulitzer Prizes. He was also a columnist for the Tribune Media Services.

As one of the founders and former presidents of the National Association of Black Journalists, Payne worked to improve media fairness and employment practices. He was also the Inaugural Professor for the David Laventhol Chair at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Payne received several awards including the United Nations’ World Hunger Media Award, and three Unity Awards for investigative reporting. In 1990, he won cable television’s highest honor, the Ace Award, for an interview with Mayor David Dinkins on Les Payne’s New York Journal. In addition, he was a recipient of two honorary doctorate degrees from Medgar Evers College and Long Island University.

Payne passed away on March 19, 2018 at age 76.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Les Payne's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Les Payne lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Les Payne describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Les Payne describes his maternal great grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Les Payne describes his mother's upbringing in Hale County, Alabama
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Les Payne describes his mother's aspiration to be financially independent
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Les Payne talks about his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Les Payne remembers his maternal family's migration north
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Les Payne recalls his early childhood in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Les Payne describes his church involvement as a child in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Les Payne describes tent revivals in the South
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Les Payne describes the importance of church for his upbringing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Les Payne recalls listening to records of C.L. Franklin's sermons
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Les Payne remembers communion at Baptist services in the rural South
  • Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Les Payne recalls the mourners' bench at Tuscaloosa's St. Paul Baptist Church
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Les Payne remembers his baptism at the age of twelve years old
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Les Payne recalls skipping the first grade at Tuscaloosa's Twentieth Street Elementary School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Les Payne recalls his experiences at Twentieth Street Elementary School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Les Payne remembers when his oldest brother nearly drowned
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Les Payne recalls seeing the Ku Klux Klan drive through Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Les Payne describes his mother's decision to move to Hartford, Connecticut
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Les Payne remembers Hartford Public High School in Hartford, Connecticut
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Les Payne remembers when his grandmother addressed a white teenager as "Sir"
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Les Payne recalls his refusal to address a white salesman as "Sir"
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Les Payne describes the impact of segregation on his self-worth
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Les Payne recalls differences between Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Hartford, Connecticut
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Les Payne recalls scoring above his white peers at Hartford Public High School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Les Payne describes how he improved his sense of self-worth
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Les Payne talks about how he addressed his shyness
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Les Payne describes his early interest in Russian literature
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Les Payne shares his opinion of Mark Twain
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Les Payne recalls how his interest in writing developed
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Les Payne recalls being barred from engineering courses at Hartford Public High School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Les Payne recalls studying engineering at the University of Connecticut
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Les Payne recalls his decision to leave the University of Connecticut's engineering program
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Les Payne describes his early interest in journalism
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Les Payne reflects upon his journalism prospects as a young college graduate
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Les Payne remembers joining in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant in 1963
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Les Payne recalls how his civil rights activity impacted his U.S. Army career
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Les Payne recalls how black psychologists informed his thinking
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Les Payne describes his role as a U.S. Army journalist
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Les Payne shares his opinion of the Vietnam War
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Les Payne recalls being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Les Payne describes the impact of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Les Payne remembers being hired at Newsday
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Les Payne describes Newsday's predominantly white readership
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Les Payne recalls writing a story about Long Island's immigrants for Newsday
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Les Payne recalls his undercover fieldwork in Long Island's migrant community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Les Payne recalls his cover being questioned by his work crew chief
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Les Payne describes founding Uptight, a black opinion magazine
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Les Payne describes his coverage of the Black Panther Party for Newsday
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Les Payne recalls covering the international heroin trade for Newsday
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Les Payne recalls travelling to South Africa to cover the Soweto uprising
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Les Payne describes his Newsday coverage of South Africa's Soweto uprising
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Les Payne recalls the founding of the National Association of Black Journalists
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Les Payne describes the impact of the National Association of Black Journalists
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Les Payne talks about his marriage and children
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Les Payne remembers the birth of his son, Jamal Payne
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Les Payne recalls being followed by the French government
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Les Payne shares his opinion of President Ronald Wilson Reagan
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Les Payne recalls experiences that impacted his column writing
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Les Payne recalls when Ronald Reagan began his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Les Payne shares his criticism of American political leaders
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Les Payne talks about how African Americans misread white politicians
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Les Payne talks about how Malcolm X overcame his sense of inferiority
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Les Payne explains the concept of counter-rejection
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Les Payne reflects upon Malcolm X's teachings
  • Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Les Payne describes Newsday's coverage of the Iraq War
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Les Payne recalls advocating for Newsday journalists to stay in Iraq
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Les Payne describes the arrest of two Newsday journalists by the Mukhabarat in Iraq
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Les Payne recalls working to free two Newsday journalists from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Les Payne talks about how he acquired his leadership skills
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Les Payne talks about the dearth of African American White House correspondents
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Les Payne describes his future plans
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Les Payne talks about why he decided to share his story
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Les Payne narrates his photographs