The Payne Fellowship goes to one deserving journalism student each year to fund a news report on Africa that includes travel to the continent to do on-the-ground reporting. The award is designed to train the recipient in foreign correspondence as well as increase awareness of life and culture in Africa.
Ethel Payne, the namesake of the fellowship and a Chicago native, became the first female Black commentator employed by a broadcast television network when she was hired by CBS in 1972. The trailblazing journalist was also an influential lecturer and columnist throughout the peak of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s.
With both humility and respect, Pierre Louis showed a gift for understatement in his reaction to winning the award: “I am very grateful ... to be the recipient of the scholarship because it is a big deal.”
Pierre Louis did not, however, play down what a significant impact an award like this will have for him going forward. “I can have the talent, the work ethic, and the passion but not the financial stability to follow through,” he said. “Thanks to this scholarship, I can focus on work and do my best as a journalist. I won't have to worry about (as) many financial difficulties (that) college graduates in my situation encounter.”
Putting in the work
The resume with Pierre Louis’ name given to the NABJ for consideration was remarkable. He has already worked for two of Chicago’s five network affiliates as an intern—with FOX 32 Chicago news during the summer of 2022, and for NBC 5 Chicago this academic year as part of “Chicago Today.” He has also interned for Luxe Kurves magazine, a publication dedicated to body positivity and showcasing the plus-size fashion industry, where he wrote articles and interviewed numerous celebrities.
Interning has been an invaluable, satisfying experience for Pierre Louis. He says he feels thoroughly immersed in all aspects of professional journalism, from writing to directing to editing and everything in between.
“The internship at FOX 32 taught me everything I know and made me fall in love even more with all aspects of the news,” said Pierre Louis. “I got to do stand-ups in front of the camera, build my résumé, publish articles on their website with my name, and learn from experts.
“At NBC Chicago, I have done almost everything. I pitched story ideas for our segments … I wrote scripts for the hosts. I edited a lot of story packages. I learned a lot about hosting and creating a daytime and entertainment TV show.”
Pierre Louis secured his internship with NBC with help from his fellowship with the Emma Bowen Foundation, which is dedicated to creating a professional pipeline for students of color into careers in the media. He has long worked hard to find and create opportunities like this for himself.
“In my junior year in high school, with the help of a great organization called the Guadalupe Center Tutor Corps, I got a scholarship to attend a summer program at Brown University and study creative writing,” he explained. “Fortunately, after high school, with the help of multiple scholarships, I left my small hometown of Immokalee, Fla., to attend North Central College.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s top stories
Pierre Louis has already taken the first steps on his professional journey, which he has mapped out in impressive detail.
“Upon graduation, I plan to work as a news reporter or multimedia journalist at a small market, then progress to a bigger market,” he said. “I plan to return to a large market like Chicago eventually. Journalism is essential for my future plans, because I picture Fredlyn Pierre Louis as a newsman when I think of myself.”
The future newsman rubbed elbows with some of the best earlier this month when he got to volunteer at the Chicago/Midwest Emmy Gala. Steve Macek, professor of communication, passed along the call for volunteers at the awards and wasn’t surprised to see his student jump at the chance.