Born in Bayonne, Randall Payton took the next step in a promising career in media when he graduated from the Ailes Apprentice Program (AAP) founded by Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. It promotes diversity within broadcast and cable journalism.
Each year, a group is chosen to participate in the 12-month program, which includes a full time job, competitive salary, and full benefits.
AAP provides its members with unique networking opportunities, shadowing experiences, and comprehensive mentorships with key Fox executives. This is the only news organization to have a program like this.
Payton and others learn everything from how to maintain an on-air presence to working a teleprompter. Throughout their time at Fox, the apprentices are mentored by key executives from the network as well as external patrons and top industry professionals, with the opportunity to earn a full-time position within the network.
A local talent
Payton said he always wanted a career in media.
“I knew very early on in high school that I wanted to pursue a career in media,” Payton said.
Raised by his grandmother, he attended Jersey City PS 22 and Snyder High School. He credited a lot of his motivation to his grandmother and a positive experience at school.
A 2007 graduate of Snyder High School, he focused mostly on computer science. When he got to Montclair University, he focused on media. Over the last few years, the programs there have become more expansive.
“It probably has the best media programs in the state,” Payton said.
While in school, he developed a love for travel after spending a semester in Spain. This helped prepare him for his training with Fox News, teaching him about the world beyond his hometown.
“During 2009, my sophomore year, I went to Spain,” he said. “I always wanted to travel and the college provided me with an opportunity. It was a cultural leap for me. I didn’t know anyone there. Language was a challenge for me. But I got to stay in the south of Spain and travel to nearby Morocco and Portugal. I stayed with a 73-year-old Spanish woman who spoke no English.”
This was about as different from his upbringing as anything he experienced in his life.
“But I think it prepared me for being part of a diverse group like I am with Fox news now,” he said.
“I think it prepared me for being part of a diverse group like I am with Fox news now.” – Randall Payton
Some early experiences
Payton started his career as an intern for ABC’s “Live with Regis and Kelly” while attending Montclair State University, where he received a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism.
This was among the highlights of his young life.
“I got to work on Regis’s farewell project in 2011,” he said.
He was selected to do background research for material that would appear in the last broadcast year of the show.
“I went through hundreds of hours of footage, looking for happy and sad moments,” he said. “I collected the key moments. It was bittersweet. While I was sad to see it go, I knew this was something special and part of history.”
After graduation, he worked at CNBC as a technical associate. From there, he went on to become a camera operator at CBS Sports Network.
“On my first job, I worked on the technical end for CNBC. That’s what I like to do. After that I worked at CBS Sports.”
Payton landed at the Fox News Channel, where he is a junior web video producer in the FoxNews.com department.
Although he expected to find professionalism in the newsroom, he was also pleased to find that the network was extremely welcoming.
“I was impressed by the honesty of the people who work there, the type of mentorship they offered, and the amazing experience many of them have.”
Payton said he aspires to climb the corporate ladder and feels privileged to be part of the Ailes Apprentice Program.
He said he sees an opportunity in Fox for advancement and the ability to learn and develop as a young professional.
His goal is to cover a variety of subjects from features to hard news.
“Dealing with breaking news all the time is very demanding,” he said. “I would like to do something down the middle, something with a lighter side while covering global breaking news.”
Payton has proved that he can achieve something despite growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in New Jersey. So what advice does he give to kids growing up in similar circumstances?
“My best advice is to remain persistent at whatever you want to do,” he said. “There will be obstacles and roadblocks, but if you have a passion and work hard, you’ll be able to navigate through them.”
Payton was part of the 11th graduating class
Payton graduated in a ceremony that included keynote speaker Anthony Robles, a 2011 NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Champion, and winner of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance and Best Male Athlete with a Disability.
Other distinguished guests included Sarah Glover, president, National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), Alberto Mendoza, executive director, National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), David Dinkins, former mayor of New York City (and the first African American mayor of the city), Chase Carey, executive vice chairman of 21st Century Fox, Harris Faulkner, FNC anchor (provided opening remarks), and Santita Jackson, FNC contributor and daughter of Reverend Jesse Jackson, who introduced Roger Ailes.
“These graduates are going to change the world,” Ailes said. “They are the best hope for this country. They understand what it means to work, contribute, communicate, and lead.”
Ailes also saluted a 92 year-old Tuskegee Airman and civil rights leader, Dabney Montgomery, who received the (AAP) Inspiring Success Award:
“I’m a great fan of the Tuskegee Airmen,” Ailes said, “because they changed the course of the war, but they also changed the course of history because they did things nobody thought they could do and they did it so well that they are still thought of today as great American heroes. He [Dabney Montgomery] was with the 332nd Air Fighter group and he was one of the guys that kept those airplanes in the air and he also marched with Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.