WGN’s Suppelsa steps aside for alcohol rehab
Veteran Chicago newsman Mark Suppelsa surprised friends and colleagues Friday with a public announcement that he was entering an alcohol recovery program.
Saying he was sure the news would be “a stunner for some or all,” Suppelsa, 49, disclosed that he would be taking a month off as principal news anchor at WGN-Channel 9 to admit himself to the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota. Effective immediately, he was off the 5 and 9pm newscasts he anchors for the Tribune Co.-owned station.
“Simply put, I have been abusing alcohol at the end of my work day as my family slept. It was my secret and I became very accomplished at hiding it,” Suppelsa wrote in an open letter to colleagues. “I do my best to function at a high level and I know that it is my responsibility to correct anything that potentially interferes with my family or my work.”
Even some of Suppelsa’s closest friends expressed surprise at his admission. “I have never been aware of any problem,” said his longtime agent, attorney Todd Musburger, who praised Suppelsa for what he called “a very courageous act on his part.”
Marty Wilke, vice president and general manager of WGN, said in a statement posted on the station’s website: "We are supportive of Mark's efforts to deal with this issue and look forward to his return. We, and he, appreciate the support from our viewers." The station said there was no single event that prompted his action.
Suppelsa’s announcement came at the end of a particularly productive and rewarding week. In addition to anchoring his regular newscasts, Suppelsa was the lead reporter on a major investigative series involving City Hall pensions, which had him making appearances on a variety of radio stations and on public television.
A Chicago television news star for two decades, Suppelsa spent 10 years at NBC 5 and five years at Fox Chicago before joining WGN in 2008. A graduate of Lincoln-Way Central High School in southwest suburban New Lenox and Marquette University, he previously worked at KSTP-TV in Minneapolis and WFRV-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Here is the full text of Suppelsa’s message to colleagues:
“I want to share with you something I'm about to do. I'm going to be blunt here because that's my nature and because we're in a business where we seek the truth and it would be wrong of me not to be frank at this moment.
“I'm driving soon with my family to Hazelden in Minnesota where they'll drop me off for a month long alcohol recovery program. I have felt for some time that this would become necessary and I've now crossed a bridge in my life where I want and need to do this.
“It's my choice. No one is forcing me to do it.
“Simply put, I have been abusing alcohol at the end of my work day as my family slept. It was my secret and I became very accomplished at hiding it. I do my best to function at a high level and I know that it is my responsibility to correct anything that potentially interferes with my family or my work.
“With management's blessing, I plan to return next month once again ready for action to continue the valuable and important work that all of you are involved with. Thanks for absorbing this news which I'm sure will be a stunner for some or all. See you in June.”