WGN Anchor Mark Suppelsa Checks Into Re-Hab- Not Completely Unexpected.

WGN Anchor Mark Suppelsa Checks Into Re-Hab- Not Completely Unexpected.

If you tune into the WGN news for the next month, you might notice that anchor Mark Suppelsa is missing from the show.

Friday (May 4, 2012) Suppelsa announced that he is entering rehab for a month at the Hazelden alcohol addiction treatment center in Minnesota.

In a letter to WGN staffers and posted on the WGN website, Suppelsa was very open in explaining his need to address his addiction to alcohol.

"Simply put, I have been abusing alcohol at the end of my work day as my family slept," Suppelsa said. "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."

I personally applaud Suppelsa for having the courage to step up and ask for the help that he obviously needed.

It's not unexpected that someone in live TV would have a substance abuse problem, here's why.  Working in live television is a nerve-wracking job, filled with highs and lows that can turn on you at the drop of a dime.  The anchor is more than a well coifed hair piece reading off a teleprompter, but the proverbial eye of the hurricane.

I teach a broadcast journalism class at a university in Wisconsin.  I have one rule for the class: “If you hand in an assignment 1 minute late, you fail for the semester.”

The reason isn’t because I am a strict teacher, but I am trying to teach the budding journalistic minds of the dairy state, that “news doesn’t care.”  It comes on at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 regardless if you are ready or not, tired or not, pregnant or not, hung over or not.

Television news is a thankless task master that will reveal all of your mistakes to a live audience and if you are not ready, you will fail on a massive scale.

There is an adrenaline rush that is second to none, running, writing, editing and generally working your butt off to get the news on the air.  When it’s over, the rush is still there and winding down can be difficult, especially when you work at night.

The show is over, it’s 10:00 or 10:30 and now what?  When I was in news, I would head straight to the local bar for a quick “pop.”  Because I was on TV, it was usually free and I had plenty of people to talk to. The options are limited on how to wind down.

I learned very quickly that I had to either control it, or let it control me and started to run at night, read and other co-ed activities.

Suppelsa has a great support group, though his colleagues were surprised by the announcement, the station management has given him their support.

"We are supportive of Mark's efforts to deal with this issue and look forward to his return," Marty Wilke, WGN vice president and general manager, said in a statement. "We, and he, appreciate the support from our viewers."

With any luck Suppelsa will be back on the air in June, clean and ready to “tackle the monster” that is TV news.  In the meantime, we send him our support and good wishes as he makes his way back to recovery.

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  • Having just been in a journalism class where students regularly complained about having to do the work….that's awesome that you were strict with the deadlines!

    That is the real world - time, and breaking news, waits for no one.

  • Not sure if the class saw it that way, but they all made it through:)

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    quaffed = past tense of drinking a beverage
    coifed = styled hair

  • In reply to Al Iverson:

    Thank you Alan! Appreciate you having my back.

  • Great article! I ran my own TV show for several years, however I decided to go back to broadcasting school to learn radio and behind the scenes in TV. My teacher is the same way about time. If we're late he really gets on our case but he is trying to teach us that time waits for no one and like you said the news doesn't care. I hope Mark can fight his battles. This will be a life long journey of recovery but he can do it.

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    Thanks, very good article! I flip from channel to channel for the news but Mark Suppelsa is one of my faves and I am saddened to hear of his troubles I hope that he has the love and support of family and friends to see him through. It is commendable how he handled a problem that could eventually have destroyed him, I hope to see him back on the air soon. He has our heartfelt wishes that he will see this through. I have often considered switching career goals to this field but thought it to be a far too stressful field. Now that you have broken it down in this article I see that I was right. I commend you also for structuring your class that way because a lack of discipline in the tv/entertainment industry is a surefire road to disaster and we've seen it play out time and time again. You broke down the "not so good" aspect of the glamour side of the biz very well--and once again, great article!

  • In reply to Patty Gayden:

    Thank you Patty. What a great note.

  • I've crossed paths with Mark and his wife on several occasions. They are about the kindest people you'd ever want to meet. He is respectful and grateful of her and their family. I wish Mark and his wife the very best. This is something that could have easily snowballed into something very destructive for their family. He is brave to confront and conquer it! Best of luck, I know he can beat this!

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