Saying it's time to "return to the street for some reporting," veteran news anchor Mark Suppelsa is giving up his side job on Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart's top-rated morning show on Bonneville International hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9).
After 2‚½ years as resident newsman and matinee idol on "The Eric & Kathy Show," Suppelsa, 48, confirmed Tuesday that he'll step down Oct. 15 to devote full time to his main job at Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9, where he anchors the 5 and 9 p.m. weekday newscasts.
"Never had more fun," Suppelsa said when asked about his role on what consistently is the No. 1 radio show among adult listeners. "Eric and Kathy have a special connection with a huge audience. I was lucky to witness that for a couple of years."
No decision has been made on a replacement, according to Greg Solk, senior vice president of programming for Bonneville International, who praised Suppelsa as an "iron man" for the hours he worked, and a "total pro" for his contribution to the proceedings. "All the women on the show will be especially sorry to see him leave," Solk added.
When he first signed on at the Mix in April 2008 (succeeding Barry Keefe, who retired after a 30-year run as news director at the station), Suppelsa had just left Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 as 9 p.m. news anchor and was between television jobs. The radio gig was seen as an ideal way to maintain a high profile in the market -- and have some fun. "This was a tough negotiation since we couldn't decide how much I should pay the station for the chance to join Eric and Kathy each day," he joked at the time.
By the time he turned up at Channel 9 the following July, Suppelsa was well-entrenched with the "Eric & Kathy" cast and audience. What made him decide to relinquish his radio role now was Channel 9's hiring of producer Marsha Bartel, with whom he'd worked closely at Channel 32. "When WGN made the move to grab a premier investigative producer [Bartel], it made it enticing to return to the street for some reporting," he said.
What does morning star Ferguson make of Suppelsa's decision to exit? Opined Eric:
"Mark's leaving?‚ Ah well, they say in today's society it's hard to make a good relationship last.‚ I'm surprised he stuck with us as long as he did.‚ His schedule was insane, and I think it gave him more grey hair, which only pushed him to concentrate on TV full time.‚ We kept saying he looked too 'distinguished' for radio. "In all seriousness, Mark is a great broadcaster, person, and most of all, friend. He was a large contributor to our success, and I miss him already.‚ I think I'll go turn on the news."