Leckey's next chapter

·8 min read

Jul. 3—Though he may be from Johnstown, Ryan Leckey is NEPA through and through.

And while many may have been disappointed after he announced his departure from WNEP-TV last month, Leckey has nothing but gratitude and optimism for the future, as he embarks on a new career with his own media company.

Of course, that doesn't mean the decision was an easy one.

"I have to tell you, that last month was extremely emotional for me because I was like, 'Am I making the right decision?' I was an emotional wreck that last week," Leckey said in a phone call.

And understandably so.

For 17 years, the early morning "Leckey Live!" segment had been a hit with many viewers. Leckey's endless energy, charisma, and dedication to getting the story have set a standard for non-traditional news TV — a standard that has garnered him accolades from the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters and an Emmy Award. Whether it be the good news or the bad, Leckey knows how to deliver it appropriately and viewers were always in for a show, no matter the topic.

'Grand awakening'

So, why walk away?

The pandemic, for starters.

"It was the 'grand awakening' for so many people. And that included me," Leckey said. "And what I mean by that is it was the grand awakening in the sense to realize that, 'oh my gosh, the pandemic really put the brakes on all of our lives really quick, really fast. That basically put a mirror in front of us and said, 'What do you want your life to look like? You're still alive. But what do the next few years, 10 years, 20 years of your life really look like?'

"And for me, I was just, look, I did everything I could at my current job. I was so grateful because they gave me so much autonomy and they let me continue to innovate my role," he said.

But Leckey noted that the whispers during the pandemic kept getting louder about, 'You should go and try something different,' so he tuned into that voice and realized he had to "shoot his shot," adding that he didn't want to look back with regret in his 40s.

There was and is no animosity with his previous employer — and he remains good friends with his previous co-workers — and Leckey says management tried to get him to stay "about 13 times" before he actually left.

"And I was so grateful and had just immense gratitude for that. But I knew it was time because I remember looking at my general manager on that last discussion. And I said, 'I am leaving here, not because I need to earn more. I'm leaving here because I need to learn more."

He felt that he was on top and decided that was the right time to bow out, take the leap of faith and explore freedom.

So, what does that freedom entail? Well, it starts with more gratitude.

Reflecting on "Leckey Live!," he said, "It was successful because of this area, not because of me. I might have been the guy to bring it together but the people that made 'Leckey Live!' successful were the small business owners, the people organizing amazing community events, our area's incredible non-profits."

Ryan Leckey Media

And with locals in mind, Ryan Leckey Media was born.

Though he's anticipating a full-on launch later this fall, Ryan Leckey Media is already in talks with multiple clients and businesses.

"Ryan Leckey Media is a social media marketing, storytelling, and video company," as he explains it.

Leckey noted that after working in the area for almost two decades, he found that many companies had great websites, decent SEO (search engine optimization) and social media platforms but didn't know how to use them to their advantage.

With the new endeavor, Leckey envisions not only telling the stories of these businesses, but of the people who make them a reality. And as a visionary, Leckey knows the hardwork and discipline that it takes to make dreams a reality. He mentioned that he hopes people going into a business for the first time will feel like they already know everybody, from the first person to greet them to the CEO, because Ryan Leckey Media will be telling those stories.

"People love to see when the curtain's pulled back and what really happens inside a company. So, we come in there, we shoot all of the organic content. So, if I walk into your coffee shop, if I walk into your manufacturing company (for example) I'm gonna know, 'Wow! That's the woman at the front desk or that's the man at the front desk who I saw on social media. That's the person who's in charge of HR, because I already met them on social media where people are feeling connected to brands before they even walk into a business," Leckey said.

'I love this area'

One could make the argument that, in a sense, Leckey is continuing his work of promoting the area he's come to call home, and he'd agree.

"I love this area. It's so weird because when people are like, 'Oh, where are you from?' And I'm like, 'Oh, I'm from Northeastern Pennsylvania, but I wasn't born here'. But it feels like that because this community is amazing. Yes, we have great food. Yes, we have great entertainment venues, but we have the best people in the country who bring you into the community, swallow you whole with open arms and make you feel like this is where you grew up, where you belong and why people don't leave," he remarked.

And why shouldn't the man add 'entrepreneur' to his already extensive and impressive list of accomplishments? He's been in the business of telling stories since he was 14, when he used to wait in the lobby of WJAC-TV in Johnstown with a Trapper Keeper full of ideas to pitch to the general manager, story ideas he believed would get teenagers to watch the news.

When he eventually gained employment at WJAC, after GM Dick Shrott decided to take a chance on him, in the control room, while just beginning his undergraduate work at University of Pittsburgh — Johnstown, Leckey's part-time hours would essentially become full-time as his thirst for knowledge was insatiable. Though he noted his pay was minuscule, he said, "I tell people, never go into television or like content creation to make money right away. You go in to do it 'cause you're passionate about it."

It was also at WJAC that he would meet Jon Meyer, who would not only mentor Ryan, but ultimately help to lead Leckey to WNEP-TV in 2005, though it should be noted that Leckey's famous early morning energy started four years prior, while still working at WJAC.

Enjoying life

That said, in case anyone is curious, Leckey is greatly enjoying getting a little more sleep these days and having a little more time in the evening for dinner with his longtime partner, Matt, and their friends, rather than being in bed by 6 p.m.

Leckey has always been a self-starter it seems, though that's not to say he doesn't take inspiration and support from those close to him.

When his mother, Debi, completed her doctoral degree at 58, Leckey then decided to get a master's and his PhD in strategic leadership and administrative studies, not because he thought it would equate to more money, but because he needed a new way to challenge himself, to "level up" as he put it.

Of course, in true Leckey fashion, he completed the PhD coursework in about three years, taking classes year 'round, sometimes 18 credits at a time. His mother, he said with a laugh, is where that high energy comes from.

"My mom is a human version of a yellow Labrador. She is happy. She is driven. She connects with people and I get it from her. And I'm so grateful for that because my work ethic comes from, you know, my family growing up my, mom's passion just to level up herself."

And speaking of advanced degrees and freedom in this new chapter of a life already well-lived, Leckey, who taught classes at Marywood for five years with his Master's, isn't ruling out another potential opportunity to teach again. In fact, he isn't ruling out much.

"Life was great to me before. And I'm so grateful for the amazing opportunities I had at WNEP (and WJAC). And I still talk to a lot of those people weekly, right. But now I have this life where I feel I have more of myself to give back to the people in my life ... so, life has been so great. And as far as where I'm gonna be in the next year, like the answer is 'yes', but I'm shooting for the moon," Leckey remarked, noting he's done a little filming recently for a wildly popular streaming service and isn't opposed to pursuing other opportunities that may present themselves.

For more updates on the life of Leckey, tune into his social media channels @Ryan Leckey. Business inquiries for Ryan Leckey Media can be emailed to ryan@ryanleckeymedia.com, or through the "contact" buttons on his social media platforms. He may also be appearing on a few other platforms as well, so keep those eyes peeled.