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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

WCPO-TV's Jake Ryle returning to TV news after mental health break

Jake Ryle WCPO-TV headshot.jpg
Courtesy WCPO-TV
Reporter Jake Ryle was hired by WCPO-TV in June 2017.

"I feel like I'm back to my old self – or a better version of myself," says TV reporter Jake Ryle.

Feeling "unbelievably good," reporter Jake Ryle will return to WCPO-TV Monday, Nov. 1, after taking a month-long mental health hiatus from TV news.

"To be able to take this length of time (off), I feel like I'm back to my old self – or a better version of myself," says Ryle, 31, who announced on Oct. 4 that he was starting the leave of absence.

The 2008 Conner High School and 2012 Western Kentucky University graduate revealed Oct. 4 that he was "diagnosed with having anxiety and persistent depressive disorder" last year. His problems were "enhanced" by the pandemic, when WCPO-TV staffers were working alone from home.

"Every single reporter's work flow was disrupted during the pandemic. We no longer saw each other in the office," he told me. His mental health issues had "been adding up over the past four or five years, from covering a lot of (tragic) stories and seeing a lot of trauma."

Jake Ryle at Little League World Series August 29 2021 CROP.jpg
Courtesy Jake Ryle
Jake Ryle covered Hamilton's West Side All-Stars at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., last month for WCPO-TV.

Ryle struggled to get out of bed for his 3:30-11:45 p.m. shift as the lead reporter for Channel 9's 11 p.m. news. He drank too much alcohol at times. He thought he could "push through hurdles by ignoring them." After he put off seeking help and "waiting for the right time," he realized that "there's no time like right now. Every minute matters," he wrote four weeks ago.

Life is better today.

"I'm attending therapy for the first time, which was the most difficult decision I'd ever had to make, to to get my life back on track," he told me. He'll continue weekly therapy sessions after returning to work.

Ryle, a former Channel 9 sports intern (2010-12) hired as a news reporter in June 2017, said he now has "a better sleeping schedule," is more aware of his diet and is "eating a bit healthier." He's cut back on his alcohol consumption (usually beer), and is "more aware of why I was drinking."

During his break, WCPO-TV General Manager Jeff Brogan, and 11 p.m. newscast producer Ted Wilson, occasionally have checked in with Ryle.

"It's was nice that they showed their concern. They've given me the space I needed, which is fantastic," he says.

His Channel 9 coworkers – and competitors at Channels 5, 9, and 12 – wished him well, and called him courageous and inspiring in reaction to his Oct. 4 announcement. The social media comments were a tiny fraction of the support Ryle says he has received in the past month from news staffers and viewers.

"It's been overwhelming," he says.

"Everyone says that I was doing something so brave, but I don't see it as being brave, just an effort for me to get better. To me, if I can be an impetus of change, or create an increased awareness in a newsroom regarding mental health, I'm all about that," says the Burlington, Ky., native.

"I hope that if people see what I did, or see my story, that they might see that something they're dealing with is something that I dealt with, and take time to get help."

His goal is someday to be able to do more features about his native Northern Kentucky, and "to share positive stories … on the air to offset the bad news."

If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally or has concerns about their mental health, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has a list of resources on its website.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.