Move over, Lou Grant, and tell Cincinnati the news: Channel 5's new boss doesn't like the status quo. At all.

As general manager of WLWT-TV Channel 5, Richard J. Dyer has shaken up Cincinnati's oldest television station, hiring new talent, dispatching the old and "” at least in the past few months "” dramatically altering News5's position in the ratings.

In Dyer's short tenure, he's changed news director, anchorwoman, chief engineer, marketing director, and sales director. He's even changed the set.

Dyer points to Aug. 9 as the critical date in his tenure at Channel 5. That's the day Sandra Ali "” imported from the Detroit Fox station "” went on the air as primary anchorwoman, replacing Anne Marie Tiernon. Ali is paired with Dave Wagner for the early and late evening newscasts.

Other changes in news and weather staff were also unveiled in the "rebranding," including a new slogan, "News5: Where the News Comes First." Dyer is emphasizing live, breaking local news. But weather, he adds, is the No. 1 reason an audience tunes in, so he introduced the Power of 5 Radar Network on that day, as well. A combination of five interconnected radar centers that stretch from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Louisville, "the network is located in the path where 95 percent of our weather comes from."

"I describe Aug. 9 as a groundbreaking, not a ribbon-cutting," says Dyer, seeing his changes as merely the creation of a "platform" on which to build.

And build he does. Take the very next ratings book that came out after Aug. 9. The Cincinnati Enquirer headlines cried out the sudden change in the broadcast landscape "” "Local Olympic coverage, new news anchors and a renewed focus on morning and evening broadcasts brought WLWT-TV 5 a ratings surprise last month," the daily trumpeted. Channel 5 earned a 9.5 rating, meaning 9.5 percent of all Greater Cincinnati homes were tuned in to its nightly newscast. The morning broadcast, meanwhile, nabbed the top spot in the market, earning a 4 rating.

"It's a team, and it's a process. It begins and ends with people, and the right people," the GM observes of the turbulent struggle for viewers in this market, where five stations produce local television news. "Television is very highly viewed here in Cincinnati, in all senses of the word 'viewed.' Viewers want to feel connected with the on-air news personalities.

"The thing that's interesting for us is that the track we're on is very similar to what the Bengals are going through: Decades of disorienting change, disruptive change. This tremendous station was held in high regard a decade ago. We've had three owners, five news directors, and four GMs in that time. We're trying to reinstall consistency, to try to allow viewers to build a connection with our product."

Dyer has been around the block. A few times. Ever since earning a bachelor's in economics and communications at Boston College and master's in marketing at the University of Maryland, the executive has been on the fast track, managing the two-headed monster of news and sales "” the yin and yang of any television operation.

Dyer was appointed president and general manager of the NBC affiliate by the station's owner, Hearst-Argyle Television, two years ago. Before joining Channel 5, he was president and GM of Hearst's ABC station, KETV, in Omaha, Neb. And before that post, Dyer worked as corporate vice president of television sales at Gannett Television, topping a career at Gannett that included roles at WUSA in Washington, D.C., and KSDK in St. Louis. Early in his career, he headed sales at such stations as WJLA in Washington, D.C., WSYX in Col-umbus, and WCAU in Philadelphia.

When he first came to Channel 5, he concedes finding the legacy of the television station "” layered with history "” a bit sobering.

Cincinnati's industrial titan, Powel Crosley Jr., first began construction on Channel 5 in 1944, requesting and ob-taining a license from the Federal Com-munications Commission.

Crosley had always been ahead of the curve, whether he was manufacturing radio sets, cars, kitchen appliances, or the news and entertainment. His WLW radio station broadcast the first night games in Major League Baseball (back in the days when he owned the Cincinnati Reds and they played at Crosley Field). And his Crosley Radio Corp. had actually begun tinkering with TV signal experiments as early as 1937, broadcasting from a transmitter on the 48th floor of Carew Tower as an experiment. A few years later, a closed-circuit signal "” available to Crosley employees only "” went on the air as W8XCT.

By 1942, the company had purchased the Elks Temple at Ninth and Elm, renaming the grand structure Crosley Square. The building would serve as home to Channel 5 "” christened WLWT after its sister radio station "” for better than half a century, until the station moved to its new offices in Mount Auburn in 1999.

On June 4, 1946, Cincinnatians received "” assuming they owned a television set (some 96 city residents did) "” the city's first live television broadcast: Channel 5 featured a box of Borax detergent in an attempt to show the potential for revenue to advertisers.

Crosley Square quickly became celebrity central, as icons such as Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Doris Day, Duke Ellington, Rod Serling, Jerry Lewis, Roy Rogers, and even Trigger trudged through on such staple talk and variety shows as the Paul Dixon Show and Ruth Lyons' 50-50 Club.

It took a few more decades for the local news programming to rival the station's entertainment success. The anchor team of Jerry Springer and Norma Rashid dominated the ratings for the better part of a decade in the 1980s and 1990s, followed by another Cincinnati mayor, Charlie Luken, taking a turn at the anchor desk.

Then came some rough ratings patches, and General Manager Richard Dyer's arrival. "History is good, but you have to be relevant in 2005."

Today, Dyer speaks of motivating his staff to embrace the key mission of the Channel 5 brand: "To be an advocate for viewers, where the news comes first. That viewers come away better, that we've helped them to resolve problems." The GM points to the newscast's "Taking Action" segments, in particular, saying he's not into "gotcha" consumer journalism or hidden-camera trickery. "We look to resolve problems in a constructive way. We can be a way to resolve conflicts.

"Business generally gets nervous about consumer reporting," he's quick to acknowledge. "We just want to be a viewer advocate. We want to be good citizens, good neighbors," says Dyer, who lives in Sycamore Township with his wife, Yvonne, and their two children, Cori, 14, and Richie, 11.

Dyer speaks of being responsive to breaking news, but offering something more to the community. "On election night, our 'Voter Alert' took over 1,500 calls from people having difficulty with voting. It wasn't reacting to something. It was something we designed. We had it staffed with a combination of staff and volunteers. It was a great team effort, a great service.

"We're just trying to get better at it and earn our viewers' trust over more and more time. You have to remind yourself it will take awhile to build relationships [with viewers] in the Tristate. ... Our goal is to be No. 1 or No. 2. Consistently."

Editor's note: As this story went to press, a new ratings book came out showing Channel 5 gained so many viewers at the end of 2004 that it's now within seventh-tenths of a point (a mere 6,182 Cincinnati households) of pushing WCPO-TV Channel 9 out of its perennial second-place perch for nightly news viewing.