WCBI steps back in time for 30th anniversary in downtown Columbus

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – “It really was an outhouse to the penthouse situation,” said former WCBI News Director Jeffrey Rupp.

From 37 years of broadcasting shows in the middle of a field to a renovated historical department store, WCBI made its mark as the first television station in North Mississippi.

“We were out in a cow pasture in trailers. I mean, you can’t get around that. We would have guests come out and they were astounded that we could broadcast from these trailers. When it rained, we took garbage bags and covered up the equipment,” said Rupp.

In 1993, the station moved from greener pastures to downtown Columbus.

With the latest in technology and tons of space, former WCBI director at the time Jeffrey Rupp remembered what it felt like moving into the newest building on Fifth Street.

“Man, we thought ‘We are small market WCBI and we are killing it with the big boys. We don’t have to apologize to anyone.’ And I think you saw that. It was kind of infectious throughout the building and anyone who worked here. And more importantly, you felt it downtown,” said Rupp.

Current General Manager Derek Rogers said the move was bigger than just WCBI. It was an economic catalyst for the Main Street District.

“Downtown had really gone downhill. I think Frank saw an opportunity to move the television station somewhere that might actually help grow the area and that’s exactly what happened,” said Rogers.

Rogers said the Imes family’s decision to relocate the station sparked one of the biggest festivals in North Mississippi.

“Because we moved up here, it helped start Market Street Festival. That was just something that Frank decided to start and then eventually handed it off to the main street,” said Rogers.

After almost 70 years of serving 19 counties and hopefully 70 more to go, Rogers said the core of WCBI will remain the same.

“The mission’s not going to change as far as we’re going to be there for you. We’re going to be telling your story. We’re going to be out there doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re going to be in your community and tell a story there. So, that part is not going to change. It’s a part of who we are and it’s a part of who we’re always going to be,” said Rogers.

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