KBTX at 60, 1997-2007: KBTX goes digital

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Some events in the late nineties and the new millennium brought heartache to people locally and the nation as a whole, but those tragedies also paved the way for the Brazos Valley to grow stronger as a community.

The bonfire collapse of 1999 left a huge hole in the heart of this community.

"It was when everyone came together. We had to hold each other because it was something so terrible that happened. I am getting choked up because it was such a young community and for something that terrible to happen, you just couldn't believe it," said Jenni Lee, former KBTX reporter and anchor.

Less than two years later, tragedy struck on a national level when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Those events certainly shaped the time, but did not define it.

As people looked to media, KBTX grew in response. The KBTX building on East 29th Street nearly doubled in size during a major expansion.

"The studio was right off the lobby, where engineering is right now and all of this was parking lot," said Barbara Smith, former KBTX anchor.

Technology was making giant leaps, too. In 2004, the station transitioned from tape to digital editing.

"Tape machines became used less and less and less, took up less space, so it was a matter of having the bandwidth, the memory and having the computer power to do the video editing," explained Gerald Keller, Chief Engineer at KBTX.

"Things could be uploaded and you could access them so much faster then having to go through and process and cut and paste and do everything that we had to do back in the old days when we used tapes," explained Smith.

KBTX.com also gave the station a 24/7 presence in the community.

"It was very rudimentary, very basic, just to have a presence at that point," said Smith.

"I don't think anybody back then believed that having a presence on the web was going to be near what it is today," explained Keller.

Through major changes, the heart of KBTX remained the same.

"Give it to KBTX. They were always involved in the community. If the community needed something, KBTX stepped up and then the community stepped up, so you have to hand it to them," said Lee.

"At the heart of it is the desire to serve this community. When you just strip away everything else and you get right back to it, that mission of KBTX has never changed," said Smith.