Michael Hibblen

News Director

Michael Hibblen is the News Director for UA Little Rock Public Radio. He oversees local news coverage for KUAR, working with the staff to plan story ideas, edit news copy, and ensure accuracy and fairness in reporting. Hibblen has been a regular panelist and fill-in host on Arkansas PBS' Arkansas Week, where journalists and newsmakers discuss the top issues facing the state.

In March 2019, he  was named one of 53 fellows selected to participate in the Editorial Integrity and Leadership Initiative at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The intensive 100-day training program for newsroom leaders from across the country was funded by a $1 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It involved a week of training that August at the Phoenix campus, working regularly with a coach and smaller group remotely, then returning to give a final presentation and graduate in January. The group began meeting again online to discuss challenges and issues facing newsrooms as COVID-19 began spreading across the nation.

A native of North Little Rock, Hibblen started in radio in 1988, spending his first five years as a DJ for music stations in central and northeast Arkansas. After a 1993 internship at the C-SPAN Cable Network in Washington, DC, he transitioned to news, working for commercial radio stations KARN in Little Rock, WRVA in Richmond, Virginia and WIOD in Miami, Florida. In 2000, Hibblen became a nationally-heard, Miami-based radio reporter for CBS News, covering major stories in the region, including the anthrax attack at a tabloid publisher, an international custody fight over Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez, and the 2000 presidential election recount. He was hired by The Miami Herald in 2003 when the newspaper partnered with NPR station WLRN to provide local news. Hibblen initially worked as a morning news anchor and reporter, later became the department's editor, then assistant news director. He also wrote frequently for the newspaper.

Hibblen returned home to Arkansas in 2009 to work for KUAR. At that time he resumed taking classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to finish his Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication, graduating in May 2013. Hibblen also enjoys researching radio and railroad history in the state and is the author of Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas, which was published by Arcadia Publishing in April 2017. He has also been involed in the preservation of the railroad's depot in the City of Perry, West of Little Rock. Hibblen maintains a personal website with more on his career and outside interests at www.hibblenradio.com.

Phone: 501-916-6377

Email: michael@kuar.org

Ways to Connect

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

On the first day of the 93rd Arkansas General Assembly, the House of Representatives voted to seat all 100 of its members and re-elect its speaker. The Senate formally voted for a new president pro tempore, but amid a worsening coronavirus pandemic, the chamber saw heated debate about whether members should be punished for not wearing face masks.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking to reporters during Tuesday's press briefing.
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas hospitals continue struggling to handle a growing number of people needing treatment for COVID-19. On Tuesday the state reported 27 additional hospitalizations, pushing the total to another record high of 1,323.

There were also 36 more deaths for a total of 3,836. The Department of Health reported 27 of the deaths were confirmed to be from the disease caused by the coronavirus, while nine were probable deaths. There were also 4,107 new cases of people testing positive for the virus, while the number of active cases rose by 1,351 to a new record of 24,408.

French Hill
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

This story has been updated.

U.S. Rep. French Hill of Arkansas’ 2nd district said Friday he remained “cautiously optimistic” that Congress would pass a nearly $1 trillion coronavirus economic relief package. With talks moving slowly and lawmakers not able to pass a bill by a Friday midnight deadline, he joined a majority in voting to pass a two-day stopgap spending bill that night to avert a partial government shutdown.

A health care worker was one of four to be given the coronavirus vaccine during a press conference Monday at the Arkansas Department of Health.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

In what’s hoped to be a turning point for the pandemic, Arkansas began administering a vaccine Monday for the coronavirus. It came just hours after Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the state had received its first shipment of a vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe and four other health care workers rolled up their sleeves or exposed their shoulders during a press conference at the Arkansas Department of Health to get the shot.

restaurants faded rose
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A new survey conducted by the Arkansas Hospitality Association shows that restaurants are still struggling as the coronavirus continues spreading through the state. According to the survey, 36% of restaurant operators believe it is unlikely they will still be in business six months from now without additional federal aid.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Education Secretary Johnny Key and Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero enter Thursday's press conference at the state Captiol.
Governor's Office / YouTube

The coronavirus is continuing to spread rapidly in Arkansas, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson announcing 2,789 new cases had been reported Thursday, making it the largest one day increase since the pandemic began. He also said there had been additional 33 deaths, for a total of 2,555.

Hospitalizations – which had been reaching new highs each day this week – declined by 31 to 1,072. But the number of people needing treatment is expected to surge in the coming weeks, which will put a strain on facilities statewide unlike anything Arkansas has experienced before, Hutchinson said.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences UAMS
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has received $2.83 million to address a shortage of doctors in rural parts of the state. The funding is the latest from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which previously awarded $4.6 million to the program.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson shows a graph during Tuesday's press briefing of increasing coronavirus cases in Arkansas.
Governor's Office

A report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force released Tuesday says the pandemic is rapidly getting worse in Arkansas. It said considering the higher infection rate in the past two weeks, “Arkansas is on the precipice of a rapid, accelerating increase in cases, which will be followed with new hospital admissions.”

Ann Nicholson, longtime host of KLRE-KUAR's Arts Scene, on April 14, 2016.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Ann Nicholson, who for more than three decades hosted a program on KLRE and KUAR dedicated to the arts in Arkansas, has died. Her daughter, Dr. Dido Green, says Nicholson died in her sleep early Sunday. She was 88. A cause of death was not immediately available.

Nicholson produced well over a thousand episodes of Arts Scene, talking with local and visiting performers, artists and authors. She reported on cultural issues and discussed events happening around the state.

UA-Monticello Political science professor John Davis (left), KUAR's Michael Hibblen (right) and UCA political science professor Heather Yates.

As polling has continued to show the race for Arkansas’ 2nd congressional district to be extremely tight, outside political groups have spent millions of dollars in advertising to try and influence the race. Republicans are hoping to keep the state’s congressional delegation solidly red, while Democrats view this as an opportunity reclaim a district that had been a longtime stronghold for the party.

Incumbent Rep. French Hill of Little Rock, a banker, is being challenged by state Sen. Joyce Elliot, a retired educator.

Singer and songwriter Billy Joe Shaver speaking with Flap Jones, host of KUAR's Not Necessarily Nashville, after a 2013 performance in Little Rock.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Country music singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, who wrote some of the most memorable songs to emerge from the outlaw movement in the early 1970s, has died. He was 81.

The Associated Press reports that friend Connie Nelson confirmed Shaver died Wednesday following a stroke.

Lines of cars go through a triage center Monday at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock for people to be tested for the coronavirus. A spokeswoman says the average wait time has been three to four hours, with about 500 people tes
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A study is underway by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on who is being infected in the state by the coronavirus. Researchers are using blood samples from a control group to better understand how widespread the virus has become.

Early results suggest 3.5% of Arkansas residents have been infected. The study also shows minority groups across the state are disproportionately impacted.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson meeting with cabinet secretaries at the Department of Corrections office in North Little Rock.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas set a new daily record Thursday for the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus. At a meeting of cabinet secretaries in North Little Rock, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said 1,265 people had tested positive in the previous 24 hours. 1,066 of those cases were confirmed through PCR tests, he said, while 199 were probable cases using the less reliable, but quicker antigen tests.

Deaths rose by 21 people, the Department of Health reported, reaching 1,503. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also reached a new high for the third day in a row.

Like other events, this year’s Six Bridges Book Festival is being held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Events begin Thursday, instead of the original schedule for April 23-26. Organized by the Central Arkansas Library System, it features 11 days of events.

Festival Coordinator Brad Mooy says there will be a wide range of discussions that will be streamed live and online, with only one in-person event. There will be 75 presenters, with 61 of those being authors. A game hour and an edible book contest are also being incorporated in this year’s festival.

Supreme Court justices are to hear oral arguments Tuesday in the appeal of an Arkansas case regarding an attempt by the state to regulate pharmacy benefit managers.
Scott Applewhite/ AP / NPR

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Tuesday in Arkansas’ appeal of a case regarding reimbursements pharmacies receive from insurance providers. At issue is a 2015 law passed by the Arkansas General Assembly which has the potential to be a precedent-setting case.

Participants in Issues That Matter: On the Ballot and in the Voting Booth.

In the latest Issues That Matter, a series of presentations by KUAR, the Central Arkansas Library System, and the League of Women Voters of Pulaski County, a discussion about statewide proposals to be decided by Arkansas voters in the November election. We also talked about Election Day concerns about voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This forum was streamed live online on Sept. 17, focusing on the three remaining proposals to be considered by Arkansas voters:

Jay Barth
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Little Rock School District and the city announced Wednesday that four elementary schools will become part of a new “community schools” model. Little Rock Chief Education Officer Jay Barth made the announcement in a short video posted online. He also spoke with KUAR News about what’s planned. 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson shows a graph with the number of Arkansans hospitalized with COVID-19 since March.
Governor's Office

The rate of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continues to increase as Arkansas added 486 new confirmed cases Tuesday, bringing the cumulative total to 74,772. Of those cases, 6,188 are considered active, according to the state Department of Health.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased by 12 for a total of 459. 12 more people have died from the disease caused by the coronavirus, bringing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 1,060.

UAMS Medical Assistant Latondra Ford prepares to stick a swab into the nose of a man going through the hospital's drive-thru triage location on July 23.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas reported 15 more confirmed deaths Monday from COVID-19, along with one additional “probable” death.

The state Department of Health said Monday that brings the total number of confirmed deaths since the pandemic began in March to 1,048. Including probable cases, the state death toll rises to 1,197.

The number of new cases of people confirmed Monday to be infected with the virus was 596, for a total of 74,286.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is scheduled to give his weekly press briefing on the pandemic Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

John Karwoski / Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

A new report released Wednesday details just how little younger generations of Americans know about the Holocaust, especially those in Arkansas.

The U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey breaks down state-by-state what Millennials and Gen Z know about the deaths of Jews by the Nazis during World War II. It was commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Gideon Taylor is president of the group and spoke with KUAR’s Michael Hibblen about the report.

Governor's Office / YouTube

A disproportionate number of new coronavirus cases in Arkansas appear to be coming from universities, with the governor and health secretary imploring students to avoid socializing during the coming Labor Day weekend.

The Department of Health announced Thursday an additional 969 people had tested positive for the virus. Washington County – home to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville – had the highest number of new cases, with 211 reported. Of those, 81% were people between the ages of 18 and 24.

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in Arkansas. Data shows fewer men are getting regular prostate screenings, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s a concern for health officials because if detected early, prostate cancer is survivable.

Little Rock firefighters enter University Plaza Friday afternoon to put out a blaze that caused smoke damage to the public radio stations and the Sequoyah National Research Center.
Ryan Gregory / KUAR News

UPDATED AT 7:30 p.m.

A fire Friday afternoon damaged part of a building at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock that houses KUAR and KLRE, the Sequoyah National Research Center and campus police. No one was injured in the blaze at University Plaza, which was eventually extinguished by the Little Rock Fire Department.

Officials say the fire started in a janitorial closet toward the back of the building, with that area being extensively charred. The Sequoyah Center, which houses rare Native American materials, and the radio stations sustained only smoke damage.

Planners of the Southwest Trail would like to use this former Rock Island Railroad overpass on West 7th Street in Little Rock, which is no longer in use. A Union Pacific train passes over an adjacent overpass on Sunday, August 2.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Seven years after a proposal was announced for a pedestrian and cycling trail linking Little Rock and Hot Springs, a key step toward creation of the Southwest Trail is underway. A virtual public hearing is taking place online through Aug. 26 allowing people to view the preferred alignment for the route, an interactive map, and offer comments on the project which has an estimated construction cost of $43 million.

UAMS Medical Assistant Latondra Ford sticks a swab deep into the nose of a North Little Rock Police officer being tested for the coronavirus.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As the coronavirus continues spreading through Arkansas, with daily records for new cases being repeatedly broken last week, more people are being tested for the virus. That’s causing longer lines at testing locations throughout the state.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences reports it’s now averaging about 500 tests being conducted each weekday at its drive-thru triage in Little Rock, an increase of about 30% since the beginning of July.

Frontline healthcare workers there say the pace is taking a toll on the staff.

The Proton Therapy Center at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. A consortium of healthcare providers in Arkansas have announced plans to build the first state's first proton treatment
Romina Cialdella / Wikimedia Commons

Cancer patients in Arkansas will soon have an alternative to radiation therapy, which can damage healthy tissues and have long-term consequences.

J. William Fulbright
Clinton Steeds / Flickr

A committee will consider whether to remove a statue of former Senator J. William Fulbright from its current location at the Fayetteville campus of the University of Arkansas. The group will eventually make a recommendation, but a decision about the statue and whether to rename the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, will ultimately be made by the UA System Board of Trustees. 

Nearly 6,000 people have signed a petition calling for the removal of his statue because of his position on civil rights.

Dr. Joe Thompson
Arkansas Center for Health Improvement

Former Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Joe Thompson praised recent efforts by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state health officials to curb the spread of COVID-19, but said even more steps need to be taken.

Leslie Rutledge attorney general
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, the first Republican and the first female elected to the office, said Wednesday she will run for governor in 2022.

KUAR won 10 awards in this year's annual competition by the Society for Professional Journalists, Arkansas Pro Chapter. The 2020 Diamond Journalism Award winners were announced Tuesday.