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 Health Secretary José Romero at a press conference on Jan. 18 shortly before he was vaccinated for COVID-19.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas Senate narrowly voted Thursday to keep state Health Secretary Dr. José Romero in his position, despite criticism from some senators over his actions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The half-hour of debate also included an ongoing theme of some senators accusing the executive branch of wielding too much power during the health emergency. Romero was appointed to the position by Gov. Asa Hutchinson last May, and continues to have the governor’s support.

Ernest Hemingway and Pauline Pfeiffer on their wedding day in 1927.
Arkansas State University

PBS is premiering a highly-anticipated six-hour documentary this week on Ernest Hemingway, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The iconic literary figure spent time in northeast Arkansas along with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. Today, the property in Piggott has been restored as part of the Arkansas Heritage Sites program run by Arkansas State University.

Sen. Tom Cotton speaks at Tuesday's press conference against the federal election bill that passed in the House earlier this month and is now before the Senate. Also with him at the press conference are Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Sen. John Boozman
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As the U.S. Senate considers a major overhaul of federal election law, five Arkansas Republicans spoke against it Tuesday in Little Rock. The legislation was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 3, with all Republicans voting no.

But passage in the Senate looks less likely because of a 50-50 split between parties and some Democrats, like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, expressing opposition. Arkansas’ two senators said at the press conference they don’t expect it will pass.

The Arkansas Razorbacks celebrating after Saturday's come from behind win over Oral Roberts University. Monday night the team will face the Baylor Bears.
University of Arkansas

The Arkansas Razorbacks have advanced to the Elite 8 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and will face the Baylor Bears Monday night in Indianapolis. It follows Saturday’s victory over Oral Roberts University, which was the first time the team had reached the championship since 1995.

For a preview of the game, KUAR News spoke with Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Senior Editor Rex Nelson who has also been a longtime college sports broadcaster.

KUAR’s MICHAEL HIBBLEN: First, how do you feel as the University of Arkansas heads into this next round?

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, questions Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Tuesday during a meeting of the House Committee on Financial Services about what counties will get COVID-19 assistance funds.
U.S. House of Representatives

The world’s seven largest economies, including the U.S., have agreed to support developing countries battling COVID-19. But U.S. Rep. French Hill, a Republican of Arkansas’ 2nd district, is objecting to Russia, China and Iran being including among the countries sharing about $650 billion.

As a senior Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, Hill questioned Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Tuesday about the plan, with a funding amount that is below the threshold that would require congressional approval.

Whitney Campbell, pharmacist in charge at an Express Rx on Stagecoach Road in Little Rock, injects a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday into the arm of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

“Be gentle,” Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. implored before a pharmacist injected him in the arm Wednesday with the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. His visit to an Express Rx came two days after Gov. Asa Hutchinson expanded eligibility to all people in phase 1B of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Scott said about 900 city workers, including himself, are considered essential and are now eligible for a vaccine. “I hate shots,” he said, but wanted to set an example for others, including minorities who might be hesitant to be vaccinated.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking to reporters in his office last Wednesday expressed reservations about the near-total abortion ban because it didn't make exceptions for rape or incest.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law Tuesday that would ban nearly all abortions in the state. Senate Bill 6 makes no exceptions for rape or incest, and only lists a few medical exceptions.

Entergy Arkansas worker Jason Penny works on a problem Monday in west Little Rock.
Entergy Arkansas

Arkansas utility companies are asking people to conserve electricity usage as the state braces for another round of winter weather. Companies say heavy snowfall and unusually cold temperatures have prompted many consumers to use a substantial amount of natural gas and electricity to stay warm in their homes.

Melody Daniel, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, says lowering thermostats to within the 60 to 65 degree temperature range will help conserve power.

An employee at a Chicken Express restaurant in Texarkana, Ark. telling a reporter Saturday that employees are not required to wear masks. That assertion was contradicted by the state Department of Health and Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Despite a clear directive from Gov. Asa Hutchinson that Arkansas restaurant employees who come in contact with customers must wear face masks, some restaurants are still not taking the safety precaution to try and limit the spread of the coronavirus. But Hutchinson said Tuesday he believes most restaurants are following his guidance.

The John W. Turk Jr. Power plant in Fulton, Ark., seen here on Saturday, is operated by Southwestern Electric Power Company. The company got a B in the report released Monday by the Sierra Club.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A report released Monday by an environmental group says three Arkansas utility companies are doing better than most companies nationwide, but still have room for improvement.

In The Dirty Truth About Climate Pledges report, the Sierra Club assigned letter grades to utilities in the U.S. based on action taken toward reducing carbon emissions. Criteria included efforts to retire coal plants, stop building natural gas plants, and the construction of new, clean energy facilities.

French Hill
Talk Business & Politics

As President Joe Biden spent his first full day as commander-in-chief, U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said the nation is entering a new period with the opportunity for the president to bring people together by working in a bipartisan way.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson getting a COVID-19 vaccine Monday at the Arkansas Department of Health.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As Arkansas began the next phase Monday of vaccinating people for the coronavirus, Gov. Asa Hutchinson pulled up his sleeve to get a shot. It happened the same day the state reported 32 additional deaths, but with a sharp decline in active cases and fewer new cases compared to previous Mondays.

The 70-year-old governor told reporters at the Arkansas Department of Health that he wanted to show he and First Lady Susan Hutchinson have confidence in the safety of the vaccine.

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.
Zoom

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.
YouTube

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.

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