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: 501-683-7386

Email: michael@kuar.org

Ways to Connect

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.

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.

Holocaust
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.

Demonstrators place flowers Friday at a Mural on West 7th Street in Little Rock which now features the face of George Floyd.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Several hundred demonstrators, mostly educators and students, marched Friday afternoon from the Arkansas State Capitol to a nearby mural on West 7th Street in Little Rock. The mural was painted four years ago by Jose Hernandez and Jermaine Gibson to cover graffiti on large concrete walls that support two railroad overpasses.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. and Police Chief Keith Humphrey speak to reporters today about credible threats of violence by outside agitators.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

More protests over police brutality and systemic racism are scheduled in Little Rock, with a memorial walk planned to begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Arkansas State Capitol.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that he was spending time listening to the concerns of demonstrators and community leaders. One of those was a Little Rock artist who goes by Drekkia Writes.

Police in full riot gear at the Arkansas State Capitol on Saturday night use a chemical agent to force protesters to disperse. A similar scene took place again on Sunday night.
KATV-Channel 7

After two nights of raucous demonstrations at the Arkansas State Capitol, a curfew is being put into effect beginning Monday night in Little Rock. National Guard troops are also on standby to assist law enforcement in potentially violent situations as demonstrations are held against police brutality. There are concerns that some protesters are from outside the area and working to provoke violence.

Arkansas State Capitol
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

On Monday, June 1, the Arkansas State Capitol will re-open to the public, but not without new restrictions. Chris Powell, a spokesman for the Arkansas Secretary of State office, which oversees the Capitol grounds, says that visitors will be asked "basic questions, based on recommendations from the Department of Health, about things like fever, sickness, and travel" as they enter the building in an effort to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19 within the building.

Conway kindergarten teacher Randi House, who was named Arkansas Teacher of the Year in 2018, is one of five teachers hosting local AMI segments.
Arkansas PBS

With Arkansas school buildings closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, state education officials and Arkansas PBS are partnering to bring lessons to students’ homes. The Alternative Methods of Instruction program (AMI) was originally intended to be a short-term solution for things like snow days, providing packets of material for students to work on at home.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson showing a face mask with the logo for Oaklawn while noting Saturday was Derby Day 2020 at the Hot Springs racetrack.
Governor's Office / YouTube

The death toll from COVID-19 in Arkansas has risen to 73, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Saturday. Of the nine new deaths since Friday, two were state prison inmates from the Cummins Unit, which has been hard hit during the outbreak.

Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the state Department of Health, said both men had been hospitalized, were in their 60s and had underlying health conditions. One of the prisoners had been on a ventilator.

Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shepherd during a brief speech Friday after being elected to another term leading the House.
Arkansas Citizens Access Network

Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) was reelected Friday to another two-year term leading the chamber. Representatives unanimously showed their support for Shepherd during a voice vote after formally adjourning the biennial fiscal session of legislature. He was unopposed.

Shepherd became a state representative in 2011 and was first elected speaker in 2018. The next term will begin next January when lawmakers convene for the 93rd General Assembly.

Cummins Unit Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal lawsuit accuses Arkansas of violating the constitutional and legal rights of prison inmates by not taking adequate steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The class-action complaint was filed Tuesday on behalf of 11 inmates at state prisons, including three at the Cummins Unit in southeast Arkansas, where 670 inmates have tested positive.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (left) listens Sunday as Department of Corrections Director Dexter Payne discusses the outbreak at the Cummins Unit in southeast Arkansas.
Governor's Office / YouTube

The number of coronavirus deaths in Arkansas increased to 40 on Sunday, including – for the first time – a health care worker.

Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the Department of Health, said it was someone who worked at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff and was associated with the first outbreak in the state. Another death announced Sunday involved a nursing home resident, Smith said. He did not offer any additional details, other than to say both were under the age of 65.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Director of Budget Jake Bleed (left) and Education Secretary Johnny Key at the Joint Budget Committee meeting Wednesday.
Arkansas Citizens Access Network

Legislative leaders expect to wrap up the biennial fiscal session of the Arkansas General Assembly on Thursday. The House and Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to identical versions of the $5.8 billion Revenue Stabilization Act for the budget year that begins in July.

Lawmakers had been pressured to complete the session as quickly as possible given the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak. Fiscal sessions typically last at least a month, but Thursday will be the ninth day for this one.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas continues to increase, officials announced Monday that schools in the state will remain closed for onsite instruction through the end of the school year.

Alternative forms of education will continue in the coming weeks online and through Arkansas PBS, said Education Secretary Johnny Key. Speaking to reporters at the state Capitol, he urged educators not to attempt to "replicate the classroom experience," and to be flexible with time limits for assignments.

Nate Smith COVID-19 Asa Hutchinson
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas was up to 384 positive cases of coronavirus as of 5 p.m. Friday, according to the state Department of Health. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during an afternoon press briefing that projections suggest that number could increase to 2,000 cases by next weekend and 3,500 in two weeks.

"This is modeling that’s based upon what’s happened in other states, what the experts tell us. It doesn’t mean it has to happen in Arkansas, but those are the kinds of projections that we’re trying to anticipate," Hutchinson said.

Nate Smith COVID-19
Governor's Office / YouTube

Seeming frustrated by reports that some people in Arkansas are not abiding by social distancing recommendations, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday he is issuing a directive that will give law enforcement the power to enforce limits on gatherings.

The state has recommended people avoid indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people and keep a distance of six feet between one another during the current health crisis.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Arkansas has experienced its first deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday that two people had died, while the number of positive cases in the state has risen to 218. Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith would not provide details on how the two people who died might have acquired the virus, but said neither had traveled out of state recently and neither were from nursing homes.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (at the podium) announcing Sunday that the number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas had risen to 165.
Governor's Office / YouTube

165 people in Arkansas have tested positive for COVID-19, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Sunday, an increase of 47 cases from Saturday. With testing being expanded this week, officials are warning the number will continue to rise.

44 of the cases involved people at three nursing homes in the state, according to Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith. Seniors and people with underlying health conditions are most at risk from the virus.

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