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

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As Arkansas is experiencing a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases, with more than 2,800 new cases reported Thursday, kids are being impacted like never before in the pandemic. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was especially concerned about the increase in pediatric cases while announcing he was reinstating a public health emergency for the state.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, seen here last October.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas reported 2,552 new cases of the coronavirus between Saturday and Monday, with the state continuing to lead the nation per capita.

The Department of Health says there were 15 additional deaths in that time, with the total since the pandemic began now at 6,007. Hospitalizations grew by 106 to of 787.

Arkansas PBS

Arkansas continues leading the nation per capita in new coronavirus cases, blamed on the spread of the more infectious delta variant and the state’s vaccination rate, which is among the lowest in the country.

The Department of Health reported 1,342 new cases Friday, with the number of active cases growing by 671 to 9,750, a figure not seen in the state since Feb. 15. Eleven deaths were reported, with Arkansas on track to, in the coming days, surpass a death toll of 6,000 since the first deaths were announced in March 2020.

Artist Kevin Kresse with a prototype of the statue he is making to eventually be on display in the U.S. Capitol.
Kevin Kresse

Artist Kevin Kresse, who was selected by the state earlier this month to create a statue of Johnny Cash, which will be one of two representing Arkansas in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol, spoke with KUAR about his appreciation of Cash and what inspired him in this project.

A statue of civil rights leader Daisy Bates, best known for her work with the Little Rock Nine desegregating Central High School, will also eventually be on display. That one is being created by Benjamin Victor of Boise, Idaho.

Cummins Unit Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A four-year study by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will look at the climate and culture inside state prisons.

A $453,000 contract has been awarded to the school by the Department of Corrections to conduct the study, which will include visiting each prison in the state to talk with inmates, staff and visitors. Corrections Secretary Solomon Graves said it will be a first-of-its-kind study for the state.

A new solar array in North Little Rock, which city leaders say will provide about 20% of the power for its wastewater utility.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

North Little Rock’s Wastewater Utility is now being powered in part by a new solar array. Completion of the $1.4 million facility was celebrated Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Director Michael Clayton says the solar panels will provide about 20% of the electricity needed to power the utility, which typically costs about $900,000 a year. It serves about 42,000 customers in North Little Rock, Sherwood and Maumelle.

A file photo of University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz, who announced Thursday that he would resign the following day.
Beth Hill / Arkansas Business

University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz resigned Friday, about 24 hours after announcing in an email to faculty, students and staff that he would take the abrupt action.

Steinmetz did not elaborate Friday in the hours before leaving office. UA System President Donald Bobbitt has not announced an interim chancellor or what would happen next.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. speaking at Thursday's dedication for the new 10-mile trail system at River Mountain Park.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A new 10-mile trail system for cycling, running and hiking is now open in Little Rock, further enhancing a network of trails that local leaders say has helped provide a high quality of life for residents and made the city a destination for cyclists.

A dedication ceremony was held Thursday at River Mountain Park, which is along the Arkansas and Little Maumelle rivers. The new trail system is the first to be professionally built in the city and features trails with varying degrees of difficulty for beginners and seasoned cyclists.

In this file photo, one dose of the vaccine is shown during a press conference Monday at the Arkansas Department of Health.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences are starting a one-year project to look at disparities between minority communities and the state’s general population when it comes to COVID-19.

The project is being funded by a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, with UAMS being one of 11 teams selected nationwide. Researchers hope their efforts will increase vaccination rates among minorities.

Sculptor Benjamin Victor shows a model of what he envisions the Johnny Cash statue would like during a meeting Wednesday.
Arkansas Citizens Access Network

Ahead of an expected decision Monday, five artists who want the honor of making statues of civil rights leader Daisy Bates and music legend Johnny Cash that will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol presented models Wednesday of what they envision their works would look like.

A barge passes underneath the Junction Bridge heading south on the Arkansas River on Sept. 4, 2015.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A recently-released book explores the history of efforts to control major rivers in the U.S. and the impact those waterways have on the lives and livelihoods of many people. But aging infrastructure and a lack of funding is posing major problems, as author Tyler J. Kelley points out in "Holding Back the River: The Struggle Against Nature on America’s Waterways."

The tower on Lee Mountain near Russellville which is the first of five new signals that Arkansas PBS says will go on the air this year to provide coverage to nearly the entire state.
Arkansas PBS

Arkansas PBS is now broadcasting on an additional signal near Russellville. It’s the first of five new transmitters being added this year to provide broadcast coverage to nearly the entire state.

The public television network said Thursday the new transmitter at Lee Mountain is operating at full power, with the signal capable of being picked up in Pope, Johnson, Logan and Yell counties.

(Left) Richard Barnett's mug shot at the Washington County, Ark. jail. (Right) Barnett sitting at a desk inside the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Jan. 6.
Washington County Jail/ Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

An Arkansas man, facing federal charges for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, is raising money for his legal defense.

Richard Barnett, also known as “Bigo,” became one of the most public faces of the breach at the Capitol when he was photographed in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with his feet propped up on a desk. Now for a donation of $100 or more, people can receive a signed copy of that photo.

U.S. Rep. French Hill of Arkansas' 2nd congressional district, seen here in 2018, was one of 35 Republicans to join Democrats in voting to support creation of an independent commission to probe the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A bill in Congress which would create an independent commission to investigate the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January is now in the hands of the Senate. A week ago, the House passed the bill with 35 Republicans joining Democrats to support the proposal.

But the future of the bill is unclear with Democrats needing the support of 10 Republicans to avoid a possible filibuster. GOP leadership is opposing an investigation.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Criminal Justice and Criminology Director Dr. Tusty Ten Bensel and Graduate Coordinator Dr. Robert Lytle will oversee the study of hate crimes against Muslims in Arkansas.
Zoom

The National Science Foundation is funding a three-year program to study hate crimes committed against Muslims in Arkansas. Two criminal justice professors at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock have been awarded a $324,987 grant, which will enable an assessment of anti-Muslim sentiments.

The Arkansas Medical Society hosted the first of four COVID-19 vaccination clinics at Arkansas Travelers baseball games on Tuesday.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas health officials and pharmacies continue working to try and make it as easy as possible for people in the state to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

At Tuesday night’s season opener for the Arkansas Travelers, the first of at least four vaccination clinics was held at Dickey Stephens Park in North Little Rock. But while there were lines of people waiting a half-hour or more for beer, there was no wait to get a shot, with the doctors and nurses mostly hanging out, eagerly engaging anyone who approached.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The 2021 session of the Arkansas General Assembly adjourned last week. Lawmakers will return in the fall to consider redistricting and any unfinished business.

The session included debate on many cultural issues as well as a power struggle between Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Republican-controlled House and Senate on matters like executive orders for the COVID-19 pandemic.

White Bluff Coal Plant
Wil Chandler / Arkansas Business

A month after a federal judge approved a settlement calling for Entergy Arkansas to retire three older power plants in the state and expand clean power generation, the utility is making progress toward a key provision.

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.

Pages