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 is also 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

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.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

The number of coronavirus cases in Arkansas has risen to 62, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday. That included people in nine counties that have not previously had positive cases.

All but one previous case were limited to people who had traveled outside of the state or had contact with those people. Without providing specific numbers, Hutchinson said more people are contracting the virus in-state.

Mike Preston
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas has not had a new positive case of COVID-19 reported over the last 24 hours, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced mid-morning Tuesday. It's the first day since state officials began conducting daily briefings last Wednesday that there has not been an uptick in diagnosed cases, with the number standing at 22.

But with testing for the virus ramping up, he expects the number will rise.

COVID-19 Education Secretary Johnny Key
Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is ordering all Arkansas schools to be closed starting Tuesday, continuing through the end of the week, to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Speaking Sunday alongside health and education officials, he also announced four new cases have been confirmed, bringing the total in the state to 16. 

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission is preparing to consider whether to renew licenses for the state’s dispensaries and growers. During Wednesday’s regular commission meeting, renewal meetings are to be scheduled.

Commissioners must decide by the end of April which licenses will be renewed for the next fiscal year. The state constitutional amendment approved by Arkansas voters in 2016 calls for the licenses to be renewed annually.

Arkansas Department of Health Director Nathaniel Smith and Gov. Asa Hutchinson speak to reporters Wednesday about the first presumptive case of the coronavirus reported in the state.
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas now has its first presumptive case of the coronavirus. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the head of the state Department of Health announced Wednesday the person is from the Pine Bluff area and is in isolation at a hospital. They said the case is likely not part of a widespread outbreak 

National Association of Black Veterans state commander Lisa  Moss photographs the historical marker for Frank Moore that unveiled Friday at Little Rock National Cemetery. Elaine massacre Elaine 12 twelve
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A historical marker was unveiled Friday at Little Rock National Cemetery noting where a black sharecropper is buried who helped bring a labor union to Phillips County in eastern Arkansas, leading to what would be the bloodiest racial uprising in state history. Frank Moore, a veteran of World War I, would be convicted for his alleged role in the deaths of five white men, and was later the namesake of a precedent-setting case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court that led to his release.

Polling location vote here
Michael HIbblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Democrats coalesced behind Joe Biden in his bid for president on Tuesday. Final results from the Secretary of State’s office show he won by a nearly two-to-one margin over second place finisher Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Arkansas Democratic Primary Results (100% of precincts reporting):

Joe Biden: 40.5
Bernie Sanders: 22.4
Michael Bloomberg: 16.7
Elizabeth Warren: 10.0

Rock Island
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An $880,000 federal grant is being awarded to Pulaski County to build part of a pedestrian and bicycling path that will link Little Rock and Hot Springs. The Southwest Trail will mostly be constructed on two former railroad right-of-ways.

Amy Klobuchar
Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential candidates are hoping to rally momentum in Arkansas during the final week before the state takes part in Super Tuesday's primary election.

On Monday, Michael Bloomberg’s campaign said the former New York City mayor will return to Arkansas on Thursday to speak at a rally in Bentonville. The announcement comes one day after Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota spoke to an enthusiastic crowd in central Arkansas.

Amy Klobuchar
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar is returning to Arkansas this weekend. The Minnesota senator is scheduled to speak at a rally Sunday beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the Maumelle Event Center.

It comes just over a week before Arkansas will be among 14 states taking part in primary elections that could give a solid boost to a candidate in the Democratic race.

marijuana
npr.org

Nine months after Arkansas’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened for business, the first facility in Little Rock has been approved to begin operations.

Frederick Love Fred
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

With less than a month before Arkansas Democrats vote in the presidential primary, the state is getting more attention from the candidates’ campaigns. Arkansas is one of 14 states that will be taking part in Super Tuesday on March 3, with early voting to begin Feb. 18.

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