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

Fayetteville police officer Stephen Carr
Zuzanna Sitek / KUAF News

A funeral service is scheduled Thursday for Fayetteville Police Officer Stephen Carr. Authorities say he was shot and killed Saturday night while sitting in his patrol car by a gunman who was then killed by responding officers. The service begins at 1 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena.

The suspect has been identified as 35-year-old London Phillips. The two officers who shot and killed him after a short chase are on administrative leave while an investigation into the shooting is being conducted.

Jay Barth
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As Little Rock works to implement a community schools model which has been endorsed by the state, the city's first chief education officer was named Friday. Former Arkansas State Board of Education Chair Jay Barth will begin the new position next month.

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. made the announcement, calling Barth "a tried and tested leader." Scott advocated for the community schools model in October rather than a controversial plan that would have divided the Little Rock School District. A resolution was subsequently approved by the state board.

Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

While Little Rock’s homicide rate for 2019 has now exceeded last year, the city’s police chief is touting the number of cases cleared. On Wednesday he sat down with reporters to talk about the issue.

The Little Rock Police Department reports that, as of Wednesday, it had investigated 40 homicides this year, an increase of eight percent from last year. Chief Keith Humphrey says 80 percent of those cases have had a suspect arrested and charged, compared to the national average of 62.5 percent.

Walter Hussman
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is nearing the day when it will no longer deliver a daily printed paper. The newspaper has been transitioning its weekday service to an app-only format and plans to print only a Sunday edition of the paper by the beginning of next year.

A former lobbyist who pleaded guilty as part of a corruption investigation that ensnared several Arkansas state lawmakers is to be sentenced Monday. Rusty Cranford could face up to 10 years in federal prison, but his defense attorney says Cranford’s cooperation with investigators should weigh heavily with the judge.

Since pleading guilty to a federal bribery charge in June 2018, Cranford has repeatedly met with investigators and appeared before federal grand juries.

Jim Hendren Hendren Plastics
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal judge has ruled a drug recovery program and a company owned by an Arkansas state lawmaker violated labor laws by requiring participants to work full-time without getting paid. It’s considered an alternative to jail time, but U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks said the two entities manipulated the labor market for their own benefit.

Arkasnas Business reporter Mark Friedman wrote about that in this week's issue:

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Over the next week we’ll learn who will be running for political office in Arkansas during the 2020 elections. The candidate filing period begins Monday at 12 p.m. in the state Capitol Rotunda, running through Tuesday of next week.

Among the races to be decided next year are all four of the state's representatives in the U.S. House, as well as Sen. Tom Cotton’s seat. In the Arkansas legislature, 17 seats in the Senate will be decided along with all 100 members of the House.

Attorney and state Rep. John Walker of Little Rock.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas civil rights attorney and state lawmaker John Walker has died. He was 82. The Pulaski County Coroner’s Office says he died Monday at his home in Little Rock. A cause was not immediately reported.

Dr. Alex Biris, director and chief scientist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Services.
UA Little Rock

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been awarded a $5.6 million grant to advance technology with the potential to regenerate bones. The funding from the U.S. Department of Defense goes toward work on an implantable medical device known as NuCress scaffold, which has been in development since 2006.

It holds the promise of helping people with what have been considered untreatable injuries experience bone regeneration in places where parts of a bone are missing. In particular, researchers say it could help people avoid having limbs amputated because of injuries.

DHS Division of Children and Family Services Director Mischa Martin points to a chart included in the report showing improvements to Arkansas's child welfare system during a meeting with reporters Wednesday.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A new report from the state says Arkansas is making major progress toward improving its child welfare system, which drew praise from Gov. Asa Hutchinson Wednesday. A few years ago the state had a disproportionate number kids in foster care, workers with unmanageable caseloads and partners who said they weren’t getting the support needed.

Arkansas State Fair
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The 2019 Arkansas State Fair kicks off Friday, running through Sunday, Oct. 20. At the fairgrounds along Roosevelt Road in Little Rock, rides are being assembled and game booths set up. General Manager Doug White says several new rides will be among the more than 60 rides on the midway.

Last year, six days of rain hurt attendance, he said. The fair typically averages 400,000 to 450,000 people each year. This year, White is hoping to exceed that.

Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As President Donald Trump’s administration blocked a U.S. diplomat from testifying in the impeachment investigation regarding Ukraine, Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson reiterated Tuesday that there are "legitimate questions that have been asked based upon a whistleblower’s complaint."

Hutchinson served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1990s and was one of the Republican impeachment managers who led the investigation of President Bill Clinton.

Mural
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A mural touting peace and civil rights is being expanded by a group of artists in Little Rock. They’re painting the mural on large concrete walls under railroad overpasses on West 7th Street, just west of the state Capitol. It’s being done as part of the 2019 Arkansas Peace Week, which includes a number of events throughout the state.

The mural was first painted three years ago, but artist Jose Hernandez says several of the scenes were hit with graffiti, including white spray paint used to cover up people’s faces.

Harding University
www.harding.edu

Private colleges and universities in Arkansas are having to change their strategies for recruiting students amid a reduction in prospective students. A number of factors are forcing the schools to rethink their business plans and marketing. The top factor is simply that Americans are having fewer children.

Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Moritz wrote about that for a story in this week's issue:

Will Trice
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The new executive artistic director for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre is getting settled into his new position. In January it was announced that Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Will Trice, who is a Little Rock native, had accepted the position. But he had to spend several months in New York wrapping up affairs there before moving back to Arkansas.

Senator John Boozman
George Jared / Talk Business & Politics

Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas is cosponsoring legislation that attempts to address a shortage of physicians. Medical school graduates are required to complete residency training to begin practicing, but Boozman says a 1997 cap on Medicare funding has led to a shortage of available residencies in the state.

"We have a situation where we have a lot of people graduating from medical school and then can’t find residencies in Arkansas. So as a result, probably 40 percent of them go out of state. Many of them never come back," Boozman said.

Kimberly Blackshire-Lee Charles Starks police shooting
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A two-day hearing begins Thursday at 8 a.m. for former Little Rock police officer Charles Starks who is appealing his termination for the shooting death of a suspect in a stolen car. On the eve of the hearing, relatives of Bradley Blackshire delivered an envelope to City Hall which they said contained petitions signed by over 2,000 people who are opposed to Starks being reinstated.

Solar Array
Arkansas Business

A new Arkansas law taking effect is allowing local governments, agencies and schools to partner with third-party companies to building solar projects. Arkansas Business reporter Kyle Massey writes in this week’s issue about what’s coming together to make this possible.

Rick Vance is regional director for Entegrity Energy Partners LLC of Little Rock, one of several Arkansas solar providers riding the wave as local governments, agencies and schools plunge into a new solar mainstream.

National Weather Service

The remnants of Hurricane Barry are forecast to move into Arkansas on Sunday. Agriculture officials are concerned the heavy rainfall could be detrimental to the state’s rice crop, which has already been hampered by a wet spring and recent hot weather.

Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, says the crop is extremely vulnerable at this point and that rain could disrupt pollination. 

Mosaic Templars
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, which tells the story of African-Americans in Arkansas, is striving to raise $3 million to renovate its educational exhibit space. The museum opened in 2008 in a spot that was once the heart of Little Rock’s black community.

During a ceremony Monday with Gov. Asa Hutchinson at the state Capitol, backers of the fundraising campaign accepted the museum’s largest-ever corporate donation. Union Pacific Railroad, which employed about 2,600 people in the state as of last year, gave $300,000 toward the campaign.

naloxone
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Amid an epidemic of opioid deaths, Arkansas school nurses are being equipped with an antidote that can reverse overdoses. During a ceremony Tuesday at the state Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson presented several nurses with naloxone kits, saying they will provide an "important lifesaving capability for our schools."

Storm
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Utility crews are working to restore electricity in central and south Arkansas after a powerful storm hit the state Wednesday night quickly bringing down trees and power lines. Damage is extensive in some areas and Entergy Arkansas warns it could be a few days before power is back on for all customers.

The National Weather Service says the highest wind speed was measured at 64 miles-per-hour, but Meteorologist Sean Clark says tree damage suggests winds exceeded that in some locations.

Civil rights attorneys Mike Laux (left) and Benjamin Crump at a press conference in December regarding the Little Rock Police Department's use of no-knock raids.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A civil rights attorney representing several people who claimed they were unfairly targeted by Little Rock police with no-knock raids says he’s encouraged by the department’s effort to reform its policy. On Wednesday, Police Chief Keith Humphrey unveiled a new threat assessment system that will be used to determine when carrying out a search warrant rises to the level of a no-knock raid.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen taking part in an anti-death penalty demonstration in front of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion in April 2017.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

An ethics complaint has been dismissed against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen for taking part in a death penalty demonstration in April 2017 on the same day he blocked the state from using an execution drug. Now Griffen is demanding he be given back the power to consider death penalty cases.

Linda Collins-Smith
Arkansas Legislature

A remembrance is set for Tuesday at the Arkansas State Capitol for former state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith. Her body was found last Tuesday at her home in Pocahontas and police are treating the death as a homicide.

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he is "anxious for success" as the U.S. negotiates with China over trade tariffs. The escalating trade war has rattled markets, with soybean prices falling to their lowest levels in a decade.

"We’re praying that the president will be successful in these negotiations," Hutchinson said in an interview with KUAR News.

Dr. Brian Nichol medical marijuana doctor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas’s second medical marijuana dispensary opened one day earlier than expected. Green Springs Medical in Hot Springs began selling to people Sunday at about 4:15 p.m., according to KTHV-TV. It follows the opening Friday evening of Doctor’s Orders RX, which is also in Hot Springs. A steady stream of people lined up at the first dispensary through the weekend wanting to be among the first to get the drug.

marijuana
npr.org

Arkansas’s first medical marijuana dispensary has been approved to open, though it’ll likely be about a week before it has product for sale. The state’s Alcohol Beverage Control, which is part of the Department of Finance and Administration and regulates medical marijuana, announced Friday that inspectors went through Doctor’s Orders RX in Hot Springs with the local fire marshal and found it met all required standards.

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Department of Correction

It’s now up to U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to decide whether Arkansas’s lethal injection protocol inflicts unconstitutional pain and suffering on condemned inmates. For eight days she has heard arguments and testimony in the lawsuit by a group of death row inmates who allege the sedative midazolam, which is the first of three drugs used, is not effective at keeping inmates unconscious when subsequent drugs shut down the body.

Wendy Kelley
Arkansas Public Media

A federal trial regarding Arkansas’s use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections is wrapping up. On Wednesday, just over a week since the trial began, attorneys for the state called their final witness. Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley is named along with Gov. Asa Hutchinson as a defendant in the lawsuit by a group of death row inmates who claim the drug isn’t enough to keep inmates unconscious during the process.

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