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

Michael Hibblen/ KUAR

Officials say some residents whose houses were evacuated when an oil pipeline ruptured in Mayflower can go home this week.

Federal on-scene coordinator Nick Brescia says residents of four homes could be allowed back Thursday, while residents of another eight or nine homes can return in the coming days.

Crews are still cleaning up the scene with heavy equipment.

The pipeline ruptured nearly two weeks ago, sending hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw crude flowing down a street in what was described by residents as a "river of oil."

Arkansas Attorney General's Office

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says investigators are beginning to go through documents related to a pipeline that ruptured nearly two weeks ago.

Late Wednesday more than 12,000 pages of subpoenaed material were delivered to his office.

McDaniel also disclosed during a press conference that the hole in the pipeline is “substantially larger than many of us initially thought,” measuring more than 22 feet long and two inches wide.

As the world mourns the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, KUAR is looking back at a visit she made to Arkansas nearly 18 years ago.

Reporter Michael Hibblen covered the speech she gave at Harding University in Searcy in 1995 and has highlights of her remarks.

Thatcher’s visit came five years after she resigned as Prime Minister. She held that post longer than anyone else in the 20th century and was the only woman to serve as Britain’s Prime Minister.

Michael Hibblen/ KUAR

On Sunday, officials with ExxonMobil and local leaders allowed the press to get its first look at an area where an oil pipeline ruptured a week and a half ago, spilling an estimated 5,000 barrels of tar sands.

The tour occurred as workers in yellow hazmat suits continued working to clean up the upscale neighborhood in Mayflower.

Michael Hibblen/ KUAR

While legal action is being promised regarding Arkansas’ new voter ID law, Republicans announced a program Thursday to educate voters about it.

State GOP Chairman Doyle Webb says “Operation Vote Arkansas” is designed to assist people who don’t already have a photo ID.

“Once the Secretary of State’s office and the local counties are prepared to begin issuing IDs, the Arkansas GOP will activate its county level volunteer organizations in all 75 counties to help any voter who contacts us with the need to obtain a photo ID,” said Webb.

Michael Hibblen/ KUAR

As the cleanup of an oil spill continues, Arkansas’ Attorney General says it highlights the need for stricter pipeline standards.

Michael Hibblen/ KUAR

On Wednesday, state investigators are to visit the site of last week’s rupture of an oil pipeline in Mayflower.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says his office has also told ExxonMobil, which owns the Pegasus Pipeline, to preserve all documents and information related to the spill and ongoing cleanup efforts.

oil spill
Michael Hibblen/ KUAR

It could be several more days before nearly two dozen residents of a neighborhood in Mayflower will be able to return to their homes.

Crews continue cleaning up after an oil pipeline broke Friday.

Walking through the neighborhood, there’s still the distinct smell of oil, though Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson says it’s certainly much better than it was.

Malcolm Glover

Interstate 40 was closed in both directions east of Hazen because of an accident mid-morning Thursday near the White River Bridge involving three tractor-trailers and a car.  Around noon police began letting some westbound traffic through.

KUAR’s Malcolm Glover was at the scene and reports an official with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department told him that a car stopped on the interstate and was struck by one truck, with two others then colliding into the wreckage.

US Senator Mark Pryor
pryor.senate.gov

Sen. Mark Pryor, the sole Democrat remaining in Arkansas' congressional delegation, is bringing in the big guns as he formally kicks off his re-election campaign this weekend.

Former President Bill Clinton is among those expected at fundraisers Saturday evening in Little Rock. 

Three events are planned.  A dinner at the Peabody Hotel, a cocktail reception at the Statehouse Convention Center and what’s being called an Arkansas Celebration, also at the Statehouse. 

Governor Mike Beebe and former Senators David Pryor and Dale Bumpers are also expected. 

The Arkansas Attorney General’s office announced Tuesday a $7 million settlement has been reached with internet search giant Google over allegations it collected data from unsecured wireless networks.

The AG’s office says the information was collected by Google’s Street View cars, which took images for geolocation services.

Google acknowledges information gathered may have included addresses of requested web pages, email communications, as well as confidential or private information transmitted as the Google Street View cars were passing.

Nathan Vandiver

As Arkansas lawmakers consider an expansion of health care under the federal health care law, hundreds turned out Thursday for a bi-partisan rally on the steps of the state Capitol in favor of an expansion. 

Republican Sen. Jonathan Dismang of Beebe, who had been skeptical, told the crowd that members of his party are keeping an open mind and working to reach to reach an agreement.

"The interest exists and people are willing to dive into this and make sure they’re making truly informed decisions," Dismang said. 

Gov. Mike Beebe issued his second veto of this year’s legislative session Monday and again it was an abortion-related bill.

Lieutenant Governor's office

With Gov. Mike Beebe out of state attending a National Governors Association meeting in Washington, Lt. Gov. Mark Darr Friday signed into law a bill that makes private a list of people who can carry concealed weapons in Arkansas.

Gov. Beebe had said he would not sign the bill, but also would not veto it, which would allow it to become law five days after reaching his desk.

But in his role as Acting Governor, Darr signed it into law, saying in a written statement that he felt there should be no delay.

Rogers Photo Archive

With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 120 rare photos of the president will be on display next month in central Arkansas.

"The JFK 50 Years Later" exhibit will highlight rare and never before seen photos of John F. Kennedy and his family," said John Gaudin, chairman of the Board of Directors for the Argenta Arts Foundation.

The exhibit will be held at various arts locations and will be free to the public.

Michael Hibblen

A major new employer will be coming to east Arkansas IF the legislature approves start-up funding for the project.

Governor Mike Beebe announced Tuesday that a much talked about super-project involves a steel mill in Osceola.

"It is a $1.1 billion investment.  It is 525 direct, immediate jobs with an average salary of $75,000 a piece," Gov. Beebe said to applause in a packed conference room at the Capitol.

About 2,000 temporary construction jobs would also be created as the mill is being built.

Michael Hibblen

A former state lawmaker, who has led efforts concerning state highways in previous years, was appointed Thursday to the Arkansas Highway Commission.

Former House Speaker Robert Moore was named to a 10-year term, replacing commission Chairman Madison Murphy, whose term is expiring.

Moore said he realizes the significance and challenges of maintaining good highways and will look for innovative new ways to meet the challenges of funding needed work.

Winthrop Rockefeller Collection

The late Johnny Cash was well known for his prison concerts, but this weekend the BBC will air a special looking at one lesser-known prison show that helped spur reform in Arkansas.  You can listen to the show here.

The international broadcaster sent a reporter from London to Arkansas to research the performance at Cummins Prison in 1969.

For the first time since before the Civil War, Republicans Tuesday night won control of both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature.

Republican incumbents from Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives also won re-election, while Tom Cotton won the 4th district seat being vacated by Democrat Mike Ross.

But the margins in the state House and Senate weren't as wide as Republican leaders had hoped, suggesting both parties will still have to work together in reaching mutually satisfying agreements in the coming legislative session.

Michael Hibblen filled in hosting the program that week.
Joe Ely- You Can Bet I’m Gone (Satisfied At Last)
Norman Blake- The Railroad Days (Fields of November)
Steve Goodman- City of New Orleans (Live at the Earl of Old Town)
Robert Earl Keen- Five Pound Bass (The Road Goes On Forever)
Guy Clark- Dublin Blues (Dublin Blues)
Billy Joe Shaver & Kris Kristofferson- No Earthly Good
The Carper Family- Another Town (Come See Yer Ol’ Daddy)
Hayes Carll- Little Rock (Little Rock)
Merle Haggard- Branded Man (Down Every Road Box Set)

Rodney Crowell- Anything But Tame (Kin)
Pat Green- All Just To Get To You
Merle Haggard – Big City (The Bluegrass Sessions)
Johnny Cash – I Won’t Back Down (American III: Solitary Man)

Interview with Dr. Ruth Hawkins, director of the Arkansas Heritage Sites program, who is overseeing the restoration of Johnny Cash's boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas.  During a visit to Little Rock, she stopped by KUAR to provide an update on how the project is going.

Little Rock Airport
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Little Rock National Airport is being renamed in honor of Bill and Hillary Clinton. The airport's commission unanimously approved the name change Tuesday after hearing comments from the public.

Arkansas House Speaker-elect Darren Williams told the panel he believes it is an appropriate way to honor the 42nd President and the Secretary of State. 

Johnny Cash boyhoood home
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

On what would have been Johnny Cash's 80th birthday, dozens of family members joined hundreds of fans and residents in the east Arkansas town of Dyess Sunday to formally mark the beginning of work to restore his boyhood home.

"This project has been in the making for several years and I never thought that it would actually come to fruition," said daughter Rosanne Cash, who led the ceremony at the Dyess Community Center. "We never foresaw that it would take on this kind of life."

Michael Hibblen filled in hosting the program that week.

Johnny Cash- Like The 309 (American V: A Hundred Highways)
Rodney Crowell- Beautiful Despair (The Outsider)
Johnny Cash- I Still Miss Someone (Live at Madison Square Garden, 1969)
Johnny Cash- Five Feet High and Rising (Live at Madison Square Garden, 1969)
Johnny Cash- Pickin’ Time (Live at Madison Square Garden, 1969)

Michael Hibblen / KUAR

55 years ago, a modest home on West 28th Street in Little Rock was where the Little Rock Nine would meet to coordinate efforts to integrate Central High School.

During the days when National Guard troops kept them out of the school, it’s also where they would meet with tutors in the basement to keep up with their studies.

Today the home of L. C. and Daisy Bates is restored to the way it looked in those days and is available for tours from the National Park Service.

Arkansas Gazette
Arkansas Gazette

It was the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi River and an institution in Arkansas. This weekend former employees of the Arkansas Gazette will gather to mark the 20 year anniversary of the newspaper’s death.

The last issue of the Gazette hit the streets on October 18, 1991, capping a fierce battle between it and the Arkansas Democrat.

Rock Island Clinton Presidential Park Bridge Bill Clinton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Former President Bill Clinton led a dedication ceremony Friday in Little Rock for a new $10.5 million pedestrian and cycling pathway over the Arkansas River, which was built inside an old railroad bridge. He was joined by his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, daughter Chelsea, and the mayors of Little Rock and North Little Rock.

"This bridge is important because first, it keeps the promise we made," Clinton told the crowd. "We came up with the money that turned out to be two and a half times what the original estimate was to complete this trail loop.  It’s important.  I’m proud of it."

It was originally hoped that work to renovate the bridge, which was built in 1899, would be completed in time for the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Center in 2004.  But increasing costs led to it being repeatedly delayed.

Johnny Cash Festival
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A sold out show at Arkansas State University raised more than $310,000 for the restoration of the boyhood home of music legend Johnny Cash in the east Arkansas town of Dyess.

Four generations of the Cash family, including daughter Rosanne Cash, son-in-law Rodney Crowell and son John Carter Cash were on hand to pay homage to Cash, as were many of his longtime friends like Kris Kristofferson.

Two Rivers Park Bridge
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Hundreds of people came out Friday, many with their bicycles, for the dedication of the new Two Rivers Park Bridge.

"Welcome to your new bridge!” Pulaksi County Judge Buddy Villines said to a cheering crowd. 

The $5 million pedestrian and bicycle bridge crosses the Little Maumelle River where it meets the Arkansas River and links the Arkansas River Trail with Two Rivers Park. Construction of the bridge, which took a year build, was funded with 80 percent federal dollars and Pulaski County paying the rest. 

Dogpatch USA
wikipedia

It was once a big attraction in north Arkansas, but Dogpatch USA, a hillbilly theme park based on the Li'l Abner comic strip, closed in 1993.

Nearly two decades later, the property has now ended up in the hands of a 23-year-old who nearly died there. Pruett Nance and his family are considering what to do with the land, located between Jasper and Harrison.

In 2005, Nance was riding an ATV through the grounds when he was struck by a throat-high cable stretched between two trees.

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