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

Freshmen Democratic Arkansas state Representatives Megan Godfrey of Springdale and Jay Richardson of Fort Smith give the party's response to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's State of the State address Tuesday.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Democrats in the Arkansas Legislature responded to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s State of the State address Tuesday by detailing their priorities for the session that is just getting underway. In particular, they voiced concerns about the impact the governor’s proposed tax cut plan would have on the state budget.

Two freshmen representatives, Megan Godfrey of Springdale and Jay Richardson of Fort Smith, read a prepared statement saying that allocating money for highways and expanding pre-kindergarten education would benefit more Arkansans than expanding tax cuts .

Arkansas Legislature
Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

The 92nd General Assembly of Arkansas began Monday afternoon. Thousands of bills are expected to be considered in the coming months with proposals to cut individual income taxes and a reorganization of state government among the top issues.

Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp first gave the oath of office to the 100 members of the House of Representatives. He then went to the Senate to give the oath to its 35 members.

A rendering of an expanded I-30 corridor in downtown Little Rock. 30 Crossing
Arkansas Department of Transportation

A joint-venture has been approved to design and build the expansion of Interstate 30 through the downtowns of Little Rock and North Little Rock. Kiewit-Massman Constructors was one of six entities that responded with proposals to widen the nearly seven-mile stretch from six to 10 lanes.

But the cost is now much higher than the $325 million projected in 2013. Kiewit-Massman says it can do part of the project, which is centered around the Arkansas River Bridge, for $535 million. Work needed for areas further north and south would likely push the project to the $1 billion range.

Betsy Ward, president and CEO of USA Rice Federation, speaking at the Arkansas Rice Annual Meeting Tuesday in Stuttgart.
Arkansas Farm Bureau

The Arkansas Rice Annual Meeting took place Tuesday in Stuttgart. It’s a key event for industry and government leaders to discuss the state of agriculture.

Organizers say about 400 people attended the meeting, included several top state officials, state senators and state representatives.

David Wildy, a prominent Arkansas farmer, in a field of soybeans that were damaged by dicamba.
Dan Charles / NPR News

The Arkansas Agriculture Department has opened a 30-day public comment period regarding proposed regulations for the use of dicamba. The herbicide has been blamed in recent years for extensive crop damage after drifting on non-resistant vegetation. A public hearing has also been scheduled for next month.

Will Trice
The Rep

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre says it is hiring Tony Award-winning Broadway producer William Trice to become its new executive artistic director.

The announcement late Wednesday comes after a turbulent year for The Rep. Financial difficulties forced it to suspend operations in April, but the arts community rallied in support of the theater which, after evaluating its operations, returned with plans for an abbreviated season this year. 

marijuana
npr.org

As Arkansas works to finish implementing its medical marijuana program, Oklahoma is offering to let qualified people apply for temporary licenses and receive the drug there. But Arkansans would need a user ID card from the state Department of Health, and so far those haven’t been provided.

Mike Laux Lloyd St. Clair Benjamin Crump No knock raids police
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

More people are coming forward saying they too have been victimized through the Little Rock Police Department’s practice of "no-knock" drug raids. On Tuesday, civil rights attorneys Benjamin Crump and Mike Laux held a press conference that ran more than an hour and included 12 people sharing their experiences of officers using explosives to enter their homes.

Frank Scott Jr.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Two weeks before Little Rock Mayor-elect Frank Scott Jr. takes office, on Monday he announced the members of a transition team who will help him plan the city’s future. There will also be eight citizen-led subcommittees that will look at issues like education, economic development, public safety and quality of life.

French Hill
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An impasse remains between President Trump and congressional Democrats that could lead to a partial government shutdown next Friday. Arkansas’s 2nd district U.S. Rep. Republican French Hill, a Republican of Little Rock, says he’s disappointed that no resolution seems to be in sight and is considering the impact a shutdown would have in Arkansas.

You can hear his interview with KUAR above.

U.S. Senator John Boozman in the Republican Party of Arkansas headquarters in 2016 during a campaign interview.
KUAR News

UPDATE: By an 87-13 vote, the U.S. Senate approved the new farm bill on Tuesday, with Arkansas's two Republican senators split on the measure. Sen. John Boozman supported the bill, while Sen. Tom Cotton was among 12 members of his party voting against it.

The bill now advances to the House. The legislation allocates billions of dollars in sibsidies to farmers and guides national policies for the next five years.

UAMS
UAMS.edu

Arkansas legislators will be meeting next week as part of an ongoing inquiry into a partnership between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway. Arkansas Business delves into the conflict in this week’s issue:

Maumelle Interchange
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

After decades of discussion, construction of a new Interstate 40 interchange is getting underway in Maumelle. The nearly $15 million project will allow another access point in and out of the fast-growing city.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined members of the Arkansas Highway Commission, state legislators and city leaders for Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony. Work is expected to take 10 months to complete.

Terry Wallace
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming

Longtime Oaklawn racetrack announcer Terry Wallace has died after a lengthy illness, officials announced Thursday. He was 74.

From 1975 to 2011 Wallace never missed a race, calling a record 20,191 races at the Hot Springs track. He was eventually inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2009, KUAR’s Ron Breeding interviewed Wallace for a profile as he was nearing 20,000 consecutive races. The audio of that report can be heard above. Breeding also recorded video of Wallace calling one race, which can be watched below.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (left) listens to Arkansas School Safety Commission Chair Cheryl May during a press conference Monday to unveil the commission's final report with recommendations for schools.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

After nine months of work, the Arkansas School Safety Commission released its final report Monday with recommendations on how schools could take steps to avoid and respond to mass shootings. The panel was created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in March as a response to a school shooting in Parkland, Florida where 17 people were killed. 

Attorney Solomon Radner (left) with plaintiffs Tyrone Jackson and Tasheara announcing the lawsuit Wednesday. They contend the Power Ultra Lounge was negligent by not providing better security.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Nineteen people who were injured during a mass shooting last year at a Little Rock nightclub are suing the manager of the Power Ultra Lounge and its property owner. Twenty-five people were hit when gunfire erupted between rival gang members at a performance by the rapper known as Finese2Tymes. Three others were injured while trying to escape the club.

Attorney Solomon Radner of Southfield, Mich. says the club was negligent by failing to have adequately trained security and staff for that kind of event.

Union Pacific
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Union Pacific is cutting 60 jobs in central Arkansas as part of a second round of layoffs nationwide. A spokeswoman said Monday the local positions come from the railroad’s locomotive servicing and car repair shops in North Little Rock.

The company is eliminating 675 positions nationwide during the fourth quarter of the year. A further reduction in the size of its workforce is planned, company officials say, as Union Pacific works to improve profitability.

The railroad serves 23 states in the western two-thirds of the U.S. and employs about 2,500 people in Arkansas.

Delta Queen
www.deltaqueen.com

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Tuesday on legislation that would allow a steamboat built in the 1920s to resume taking passengers up and down the Mississippi River and tributaries like the Arkansas River.

A bill regarding the Delta Queen has already passed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 94-to-6.

Lee Powell, executive director of the Delta Grassroots Caucus, has been advocating for the legislation. He says the steamboat resuming operations would create 150 jobs and spur tourism. But there would also be broader benefits, he said.

White Bluff Coal Plant
Wil Chandler / Arkansas Business

Entergy Arkansas has agreed to replace two of the state’s largest coal-fired power plants with cleaner energy facilities.

As part of a settlement with the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association, the White Bluff plant in Jefferson County will halt operations by 2028 and the Independence plant in Independence County by be shut down by 2030.

Both lack modern emissions controls and, a lawsuit alleged, violate the federal Clean Air Act.

Rubber bands
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Executives with a Hot Springs-based rubber band manufacturer were in Washington, DC on Tuesday appealing for help against what they say is unfair competition from foreign companies. Leaders of Alliance Rubber Company met with representatives of the International Trade Commission for the meeting which was focused on whether the company has been injured or faces the threat of injury from the foreign competitors.

Jason Risner, director of business strategy for Alliance Rubber Company, says imported rubber bands are being sold at unreasonable prices.

Robinson Center
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A new permanent exhibit tells the history of Little Rock’s Robinson Center. The auditorium opened in 1939 and has hosted important events and performances over the decades. Two years ago it reopened after a $70 million renovation and expansion.

On Friday a curtain was dropped along a wall on the second floor unveiling the 50-foot long display, with a crowd responding with applause. At the start of the timeline is a nearly 10-foot tall photo of former Arkansas Governor and U.S. Senator Joe T. Robinson.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Chief State STEM Officer/ State Director of Computer Science Education Anthony Owen
Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is touting an increase in the number of Arkansas students enrolled in computer science classes. The current school year saw a 30 percent increase for middle and high school students compared to the previous year.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday at the Capitol, Hutchinson said that will have long term benefits.

French Hill Clarke Tucker
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The race for Arkansas’s 2nd Congressional District of the U.S. House of Representatives proved to be among the most competitive in the state. Incumbent Republican French Hill didn’t make a victory speech until almost 11 p.m. Tuesday night after it became clear he had won the election.

Final election results from the Secretary of State's office:

Republican French Hill: 131,760 (52.1 %)
Democrat Clarke Tucker: 115,749 (45.8 %) 
Libertarian Joe Ryne Swafford: 5,176 (2.0 %)

Election Voters Voting
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Polls in Arkansas closed at 7:30 p.m. for Tuesday’s midterm election. Voting locations around the state were busy.

At one polling location in Little Rock's Capitol View-Stifft’s Station neighborhood, voter Barbara Stafan called this an important election for her because of what she called "the incivility of our country."

Pat Watson, another voter, called this election critical.

A poll conducted by the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville shows 23 percent of the people in the state think healthcare is the most important problem.
Creative Commons

The 20th annual Arkansas Poll published by the University of Arkansas suggests that healthcare is the most important problem in the state replacing the economy. 23 percent of participants said it was important compared to the 15 percent who thought the economy is a priority. Last year the economy was at 28 percent and healthcare was at 14 percent.

Poll Director, Dr. Janine Parry, says it’s a reflection of the current environment.

Alan Leveritt
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The presence of one central Arkansas media entity is changing. The Arkansas Times – which for more than 25 years has been a weekly publication – will transition in February to a glossy monthly magazine.

It was originally a monthly when it debuted in 1974, but after the closing of the Arkansas Gazette 26 years ago, became a weekly to provide timely coverage.

Alan Leveritt is publisher of the Times and spoke with KUAR about the impending change.

KUAR and Arkansas Public Media won eight awards at this year’s competition of the Arkansas chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The 2018 Diamond Journalism Awards were handed out Thursday evening in Little Rock. The honors are for reporting that was published or broadcast between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

Below are the three categories that KUAR and Arkansas Public Media entered along with links to the award-winning reports and comments provided from the judges.

A study released Thursday by the Brookings Institution and the Walton Family Foundation looks at the economic health of a 19 state region in the middle of the country, including Arkansas.

"The State of the Heartland : Factbook 2018" uses socioeconomic factors to look at the how the area’s economy has been performing in recent years compared to the rest of the country. The full report can be found here.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
Facebook

A company hired to grade Arkansas medical marijuana dispensary applications says it can deliver scores to the state by the end of next month. But at a meeting Tuesday, the chair of the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission voiced concerns that no physicians are part of the scoring team.

Thomas Aldridge, a manager with Public Consulting Group, spoke with commissioners about the process to help decide who should get the 32 licenses for dispensaries that will be spread throughout the state. About 200 entities have submitted applications.

Students prepare for a previous presentation of Tales of the Crypt at Little Rock's historic Mount Holly Cemetery.
Parkview High School

Rain is again impacting the annual Tales of the Crypt which is normally held at Little Rock’s historic Mount Holly Cemetery. The event features high school students portraying the many notable people who are buried there.

It was originally scheduled to be held last Tuesday, Oct. 9, but thunderstorms prompted organizers to postpone it until this Tuesday. With rain again in the forecast, the event will not be held at the cemetery, but instead in the auditorium at Parkview Arts & Science Magnet High School.

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