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

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Attorneys defending the state in a lawsuit by Arkansas death row inmates challenging the use of a drug in lethal injections called a series of officials to the stand Tuesday who witnessed executions carried out two years ago. They included the warden who organized the executions, a former prosecutor and two state senators, with all testifying that the inmates did not seem to experience any pain.

Little Rock federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Attorneys for the state began calling witnesses Monday in a lawsuit brought by 18 Arkansas death row inmates who are challenging the use of the drug midazolam in lethal injections. Testimony by a pharmacologist and an anesthesiologist directly contradicted witnesses in similar positions and testified last week for the plaintiffs.

Federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An anesthesiologist testified Friday in the lawsuit brought by a group of Arkansas death row inmates that two of the prisoners who were put to death in 2017 likely suffered "excruciating" pain because of the first drug used in the state’s lethal injection process. Dr. Gail Van Norman from Seattle said that’s because midazolam has no significant clinical anesthetic effects.

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Department of Correction

Testimony in a federal lawsuit over Arkansas’s use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections shifted Wednesday from witnesses of recent executions to expert testimony. Attorneys for a group of death row inmates are trying to establish that the execution process inflicts unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Craig W. Stevens, a professor of pharmacology at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa, said that midazolam, which is the first of three drugs used, would not effectively keep inmates from feeling the following drugs, which stop the heart and paralyze the muscles.

Little Rock federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal trial is underway with a group of Arkansas death row inmates challenging the state’s use of a sedative which is the first of three drugs used in the current lethal injection protocol. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that midazolam is not effective in fully knocking prisoners unconscious before the lethal drugs are administered, causing an unnecessary amount of pain. An attorney for the state said the inmates can’t prove its use is unconstitutional.

Asa Hutchinson signing bills
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

All bills passed during the 2019 session of the Arkansas General Assembly have been signed into law. Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not veto any bills this year. He signed the final pieces of legislation Wednesday afternoon alongside several lawmakers.

A formal adjournment is set to take place next Wednesday when lawmakers return to the Capitol for Sine Die. In some previous years, that has been when senators and representatives have had to consider whether to attempt to override gubernatorial vetoes, something that won’t be necessary this time.

A book looks at the murder of an Arkansas woman and the impact such a horrific incident had on family members of the victim. Genie Massey wrote about the death of her aunt Tresia Jester who was shot late one night on March 21, 1992 in Pine Bluff.

A new documentary film called “State of the Art” will make its Little Rock premier Saturday night with a free screening at the Ron Robinson Theater before being aired nationally on PBS. It was produced by AETN and Arkansas award-winning filmmakers Craig and Brent Renaud.

Asa Hutchinson Rosanne Cash Johnny Cash Daisy Bates
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Statues of singer Johnny Cash and civil rights leader Daisy Bates will eventually represent Arkansas in the U.S. Capitol. Gov. Asa Hutchinson was joined by members of the Cash family and the goddaughter of Bates for a bill signing ceremony Thursday at the state Capitol.

"This is an occasion that deserves a celebration about Arkansas history, about how we represent ourselves to the nation," Hutchinson said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, surrounded by legislative leaders, signs one of three tax reform bills into law Tuesday.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a package of tax cut bills into law Tuesday saying all Arkansans will benefit from the changes. Tax reform was a key priority for the governor during this year’s session of the Arkansas General Assembly.

Included in the legislation is a requirement that, beginning July 1, will require large out-of-state online retailers like Amazon to collect sales and use taxes from in-state buyers.

Private school voucher
Arkansas Legislature

Legislation that would create a tax credit allowing up to $3 million a year to cover the tuition of hundreds of students at private schools across Arkansas failed to advance Thursday in a House committee. After extensive debate, members of the House Education Committee voted 11-7 against SB539 which passed last week in the Senate.

Hillary Clinton
KLRE-KUAR Archives

Former 2016 presidential candidate and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is to speak next month in Hot Springs. The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts announced Wednesday that she will deliver the commencement address to the 2019 graduating class on May 25.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas was the first state in the nation to be granted a waiver by the federal government to impose a work requirement on those with healthcare coverage through the state’s Medicaid expansion. With Wednesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg which halted the requirement, Arkansas leaders have been reacting on nationally-heard NPR programs.

The judge said the requirement undermines the very purpose of Medicaid which is to give medical care to low-income people .

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is lending his support to legislation that would create a five-year pilot program using state money to cover the cost of sending low-income students to private schools in Pulaski County. It’s called the Capital Promise Scholarship and would provide up to $3.5 million annually from the governor’s discretionary fund to pay the tuition of about 500 children.

Johnny Cash Daisy Bates
Library of Congress/ National Park Service

A proposal to replace Arkansas’s two statues in the U.S. Capitol with singer Johnny Cash and civil rights leader Daisy Bates has advanced to the state House of Representatives for what could be a final vote. The bill was passed in the Arkansas Senate last month with no one voting against it.

Ed Holman, chairman of the Arkansas Residential Assisted Living Association, on the witness stand Wednesday while being questioned by plaintiff's attorney Ashley Hudson.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas will transition as planned Friday to a managed care system for treating the state’s mentally ill. After more than seven hours of arguments and testimony, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza refused on Wednesday night to issue a temporary restraining order requested by a group of residential care facilities.

Debate centered on whether three managed-care companies are ready to assume responsibility for about 43,000 Arkansans with varying degrees of mental illness.

Luke Kramer STARR Coalition
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Little Rock as a group of healthcare providers is asking a judge to delay Arkansas’s transition to managed care. The changeover is set to take place Friday, but the plaintiffs say the state hasn’t adequately set up the new system which will lead to disruptions of service.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, surrounded by legislators and educators, signs a bill into law Monday that raises the minimum pay for teachers.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The minimum salary for Arkansas teachers will be going up. On Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law that incrementally raises the minimum pay over the next four years, eventually reaching $36,000.

Hutchinson was joined by lawmakers, educators and college students preparing to become teachers for the ceremony at the Arkansas Department of Education.

Dan Douglas

Legislation has been sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson that would ban most abortions in Arkansas if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. A spokesman for Hutchinson, J.R. Davis, said via text, "The Governor expects to sign the bill next week."

Joe Jett Jonathan Dismang
Arkansas Legislature

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s proposal to cut the state’s top income tax rate is advancing to a final vote. Members of the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation debated the $97 million proposal for about an hour Tuesday before approving it. But its future in the full chamber is uncertain.

During the committee hearing, Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, said a decision shouldn’t be rushed and proposed an amendment that would limit the tax cut to people earning less than $456,000 a year.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission

Final approval has been given to 32 Arkansas businesses to sell medical marijuana. State officials say the drug could be available to people with qualifying conditions by April.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Tuesday that each of the businesses selected to become a dispensary has paid the required $15,000 license fee and posted a $100,000 performance bond. Four companies were selected in each of the eight zones established statewide.

Maxine Brown Russell
County Music Hall of Fame

Maxine Brown Russell, a country music singer and songwriter who performed as part of a trio with her siblings Jim Ed Brown and Bonnie Brown, died Monday in hospice care in Little Rock. She was 87.

The Browns had several hits in the 1950s and ‘60s, including "The Three Bells" which topped Billboard’s country and Hot 100 pop charts for weeks and sold more than a million copies. The group was also nominated for a Grammy. They joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1963 and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015.

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. 


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.