Michael Hibblen

News Director

Michael Hibblen is the News Director for UA Little Rock Public Radio. He oversees news coverage for KUAR, which includes assignments for the staff, helping develop story ideas, editing news copy and ensuring accuracy and fairness in all reporting. Michael is also a regular panelist and fill-in host on AETN's Arkansas Week, where journalists discuss issues in the news.

A native of North Little Rock, Michael 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, Michael became a nationally-heard, Miami-based reporter for CBS Radio 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 newspaper The Miami Herald in 2003 when it partnered with NPR station WLRN to provide local news. Michael initially worked as a morning news anchor and reporter, later became the department's editor and then assistant news director. He also wrote frequently for the newspaper.

Michael 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. Michael 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 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

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.

Jon Woods
Ashley Gardner

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jon Woods was sentenced Wednesday to more than 18 years and four months in prison for his role in a bribery scheme. The Republican must also serve three years of supervised release and pay over $1.6 million in restitution.

Woods was convicted in May of 15 felony charges. Prosecutors alleged he took kickbacks in exchanging for steering state money to a private Christian college. Woods co-defendant, Randall Shelton Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday.

Elizabeth Eckford
National Park Service/ Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A bench now on display across from Little Rock’s Central High School commemorates one key moment from the school’s desegregation. It is a replica of one Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine sat on in 1957 after being kept from entering the school by national guardsmen.

Tuesday’s unveiling coincided with the 61st anniversary of the event.

Central High School’s Memory Project aims to encourage students to remember past events of the high school and to keep the memory of the Civil Rights Movement alive.

Jon Woods
Arkansas Times

A sentencing hearing is to begin Wednesday at 9 a.m. for former Arkansas state Senator Jon Woods. He and several others have been convicted or pleaded guilty as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation. Woods' co-defendant Randell Shelton Jr. will be sentenced Thursday, while their accomplices are scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Doug Thompson, a reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, covered Woods' trial from start to finish and spoke with KUAR about Woods' case.

File photo: Gov. Asa Hutchinson presenting part of his Arkansas Works plan, the state's version of Medicaid expansion.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Thousands of Arkansans are at risk of losing their healthcare coverage this weekend for failing to comply with a recently enacted work requirement for the state's Medicaid expansion program. The deadline is Friday at 5 p.m.

August is the third month that a work requirement has been in place for the Arkansas Works program. Enrollees who fail to report three months in a row will lose their coverage on the first day of the following month. That means those who haven't reported anything will be cut from the program on Saturday.

Downtown Little Rock
Wikimedia Commons

Central Arkansas leaders fear the region is fighting a problem of perception. While northwest Arkansas is viewed as booming, the Little Rock metro area – at least according to some around the country – appears to be struggling.

Arkansas Business reporter Kyle Massey digs into that for a story in this week’s issue. He spoke with KUAR's Michael Hibblen during Morning Edition, which you can hear above.

Interview Highlights

Rusty Cranford
Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

Next week, the first in a series of sentencing hearings will be held for former Arkansas lawmakers, a college president and others who were convicted or pleaded guilty for their roles in a wide-ranging corruption scheme.

It’s a complicated story largely centered around Rusty Cranford, a once-powerful lobbyist. Reporter David Ramsey wrote about this in a story for the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.

Bill Gwatney
Arkansas Business

Monday marked the 10th anniversary of the murder of Bill Gwatney, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. He was shot August 13, 2008 at the party’s state headquarters in Little Rock and died several hours later. The gunman would be shot and killed by police later that afternoon.

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre
www.therep.org

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre in Little Rock, which shut down in April because of financial difficulties, is preparing to reopen with a new season of performances in January.

The turnaround of the professional theater is thanks to more than $500,000 in donations, which was matched by the Windgate Charitable Foundation in Siloam Springs, according to Ruth Shepherd, the chair-elect for The Rep’s board of directors.

Arkansas Baptist College
Arkansas Business

Arkansas Baptist College is again struggling to organize its finances. Members of the school’s board blame former President Joseph Jones with squandering a budget surplus by not focusing on enrollment and replacing staffers with new employees who were paid higher salaries.

Jones is accused of hiding the deteriorating financial situation from the board until the college was in a crisis. Now officials are working to address an estimated $4 million hole.

Arkansas Business digs into the situation in this week’s issue:

Jeff Sessions Cody Hiland
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Arkansas on Wednesday for a pair of events. Speaking at the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, he called for a fix to a Supreme Court ruling regarding violent offenders. Sessions later joined Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other officials near Hot Springs to discuss school safety.

30 Crossing
Arkansas Department of Transportation

Public comments are being compiled on a $630 million proposal to widen Interstate 30 from six to 10 lanes in central Arkansas. Friday was the deadline for people to give their thoughts on an environmental assessment, with the proposal to now be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration for approval.

Hotel Pines
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A $35 million project is underway in Pine Bluff to restore the once-grand Hotel Pines. The 105-year-old structure at the corner of 5th Avenue and Main Street was designed by George Mann, the same architect who designed the Arkansas state Capitol and the Marion Hotel in Little Rock.

Hughes Street Interstate 630 I-630 expansion
Arkansas Department of Transportation

U.S. District Judge James Moody said he will likely issue a decision Tuesday on whether to halt an expansion project just getting underway on Interstate 630 in Little Rock. On Monday he heard a full day of oral arguments and testimony that continued into the evening. 

Stone Bank
Arkansas Business

Despite predictions that brick-and-mortar bank branches would be rapidly declining in this online era, the number of bank locations in Arkansas actually increased over the last budget year. Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Moritz wrote about that in this week’s issue, which was released Monday.

Like ink-on-paper publications, brick-and-mortar bank branches are taking much longer to die out than predicted when the millennium was new.

Hughes Street Interstate 630 I-630 expansion
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As a construction zone is being set up to widen a 2.2-mile stretch of Interstate 630 in Little Rock, a federal lawsuit aims to bring the $87.4 million project to a halt. One lane is to be added in each direction between Baptist Health Medical Center and University Avenue.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas argues that a proper environmental assessment was not conducted. Attorney Richard Mays is asking for a temporary restraining order which would stop construction until the lawsuit can be heard in court.

Relocation, Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration
www.relocationarkansas.com

A documentary film probes the impact that a World War II Japanese American internment camp had on a community in southeast Arkansas, and on later generations. "Relocation, Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration" is being shown Friday at 3 p.m. at the Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock.

Bishop Woosley Arkansas Lottery
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery reports that during the budget year that ended June 30, a record $500.4 million in revenue was collected. Nearly $92 million of that will go toward college scholarships, which is the third highest amount since the lottery was created in 2009.

"We broke several records, and we had an excellent year for our proceeds," said Lottery Director Bishop Woosley. He attributed the growth to a number of factors, including large Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots, along with growth in the sales of instant ticket games.

Louis Jordan Highway
Stephen Koch / Arkansongs

A pioneering musician from Brinkley is being posthumously honored by having part of U.S. 49 in eastern Arkansas dedicated as the Louis Jordan Memorial Highway. A ceremony was held Monday with officials from the Arkansas Department of Transportation and other dignitaries who came together to unveil a sign alongside the highway.

Arkansas Works Governor Asa Hutchinson Work Requirement
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Unless there has been a rush of people this week who successfully logged on to a state website before a 9 p.m. deadline Thursday, thousands of Arkansas Works enrollees will be out of compliance with a newly-enacted work requirement.

Marci Manley, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, says that of the 8,534 people who needed to check in, as of June 29, only 370 had reported that they were in compliance. If the enrollees fail to report their information for three months over a 12-month period, she says they will lose their healthcare coverage.

Arkansas School Safety Commission
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas School Safety Commission is recommending that each school in the state have an armed presence on campus. That means at least one trained person with a firearm would be available to immediately respond to any act of violence, including an active shooter.

The recommendation was one of 19 included in a preliminary report from the panel, which was created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson after a February school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 students and staff and wounded 17 others.

KAAY Barry McCorkindale Arkansas Sounds John Miller
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A legendary Little Rock radio station will be celebrated with an event Friday night. In its heyday during the 1960s and '70s, KAAY-AM 1090 played top 40 music during the day and progressive rock at night. With a powerful signal that reached most of Arkansas during the day, at night KAAY's secondary pattern reached much of the U.S., as well as other counties.

Arkansas Razorbacks Blaine Knight
University of Arkansas

The Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team could win its first national championship Wednesday night. Arkansas faces Oregon State beginning at 6 p.m. after winning the first game Tuesday 4-1. If Arkansas loses Wednesday night, a decisive game three will be held Thursday.

KUAR spoke with veteran Arkansas sports writer Harry King about what has put the Razorbacks in such a strong position this year. You can hear the interview above.

Rev. Betsy Singleton Snyder of First United Methodist Church calls for compassion for migrant families during Wednesday's press conference.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Midway through a press conference with the Arkansas leaders of several religious denominations who were calling for an end to separating children from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico, David Cook’s phone vibrated. The legislative director for Faith Voices Arkansas read a news bulletin that said President Donald Trump had reversed his position on families caught crossing into the U.S.

Cook then stepped to the podium to share the news.

Jake Files
Arkansas Times

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jake Files was sentenced Monday to 18 months in federal prison for what the judge called "egregious" violations. The Republican of Fort Smith pleaded guilty in January to charges of wire fraud, money laundering and bank fraud as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

A revised set of standards for accrediting Arkansas public schools is scheduled to be considered Tuesday afternoon by the Administrative Rules and Regulations Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council. 

The changes were unanimously approved May 30 by the Arkansas Board of Education, despite concerns from some like board Chairman Jay Barth who worry the new rules could be too much of a departure from a uniform set of standards.

Arkansas Supreme Court Lee Rudofsky
courts.arkansas.gov

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday in a challenge by the state to a circuit judge’s order that halted the issuing of medical marijuana cultivation licenses. It was also revealed that investigators are looking into allegations that a bribe was offered by one company to a member of the Medical Marijuana Commission.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled in March that the process for how the commission decided which companies would get five licenses was constitutionally flawed.

Almost 25 years to the day that Conway Twitty died at the age of 59, relatives, former bandmates and fans of the country and rockabilly singer gathered Friday in his hometown of Helena, Arkansas for a celebration of his life. 

Born Harold Lloyd Jenkins in 1933 at Friars Point, Mississippi, his family moved to east Arkansas at the age of 10. After serving in the military, he returned home and had to decide between two dreams: music or baseball, according to Doug Friedlander, organizer of Friday's events. Inspired by the sound of Elvis Pressley, Jenkins traveled to Memphis, working with Sam Phillips at Sun Records.

Asa Hutchinson III
Washington Co. Sheriff's Office

The son of Gov. Asa Hutchinson has again been arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated, authorities report.

An Arkansas State Police tropper stopped William Asa Hutchinson III in Washington County early Monday for allegedly driving 88 miles-per-hour in an area where the speed limit is 70. Hutcinson reportedly had bloodshot eyes, prompting the trooper to investigate whether he was intoxicated. He was speeding, DWI, violation of the implied consent law. The final charge was because he refused to submit to a test that would determine his blood-alcohol content.

Donald Trump speaking at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

As Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson faces a challenge from the right in Tuesday’s Republican primary election, he now has the backing of President Trump.

The endorsement came in the form of a tweet Monday evening after Hutchinson and four other Republican governors dined with the president at the White House to discuss border security and other issues. Trump wrote on Twitter that Hutchinson had “done an incredible job with a focus on lower taxes, border security and crime prevention.”

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