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: 501-916-6377

Email: michael@kuar.org

Ways to Connect

Mike Preston
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas has not had a new positive case of COVID-19 reported over the last 24 hours, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced mid-morning Tuesday. It's the first day since state officials began conducting daily briefings last Wednesday that there has not been an uptick in diagnosed cases, with the number standing at 22.

But with testing for the virus ramping up, he expects the number will rise.

COVID-19 Education Secretary Johnny Key
Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is ordering all Arkansas schools to be closed starting Tuesday, continuing through the end of the week, to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Speaking Sunday alongside health and education officials, he also announced four new cases have been confirmed, bringing the total in the state to 16. 

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission is preparing to consider whether to renew licenses for the state’s dispensaries and growers. During Wednesday’s regular commission meeting, renewal meetings are to be scheduled.

Commissioners must decide by the end of April which licenses will be renewed for the next fiscal year. The state constitutional amendment approved by Arkansas voters in 2016 calls for the licenses to be renewed annually.

Arkansas Department of Health Director Nathaniel Smith and Gov. Asa Hutchinson speak to reporters Wednesday about the first presumptive case of the coronavirus reported in the state.
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas now has its first presumptive case of the coronavirus. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the head of the state Department of Health announced Wednesday the person is from the Pine Bluff area and is in isolation at a hospital. They said the case is likely not part of a widespread outbreak 

National Association of Black Veterans state commander Lisa  Moss photographs the historical marker for Frank Moore that unveiled Friday at Little Rock National Cemetery. Elaine massacre Elaine 12 twelve
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A historical marker was unveiled Friday at Little Rock National Cemetery noting where a black sharecropper is buried who helped bring a labor union to Phillips County in eastern Arkansas, leading to what would be the bloodiest racial uprising in state history. Frank Moore, a veteran of World War I, would be convicted for his alleged role in the deaths of five white men, and was later the namesake of a precedent-setting case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court that led to his release.

Polling location vote here
Michael HIbblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Democrats coalesced behind Joe Biden in his bid for president on Tuesday. Final results from the Secretary of State’s office show he won by a nearly two-to-one margin over second place finisher Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Arkansas Democratic Primary Results (100% of precincts reporting):

Joe Biden: 40.5
Bernie Sanders: 22.4
Michael Bloomberg: 16.7
Elizabeth Warren: 10.0

Rock Island
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An $880,000 federal grant is being awarded to Pulaski County to build part of a pedestrian and bicycling path that will link Little Rock and Hot Springs. The Southwest Trail will mostly be constructed on two former railroad right-of-ways.

Amy Klobuchar
Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential candidates are hoping to rally momentum in Arkansas during the final week before the state takes part in Super Tuesday's primary election.

On Monday, Michael Bloomberg’s campaign said the former New York City mayor will return to Arkansas on Thursday to speak at a rally in Bentonville. The announcement comes one day after Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota spoke to an enthusiastic crowd in central Arkansas.

Amy Klobuchar
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar is returning to Arkansas this weekend. The Minnesota senator is scheduled to speak at a rally Sunday beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the Maumelle Event Center.

It comes just over a week before Arkansas will be among 14 states taking part in primary elections that could give a solid boost to a candidate in the Democratic race.

marijuana
npr.org

Nine months after Arkansas’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened for business, the first facility in Little Rock has been approved to begin operations.

Frederick Love Fred
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

With less than a month before Arkansas Democrats vote in the presidential primary, the state is getting more attention from the candidates’ campaigns. Arkansas is one of 14 states that will be taking part in Super Tuesday on March 3, with early voting to begin Feb. 18.

Oaklawn Racing & Gaming

Sunday was the first time patrons of Arkansas casinos have been allowed to wager on the outcome of the Super Bowl. Bets placed on the NFL championship game exceeded $705,000, according to data released Tuesday by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Sports wagering was included as part of an amendment approved by voters in 2018. Three casinos are now in operation in the state, while a legal challenge is pending over the fourth casino, which will be built in Pope County.

Casino casinos Saracen Casino Resort full Caption: Gamblers enjoying the modern slot machines at the Saracen Annex in Pine Bluff earlier this month. Casino gaming made its debut in Arkansas in 2019.
Arkansas Business

As gambling is expanding in Arkansas, the entities operating the three full-fledged casinos open so far are tracking every aspect of what their customers are doing to find what games have the broadest appeal and target the most ideal demographics.

Alexander Beeser Lyon College beer fermentation
Lyon College

Lyon College in Batesville, Ark. is introducing a new course for students this Spring: beer fermentation. The class, a liberal arts hybrid laboratory offered to students 21 years and older, is taught by biology professor Dr. Alexander Beeser. He saw a need to offer more opportunities to inspire students to take science classes, beyond the credits needed for graduation.

As the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump gets underway in the U.S. Senate, Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas said he and his colleagues recognize the gravity of the situation. The Republican also said he wouldn’t be surprised if the chamber eventually votes to allow witnesses to testify

The state’s senior senator spoke with KUAR News about the impeachment trial, sharing his thoughts and expectations.

MICHAEL HIBBLEN: First off, how do you feel as this begins given everything that has happened leading up to this in the House and now coming to the Senate?

Michael Bloomberg
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg returned to Arkansas Monday, the second time he has visited the state since announcing he was running for the nation's highest office. The former New York City mayor walked near the front of Little Rock’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. parade, surrounded by supporters wearing "I Like Mike" shirts and waving signs.

A women’s suffrage rally on the steps of the Arkansas state Capitol in 1917 celebrating passage of a bill to allow Arkansas women to vote in primary elections. Gov. Charles Brough can be seen standing in the front row, wearing a black tie and white jacket
Encyclopedia of Arkansas

An event taking place Friday in Helena will delve into the role Arkansas played in helping women get the right to vote in the U.S. The 19th Amendment was adopted in 1920 and the Delta Cultural Center is marking the 100th anniversary with a discussion of the women’s suffrage movement in the state.

Center Curator Drew Ulrich says it’s a complex history that eventually led to Arkansas ratifying the federal amendment. But, as was the case elsewhere in the country, there were racial and economic overtones.

Little Rock Police Officer Charles Starks shooting 30-year-old Bradley Blackshire who was in a stolen car on Feb. 22, 2019.
Little Rock Police Department

A Pulaski County circuit judge has ruled a Little Rock police officer who shot and killed a suspect in a stolen car should not have been fired for his actions. In a written opinion issued Thursday, Judge Timothy Fox said a 30-day suspension was "clearly warranted" and a reduction in pay to that of an entry-level officer was "appropriate," but that Starks didn't deserve any additional penalties.

NEA Full Spectrum More than $25 million has been spent by Arkansas patients to buy medical marijuana so far this year, according to the state.
Johnathan Reaves / KASU News

Arkansans have spent $25.7 million for medical marijuana since the state’s first dispensary opened its doors in May, the Department of Finance and Administration reported Tuesday. The sales figure was released on the eve of the expected opening of the state’s 14th dispensary on Wednesday.

"We are really experiencing a busy December," said department spokesman Scott Hardin.

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.

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