The Online Home And Archive Of Radio Journalist Michael Hibblen




The Hotel Pines was once considered one of the finest hotels in Arkansas, but after being closed 44 years, it is in bad shape. After an especially rough winter, a group of photographers is working to document the building, while it's also being studied by architecture students. I went along during one visit and put together this feature.

Little Rock's historic Robinson Center Music Hall recently closed to begin an extensive renovation to modernize the facility. I've reported extensively on this, including opposition to the $68 million project, as officials were Debating holding an election, the Vote by the city board, a walk-through with officials on what Work will be done, then finally, the Ceremony that formally began the project.

With a Pulaski County circuit judge's ruling, Arkansas became the latest state to allow Same-Sex Marriage. I covered the inital rush of couples at the county courthouse at dawn the following business day to get marriage licenses and immediately take their vows. There were Appeals, with marriages starting and stopping until a final decision halted them until the Arkansas Supreme Court can consider the matter.

As final work is being completed to open Johnny Cash's boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas as a museum, his daughter Rosanne Cash came to Little Rock for a show in advance of the release of a new album that she says was inspired by her travels through the south. I interviewed her for this story.

See my Previous Reports for KUAR.

  On the air at KUAR
After26 years in radio, today I'm the news director of KUAR FM 89.1, the NPR station in Little Rock, Arkansas. I'm a native Arkansan who returned to my hometown in 2009 after 12 years in Miami, Florida. While my passion is radio, I have also written for newspapers and appear regularly on the public TV program Arkansas Week.



Friday, July 11, 2014

Filling in hosting AETN's Arkansas Week


I'm a regular panelist on the week in review program Arkansas Week, but occasionally get the opportunity to fill in hosting the program when regular host Steve Barnes is out.

That week I started the program with a newsmaker interview, discussing efforts to place a proposal on the November ballot to gradually raise the minimum wage in Arkansas from $6.25 to $8.50 an hour. Then I was joined by that week's panel, which included University of Arkansas journalism professor Hoyt Purvis, KUAR political reporter Jacob Kauffman and Ouachita Baptist University political science reporter Hal Bass.




Monday, April 28, 2014

Reporting for NPR News on a devastating tornado touchdown in Arkansas

An image from social media immediately after the tornado hit, giving the first hint of the devastation.On Sunday, April 27, 2014, shortly before sunset, an incredibly powerful tornado, estimated by storm chasers to be about a half-mile wide, touched down just west of Little Rock. Over the next hour it traveled about 40 miles causing widespread destruction, especially in the towns of Ferndale, Mayflower and Vilonia. Images posted immediately to social media, like the one to the left, gave a hint of the devastation. It wasn't until the sun came up the next morning that we learned the full scope of the fury of this tornado, which killed at least 15 people in Arkansas, destroyed entire neighborhoods and picked up vehicles, tossing them hundreds of feet. A large-scale rescue response was immediately launched to find victims, provide assistance for those displaced and to begin restoring basic services.

NPR.orgAs the magnitude of the tornado became clear, I began reporting on the story for NPR, providing extensive coverage over the next 24 hours. Sunday evening I filed spots for newscasts, then Monday I reported on networks programs throughout the day, which you can hear on links below. I first went on the air during Morning Edition, describing what was known at that point during a two-way with host David Green. I then traveled up to Mayflower, just north of Little Rock, to talk with residents who had survived the storm by hunkering down wherever they could, and to get initial assessments from state and emergency officials. I went on the air live via cell phone from Mayflower during Here & Now, then traveled back to KUAR to produce a piece for All Things Considered.

Below are links to NPR stories with my reports on the tornado:

  • Morning Edition two-way with host David Green, Monday, April 28, 2014.

  • Live Here & Now two-way by cell phone from Mayflower, Arkansas with host Robin Young, April 28, 2014.

  • Report for All Things Considered, April 28, 2014.

  • The same storm system went on to cause destruction in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Florida Panhandle and was blamed for causing a total of at least 35 deaths in the region. As of this writing, President Obama is planning to make a visit to Arkansas on Wednesday, May 7, to see the damage firsthand and talk with emergency officials. It would be his first visit to the state since becoming president.


    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    Reporting for NPR on the restoration of Johnny Cash's boyhood home

    The restored boyhood home of Johnny Cash in October 2012 -- Click to enlarge.The story behind the house where Johnny Cash grew up is one that has fascinated me. Dyess, Arkansas was a planned community, created during the great depression as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Cash was only three when he and his family were among 500 families chosen to get a fresh start in life with a new house and piece of land for them to farm. His experiences during those days would provide the inspiration for many of his songs like "Five Feet High and Rising," which was based on his community being flooded. Even a decade after his death, fans from around the world seek out the home, which was recently purchased by Arkansas State University as part of its Arkansas Heritage Sites. The goal is to turn it into a museum, not only looking at Cash, but to help tell the history of the town.

    NPR.orgI had reported several stories related to the house when I finally pitched the story to NPR. I'd first reported when ASU negotiated the purchase of the property, covered the first fundraising concert at ASU, then covered the ceremony in February of 2012 that marked the beginning of the restoration project. So I knew it was an extremely interesting story. And with Cash still popular today, nearly 10 years after his death, I figured people elsewhere around the country would also find it interesting. So I was glad when NPR finally gave me the green light to produce a five minute piece. I recorded the interviews at the house on Oct. 6, the morning after the second fundraising concert for the project, which brought many of the family members to town. I met up with Cash's brother Tommy and Sister Joanne, who were seeing the house for the first time since work to restore it had begun. So I had the tremendous fortune to be there to record their reactions walking inside. I also spoke with Dr. Ruth Hawkins, who is overseeing the project and Dyess Mayor Larry Sims. I was pleased with how the piece came out, though I could have easily gone twice as long. NPR's web version of the story also came out nice.

    AUDIO: Report on the restoration of Johnny Cash's boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas, aired on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, runs 5:51.



    Read About My Radio Background
    Details 26 years in radio and news with photos and audio from each station, network or newspaper. I started as a DJ in Arkansas, made the transition to news through an internship at C-SPAN, spent 12 years in Miami working for CBS News and the Miami Herald before returning home to Little Rock.
    See My Black & White Photography
    While I love the convenience and quality of digital cameras, nothing compares to the look of black and white film. Many years back I put together a few galleries, focusing on some of the more consistent topics I shot over the years. I hope to eventually revise and expand this section to include more photos.
    Beat Writers & Spoken Word
    For about a year in 1994, in addition to my regular show on KABF, I hosted a beat poetry and spoken word program. I took every opportunity to interview some of my favorite writers and poets, including Allen Ginsberg when he gave a reading in Arkansas.

    I also have a few other sections that may be of interest for some. I maintain a section looking at the long gone Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas, with recent photos and MP3 interviews with former employees. As Mike Huckabee emerged as one of the leading candidates for President in 2007, I put together this profile of him based on my experiences. This includes an MP3 with an interview I recorded in 1996 just before he became governor, articles, reports and photos from my days of covering him in the mid-1990s. I've also got photos of Miami's fascinating, long shuttered Marine Stadium, which was damaged by Hurricane Andrew, but is the focus of preservation efforts by those who would like to see it reopened and restored to its former glory.

    I welcome your Feedback. If you have any questions, notice any errors, links that no longer work or other problems with this site, please let me know. Or if you just want to share any comments about what I've got here, I'd love to read it. Thanks for stopping by and please check back again. I try to update this regularly, it's just a slow, slow process!.

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