Michelle Billman

News Director

Michelle Billman (formerly Bliss) moved to the Silver State from North Carolina where she led the award-winning public radio newsroom in Wilmington. During her time down South, Michelle earned two regional Edward R. Murrow awards for her coverage of local politics and the water contamination scandal at Camp Lejeune. She also completed her master's degree in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Here in Reno, the newsroom has been earning news awards under her leadership, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards for reporting on Tesla's impact on Northern Nevada and the ongoing drought. Her team has also earned several awards from the Associated Press Television and Radio Association, which covers 13 Western states, for hard news reporting, best use of sound, best spot news, and other categories. 

When she's not covering a local story, Michelle works on other nonfiction writing projects, which have appeared in literary journals like River Teeth and Ninth Letter

Ways to Connect

Washoe County School Bus
Carla O’Day

Washoe County School District (WCSD) has a critical shortage of school bus drivers. The unemployment rate is low in the Reno-Sparks area, at 3.2 percent, and there is fierce competition for qualified employees. The district is seeking qualified people in the community to apply for school bus driver positions.

Barriers stand up against a body of water.
Bob Conrad / This is Reno

Washoe County commissioners are taking steps to contain Lemmon Valley’s Swan Lake to a specified boundary, although county staff have cautioned that a solution to flooding in that area hasn’t been identified and funding questions remain. To learn more, KUNR’s News Director Michelle Billman spoke to Bob Conrad, the publisher of ThisisReno, to learn more about this issue.

The KUNR news team has earned three 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, or RTDNA.

A close-up image of a marijuana plant.
ThisisReno

Outgoing Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval wants to move a percentage of marijuana tax dollars to fund education-related programs. To learn more, KUNR News Director Michelle Billman spoke with Bob Conrad of ThisisReno about Sandoval's budget recommendations for the state.

Washoe County School District Administrative Building on a sunny day.
Carla O’Day of ThisisReno

A former administrator at Hug High in Reno has been vocal about her battle with the Washoe County School District for her job. Bob Conrad of ThisisReno has been following this story and spoke to KUNR News Director Michelle Billman about recent developments.

Episode 7 - Proposing Solutions

Jun 26, 2018
Four people sit at a table. In front of them are microphones and name cards.
Krysta Scripter

Episode 7 - Proposing Solutions

This week Joey is joined by editor Michelle Billman while Bree is out reporting. Joey and Michelle talk about the affordable housing community conversation that KUNR held on June 20 at Moana Nursery. We hear from Kim Robinson of Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency, State senator Julia Ratti, Eric Novak from Praxis Consulting and Eddie Hult from La Causa Development Nevada. Each panelist gives some thoughts on the issue and some bring up some solutions.

The Northern Nevada Development Authority attracts new businesses and supports existing businesses in Lyon, Douglas, and Storey Counties, along with Carson City. The organization has reduced the vacancy rate of industrial spaces across that region from 26 percent back in 2010 to about 3 percent today, though challenges remain. Our News Director Michelle Billman spoke with the organization to learn more about what they’re grappling with as they continue expanding economic growth in these smaller communities.

The 34th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering wrapped up in Elko over the weekend. Its theme focused on herding cultures, with a heavy emphasis on Basque people. Our News Director Michelle Billman spoke with two Basque performers who were highlighted during the festival.

Cultural competency is a form of training widely used in corporate and public work settings. Julie Hogan is a business professor at the University of Nevada, Reno who has devised many of these training materials, but she says it’s not effective. Now, she's proposing a different approach, a deeper dive through a concept called cultural humility. She’ll be giving a talk for Reno’s TedX series on this topic and she gave a preview to our News Director Michelle Billman.

The University of Nevada TEDx event is a series of talks from local and national thinkers who have innovative ideas to share. At this year's event later this month, Reno marriage and family therapist Steven Ing will be discussing how to select an ideal mate. He says partner selection is a big component for avoiding relationship trouble.

Susan Nissenbaum is a court appointed special advocate with the Washoe County CASA program. Many years ago, she was assigned to work with a teen named Grace, who ended up living in multiple foster and group homes. They attended court together for years and when Grace aged out of the foster care system, they remained close. They came to KUNR to remember those difficult times, which ultimately brought them together. 

Helix

Since 2016, Renown Health and the Desert Research Institute, or DRI, have been studying data from the genetic testing of 10,000 Northern Nevadans, as part of their Healthy Nevada Project. The goal is to learn more about health factors and risks for people across the region.

Over the next year or so, the project is going to grow significantly, as another 40,000 new participants are tested. Our News Director Michelle Billman spoke to Dr. Tony Slonim, the president of Renown Health, about the expansion.

Waste Management

Some Reno business owners, like Mark McKinnon, are getting letters telling them that they are in violation of city ordinances because they are not using the company Waste Management to haul their trash and recycling. Our contributor Bob Conrad of ThisisReno has been reporting on this situation and gave the latest update to our News Director Michelle Billman.

The actions mark an effort to solidify Waste Management’s exclusivity as the area’s waste hauler.

ThisisReno.com

The City of Reno is exploring new rules for cannabis facilities in order to address the issue of nuisance odors. Our News Director Michelle Billman spoke with Bob Conrad of ThisisReno to learn more.

It’s an attempt to get regulations in place when they become permanent, said City Code Enforcement Manager Alex Woodley. “(The ordinances will) replicate what Las Vegas passed.”

A student at Truckee Meadows Community College is one of the victims who was killed during the Las Vegas shooting Sunday. Our News Director Michelle Billman reports.

His name is Austin Meyer and he was at the country music festival celebrating his 24th birthday with his fiancée, Dana Getreu, who is a student at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Meyer was in the transportation technologies program at TMCC, which is a small cohort of students who work together closely. Kyle Dalpe is the dean of technical sciences and had to break the news to Meyer's classmates.

Karen Rubio works for Truckee Meadows Community College, helping recruit high school students to the school. She's a first-generation college grad who started at TMCC before transferring to UNR.

While in school at age 20, Karen became pregnant. Then, during the pregnancy, her mother died unexpectedly.

“At that point, it was the first time I said, ‘I’m just going to give up.’ I was like, ‘What am I trying to do? I’m eight months pregnant.’ I was going through a lot,” she remembers.

ThisisReno.com

The City of Reno is considering controversial vagrancy ordinances that prohibit specific behaviors. Critic argue that the new rules would target the homeless. Our News Director Michelle Billman spoke to our contributor Bob Conrad of ThisisReno to learn more.

ThisisReno.com

The City of Reno has given tentative approval to a project that would create a pipeline of treated effluent to the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center which houses companies like Tesla and Switch. Our News Director Michelle Billman spoke to our contributor Bob Conrad if ThisisReno to learn more.

The water is needed for Switch, Tesla and other businesses at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRIC).

Switch brought heavy-hitter “water czar” Pat Mulroy, formerly of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, to testify for the agreement, which mostly met with favor among council members.

Kaitlin Godbey / Travel Nevada

A 200-mile trail from Reno to Gerlach is being proposed to highlight Washoe County’s cultural, historic, and artistic elements. With $75,000 in grant funds from the the National Endowment for the Arts, Washoe County, working with Burning Man, envisions the trail to pass through Reno-Sparks, small towns, and tribal lands into Gerlach.

Joe Sale Photography

Reno is becoming the new home for a large, so-called Space Whale sculpture. Our News Director Michelle Billman chatted with contributor Bob Conrad of ThisisReno to learn more.

The sculpture is a life-size representation of a humpback whale mother and her calf. There were roughly 1,700 individual glass panels installed in this ambitious piece of public art.

The project is paid for out of the city’s portion of room tax funds that go into the city’s arts budget. 

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