Michelle Billman | KUNR

Michelle Billman

News Director

Michelle Billman is the news director at KUNR Public Radio in Reno, Nevada where she oversees a scrappy crew of multimedia storytellers. She’s a transplant from the East Coast, where she earned degrees in creative writing and English from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Virginia Tech.

Under Michelle’s direction, and in close partnership with Noticiero Móvil, KUNR has become an early adopter within public media for providing Spanish digital content to its local audience in an effort to start addressing language access gaps. This initiative has been recognized with a national Edward R. Murrow award for innovation and a Public Media Journalists Association award for collaboration.

Working with developing reporters is important to Michelle, which is why she established an internship program at KUNR for students at the Reynolds School of Journalism. Under her editorial guidance, college reporters have earned national and regional awards. She’s also served as a mentor for NPR’s Next Generation Radio program and helps run the KUNR Youth Media program for high school students in Washoe County.

Outside of radio, Michelle is usually busy chasing her toddler, Alex, or doing art projects with her first grader, Nora. Michelle also enjoys working on nonfiction writing projects, which have appeared in literary journals like River Teeth and Ninth Letter

Ways to Connect

Robots, aerial and underwater drones, driverless road vehicles, and pretty much any other autonomous system you can imagine are being explored by researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno. With $3 million from the state, the school is opening the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center or NAASIC to house these projects. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss has the latest details.

Dr. Tory Clark is a clinical sexologist and UNR instructor who works with transgender clients. She’ll present some of her research at an open house in Reno for the Transgender Allies Group or TAG on Saturday. In that talk, she’ll explore best practices for counseling families when a transgender child first comes out.

The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitor's Authority or RSCVA has announced it's planning a new annual event for the region celebrating the fact that blue jeans were invented in the Biggest Little City. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss attended the recent press conference to learn more.

Reno mayoral candidates Hillary Schieve and Ray Pezonella agree on many issues...but not on staffing levels for public safety personnel, like firefighters. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that this contention came up at a debate Thursday.

Lucy Flores, the democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, is criticizing her opponent, Republican Mark Hutchison, for not supporting legislation last year that would have directly helped the Washoe County School District improve its aging infrastructure. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports.

Flores made the comment during a debate that aired Tuesday on KRNV-TV's Nevada Newsmakers program. She said Republicans in the Assembly "punted" on the issue.

Western Nevada College

Nevada's four community colleges are getting federal grants for almost $10 million. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that the funding, which was announced this week, will go towards programs that train students for in-demand jobs across the state.

Washoe County saw its highest average daily rate for hotel rooms ever last month, and Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that tourism experts are expecting even more dollars to come in as word about the state's Tesla "win" continues to spread.

Chuck Allen and Tim Kuzanek campaign photos

Both candidates for Washoe County Sheriff agree that the community presence of local law enforcement must grow, but Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss reports they offer different pathways for making that happen if elected in November.

At a debate Thursday night in Reno, hosted by KNPB and the Reno Gazette Journal, candidates Chuck Allen and Tim Kuzanek faced off in advance of the upcoming election.

Now that Tesla will be setting up shop in Storey County to make batteries for its electric cars, Truckee Meadows Community College is planning to develop more programs for skilled high-tech workers.  Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss reports that the school will build on what it already has to offer.

For much of the 20th century, Reno was a household name notorious for quickie divorces. Historians with the University of Nevada, Reno have just received a nearly $80,000 grant to preserve this part of local history.

For nearly six decades, Reno was known as the “divorce capital of the world” with people from all over the globe traveling to the Biggest Little City to end their marriages.

Several Nevada historians, including Mella Harmon, are seeking to document that time, which lasted from around 1910 through the end of the sixties.

Right now, public transit in Washoe County is operating at service levels comparable to the ‘90s, and officials with the Regional Transportation Commission say they only have enough money to keep running as is.

Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss reports that securing funding down the road for expanding services and renovating aging infrastructure remains a major question mark, one that could affect everything from economic development to quality of life.

Regional Transportation Commission

Reno transportation officials say they can't keep up with community needs without more funding. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that the Regional Transportation Commission has formed a special committee to come up with a plan for creating new funding sources before the legislature starts back up in February.

Right now, the RTC is operating at transit levels comparable to the 90s. That's partly because federal funding decreased significantly during the recession and has not bounced back.

We are debuting our new Grammar Girl segment with author Mignon Fogarty, the creator of the Quick and Dirty Tips Network. Once a month, Mignon will explore the many intricacies and quirks of the English language with Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss. 

In the next seven years, the University of Nevada, Reno has big plans for expansion. At Wednesday's State of the University address, President Marc Johnson said the school will be hiring more faculty and constructing more buildings to keep up with record enrollment.

Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss attended the speech and has these details.

By 2021, UNR plans to hire at least 250 tenure-track faculty members to teach a projected 22,000 students. The school's current head count is just under 20,000--its highest enrollment ever.

Hyytinen Engineering

The Washoe County Sheriff's Office will no longer hold people in jail based solely on requests from federal immigration authorities. Reno Pubic Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that the change comes after a federal judge's recent ruling in Oregon.

Sparks Middle School continues to heal

Sep 16, 2014

It's been almost a year since 12-year-old Jose Reyes opened fire at Sparks Middle School last October, killing a teacher and himself, and injuring two other students. Reno Public Radio's Esther Ciammachilli reports that as the community continues to heal, a federal grant is providing the school with ongoing support.

A $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education will pay for trauma therapists to continue working with students and their families. They're keeping in touch with students who are no longer in the building as well.

Tahoe Fund

An envisioned bike path connecting Incline Village to Sand Harbor State Park is officially in the works, now that the Tahoe Fund organization has met its goal of raising $750,000 in private donations for the project.

Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that meeting that goal means more than $12 million in public funding from local, state, and federal governments will now be triggered.

This project will be the next section of the Lake Tahoe Bikeway, a long-term project to build a path around the entire lake spanning more than 70 miles.

WCSD

Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez will not accept the $25,000 offered by the board of trustees to settle a lawsuit regarding the board's breach of contract for improperly firing Martinez back in July before quickly reinstating him. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss spoke to Martinez's attorney Bill Peterson to learn why the superintendent is turning down the board's offer.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

While the World Health Organization is reporting more than 2,200 deaths from the ebola outbreak in West Africa, Reverend Father Elijah Bobby Washington is stuck in the United States, here in Reno, unable to fly home to Liberia.

Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss spoke with Father Bobby to get the latest update on the deteriorating conditions in his home country.

Truckee Meadows Community College

The counseling center at the University of Nevada, Reno is rethinking how to treat its suicidal students. Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss reports that this semester the center is hosting a trial study for a new approach in the hopes of saving more young lives.

As students meet with UNR counselors at the center, white noise machines in each doorway keep their conversations private. Behind some of those closed doors, students are seeking help because they’re thinking about or preparing to take their own lives.

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