Veteran radio news journalist Ron Breeding, who spent 12 years working as news and program director at KUAR, has died. He was 54-years-old.
Breeding was respected among his colleagues as a reporter who wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions or challenge politicians and other public officials.
He started with KUAR in 2000 and expanded local news on the station from a handful of rip-and-read newscasts coming directly from the Associated Press news wire into a fully-functioning newsroom with original reporting.
“When we interviewed Ron for the job at KUAR, we asked him ‘why did you get interested in journalism?’ And he said he liked to ask impertinent questions to important people,” said General Manager Ben Fry. “There are a lot of politicians that would look out into the crowd of reporters and shiver in their shoes because they knew he would ask them that question they didn’t want to answer.”
Prior to KUAR, Breeding spent 18 years working off-and-on for Little Rock’s KARN and the Arkansas Radio Network, along with three years at a public radio station in Syracuse, New York.
He became interested in broadcasting at an early age and often talked about meeting Little Rock radio legend Ray Lincoln who spoke to one of his classes at the University of Central Arkansas. Breeding asked how someone could pursue a career in radio and was essentially told by Lincoln it was a dead-end job. But Breeding was undeterred and years later worked alongside Lincoln at KARN.
He transitioned to public radio, saying he appreciated having more time to delve into serious topics. He also enjoyed reporting on the arts, especially film industry connections to Arkansas.
During his time with KUAR, which is licensed to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, he also mentored many young broadcasters, training them in the finer points of reporting on the radio and giving them their first opportunity to be on the air.
“He had a remarkable ability to put any Arkansas story we were covering into historical context, and that made our reporting stronger,” said Karen Tricot Steward, news and content manager for KUAR, who was the first reporter hired by Breeding in 2001 as he began growing the news staff.
“For example, if I was doing a daily newscast story about one development in the world of education, he'd make sure I understood that story in the context of what was happening with that particular issue a year ago, five years, or a decade ago. I was often in awe of the depth of knowledge he had of issues affecting Arkansans.”
During his time leading KUAR’s newsroom, the station won dozens of awards from the Arkansas Associated Press Broadcasters Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Public Radio News Directors Association.
Breeding regularly appeared on the week-in-review public television program Arkansas Week on AETN and occasionally sat in as a substitute host.
In addition to expanding local news coverage on KUAR, he also helped foster several cultural programs, including Arkansongs, The Arkansas Flyer and Arkansas Cooks.
Pulaski County Coroner Jerome Hobbs says a neighbor checking on Breeding found him unresponsive in bed at 10:47 a.m. Thursday. The death was not considered suspicious. Breeding had a history of heart-related ailments.
A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, June 28 at 2 p.m. at Moore's Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel, 1504 JP Wright Loop Road in Jacksonville.