River to River

Weekdays at 12 p.m. on IPR News and News/Studio One and 10 p.m. on IPR News

River to River is Iowa Public Radio's talk program focusing on the news, issues and events in our state. This national award-winning program goes beyond the headlines, frames community problems, and fosters conversation. On Mondays during the legislative session, join in conversations with lawmakers and those impacted by action at the Statehouse.  Wednesdays, political analysts from around the state help you dissect the week in politics.  Fridays we buzz through the week’s big news stories.

River to River is hosted by Ben Kieffer @IPRBen.  It’s produced by Emily Woodbury @EmilyWoodburyLindsey Moon @lindseysmoon and Katelyn Harrop @KatelynHarrop. Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins. Our theme music is by The River Monks.

John S. / Flickr

In an era of open hositity displayed by the President toward the media, what's a journalist to do? How do we make the case to the next generation to puruse journalism as a career when they see such an unreceptive enviroment for the media? 

During this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with Michael Bugeja, who teaches media ethics at Iowa State University in the Greenlee School of Journalism. 

John Pemble/IPR

After 30 years of informing Iowans about what pieces of legislation are being considered at the Statehouse, Iowa Public Radio's Joyce Russell is retiring. Friday was her last day. During this River to River interview, she talks with Ben Kieffer. 

Kelli Brown / Des Moines Register

Ben Kieffer co-hosts this "Pints and Politics" edition of River to River with Gazette investigative reporter Erin Jordan. They ask panelists to discuss the latest in national and state politics, including analysis of the post-Midterm landscape, Trump's battle with the press, and a look at the Republican agenda in the Iowa legislature.

Panelists joining the discussion include Gazette columnists Todd Dorman, Lynda Waddington, Adam Sullivan, and Gazette reporter James Lynch.

Emily Woodbury

On this special edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and producer Emily Woodbury join a hundred veterans living in eastern Iowa as they take a tour of our nation's capital as part of an honor flight trip.

Honor flights are conducted by non-profit organizations dedicated to transporting as many U.S. military veterans as possible to see war memorials in Washington, D.C., at no cost to the veterans. 

John Pemble/Iowa Public Radio


This year’s midterm election closed out a competitive campaign season with three women making history in Iowa.


On this Politics Day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer breaks down last night’s midterm results with University of Northern Iowa political science professors Donna Hoffman and Chris Larimer.



The 2018 elections could see the highest turnout for a midterm since the mid-1960s.  Like today, the mid-1960’s was a time of cultural and social upheaval.

In this edition of "River to River," host Ben Kieffer helps listeners travel back to historic midterms in American history with guests Presidential historian Tim Walch and University of Iowa political scientist Cary Covington.

They discuss why midterms have come to represent a referendum on the sitting president, and how midterms have shaped US presidents and their legacies.

In early 2018, more than 150 women tentisifed at the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics team physician who abused patients for more than 20 years. 

How did he get away with it for so long? And when did adults start taking his victims seriously? The new podcast "Believed" from Michigan Radio and NPR asks these very questions.

During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with Kate Wells, co-host and producer of the podcast. Wells has been following Nassar's legal proceedings and the crimes he committed since 2016. 

flickr/Gage Skidmore


Illinois is poised to become the most expensive gubernatorial race in U.S. history, and controversial incumbent Governor Scott Walker could be on the outs in Wisconsin.


In this segment of River to River, we take a look at two races for the governor in our neighboring states. Host Ben Kieffer is joined by Brian Mackey, Statehouse Reporter for NPR Illinois and Shawn Johnson, Capitol Bureau Chief at Wisconsin Public Radio.


Wikimedia/Library of Congress

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is locked in a tight race against businessman Fred Hubbell. Who will come out on top?

On this Politics Day edition of River to River, a look into Iowa’s dead heat race for the governor’s seat. Host Ben Kieffer is joined by Dave Andersen of Iowa State University and Rene Rocha of the University of Iowa, each offering their own analysis.

Wikimedia, Robpinion


Nine instances of anti-semitism were reported in Iowa in 2017, up from zero reports the year before, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit.


During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer reflects on the murder of 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last weekend and checks in with Iowa’s Jewish community.


John Pemble/IPR

A newly released Hawkeye Poll shows Fred Hubbell with a slight lead over Governor Kim Reynolds in Iowa's gubernatorial race.

During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with Political Science Professor Fredrick Boehmke, and University of Iowa student Barrett Bierschenk about the Hawkeye Poll. The poll is conducted by University of Iowa students as a class exercise on conducting survey research and analyzing results.

"In Iowa, we have a strong economy right now, and generally, that indicates a strong advantage for an incumbent," Boehmke says. 




Nicholas Johnson is a native Iowan and retired University of Iowa law professor who served two appointed positions under the Johnson administration, including a seven-year term as the Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commissioner between in the late 60s and early 70s.


Johnson is also an accomplished editorial writer. In this segment of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Johnson about his latest collection of editorial writings called "Columns of Democracy."


Louisa Dewey

The Trump administration is considering redefining the definition of gender under some civil rights laws in a move that could rollback protections for transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people. This move threatens to legally invalidate their existence by narrowly defining gender as based on sex assignment at birth.

During this River to River interview, Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa’s 1st District Congressman, Rep. Rod Blum (R) of Dubuque. He was first elected in 2014, re-elected in 2016, and is now seeking his 3rd term in office.

Blum says his top achievements in office include the recent GOP tax package, securing federal funding for a Cedar Rapids flood wall, and a whistleblower protections bill he co-authored with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) of Maryland.

Reinhard Link

The new movie First Man gives a very personal depiction of the first man to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with NASA’s chief historian, Bill Barry. Barry is visiting Iowa to deliver The Harkin Institute’s fall Sussman Lecture on November 1st.

Jim Slosiarek / Courtesy of the Cedar Rapids Gazette

Republican Senator Ben Sasse spoke at the University of Iowa and at Iowa State University on Thursday evening. During this hour of River to River, we listen to excerpts of the talk he gave in Iowa City at the Iowa Memorial Union.

Later in the hour, he answers questions from the audience about a number of items in the news, including the hyper partisan climate, the wave of package bombs mailed across the country, transgender identity, the Kavanaugh confirmation, and the role of the U.S. Supreme Court.


doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

In Iowa, the Centers for Disease Control is investigating two cases of acute flaccid myelitis, a syndrome that can paralyze children. There are also many suspected cases in surrounding states, and the spike in cases is drawing a lot of media attention.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dr. Caitlin Pedati, Iowa Department of Public Health Medical Director and State Epidemiologist, about the cause, and what we do and don't know about the syndrome. 

World Food Prize


This week, British economist Lawrence Haddad and physician David Nabarro received the World Food Prize at a ceremony in the Iowa State Capitol.


The Des Moines-based prize honors the pair’s use of research to show political and business leaders that improving pregnant mother and child nutrition is critical to economic health. This work has been credited with reducing the number of stunted children globally by 10 million between 2012 and 2017.


You may have seen studies that claim CEOs are often psychopaths or exhibit multiple psychopathic tendencies.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with an Iowa State University psychologist whose recent study shows the perception of a link between psychopathy and leadership is overstated.

Michael Evans/Wikimedia

In the new book Reagan: An American Journey, New York Times best-selling author Bob Spitz explores the life and legacy of President Ronald Reagan, from his early days as an Iowa-based sports broadcaster, to his years in the White House.

Spitz is an award-winning author of many works including bestselling biographies, Dearies: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child and The Beatles: The Biography.


John Pemble

Iowa's 3rd Congressional District race shows a tight battle between incumbent Republican David Young and his Democratic challenger Cindy Axne. 

"The third district exhibits a lot of contradictions, and a lot of divesity of thought and opinion. So you look at the character of the Des Moines area and its immediate western and southern suburbs," says Rachel Caufield, Drake University political scientist,  "and as you head south and west, you get more and more rural."

Ben Kieffer / Iowa Public Radio

On this segment of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Dr. Chris Peters, a Coralville-based surgeon and Republican running to represent Iowa's 2nd congressional distrct.

Dr. Peters says the healthcare debate should focus on rising healthcare costs as opposed to issues with healthcare coverage. He also talks about where he agrees and disagrees with President Trump and defends his political credentials.

Also during this half hour, Dr. Peters defends his views on trade, tariffs, and immigration, and takes questions from callers.


Tyler Merbler

The midterm elections are three weeks from today, and early voting has already started.

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer chats with political scientist Chris Larimer and Des Moines Register reporter Bill Petroski about the elections for Secretary of State, Secretary of Agriculture, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Treasure, and key races in the Iowa legislature.

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

Incumbent Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack is running for a 7th term in Congress against Republican Chris Peters and Libertarian Mark Strauss.

During this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with Representative Loebsack about the outlook for the 2018 Farm Bill, trade negotiations with China, term limits and why he's not meeting with the Cedar Rapids Gazette's editorial board. 

Ben Kieffer

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with the Libertarian candidate in Iowa’s 2nd congressional district, businessman Mark Strauss of Bettendorf.

Strauss is the National Sales Manager at Signtex Lighting Inc. He has spent most of his career in the commercial lighting industry.



The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was initially created for competition during the Cold War, but since its birth six decades ago, NASA has proven to be one of the nation’s greatest contributors to technological advancement. It has paved the way for inventions including the modern cell phone, improved international diplomacy, and delivered sounds and images that continue to play a major role in scientific development and pop culture to this day.


Associated Press

Ben Kieffer co-hosts this "Pints and Politics" edition of River to River with Gazette investigative reporter Erin Jordan. They ask panelists to discuss the latest in national and state politics, including the upcoming miderm elections and the latest in the Reynolds-Hubbell gubernatorial race.

Panelists joining the discussion include Gazette columnists Todd Dorman, Lynda Waddington, Adam Sullivan, and Gazette reporter James Lynch.

Republican Steve King has represented Iowa in Congress for eight terms. In the upcoming election, he faces democratic challenger J.D. Scholten. Will the predicted midterm blue wave affect Iowa's fourth district? 

During the second half of this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Valerie Hennings, associate professor of political science at Morningside College and Dave Andersen, assistant professor of political science at Iowa State University about Iowa's 4th district. 


Last week, Google made headlines after an Associated Press report found that the company is still tracking your location even after you turn off location services on your phone. The company has since apologized and issues a clarification on their website. 

"This idea of just blindly collecting data without telling us is really disturbing, and it's not just Google. These are issues we hear about off and on for the last 10 years, this collection of information without us knowing," says Doug Jacobsen, director of the Information Assurance Center at Iowa State University. 

Loebsack for Congress, Peters for Congress, Iowa Public Radio


President Trump used the bitter Kavanaugh battle to boost enthusiasm during his visit to Council Bluffs earlier this week, but which voters will actually be energized to turn out?


On this Politics Day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer discusses President Trump’s visit to Iowa with Iowa Public Radio reporter Clay Matters.