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.

Mat Culpepper/Flickr


The state's share of costs for the Children's Health Insurace Program, also known as CHIP or HAWK-I in Iowa, is expected to increase as federal funding drops.


On this News Buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Ann Discher of the Child and Family Policy Center in Des Moines to learn more.


Like Air Force Base/Creative Commons


$800,000 of taxpayer money will settle an excessive force settlement filed by a northeast Iowa man who was battered by two Des Moines police officers.

Emily Woodbury

The Trump administration's Fourth National Climate Assessment, featuring the conclusions of more than 300 scientists, predicts that climate change will cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

The report predicts that by 2050, crop productivity in the Midwest will decline by 2050 to levels of the 1980s.

Atsushi Hyogo / flickr

The head of Iowa’s only greyhound racing track says he expects to be in business for at least a few more years, despite a decision by Florida voters last month to close all of that state’s dog tracks. Brain Carpenter, the general manager of Iowa Greyhound Park in Dubuque, says the closing of Florida’s 11 tracks by the end of 2020 could mean fewer dogs being bred to run at other tracks, including Iowa’s.

medical marijuana
Katarina Sostaric/IPR

The company that runs two of Iowa’s medical cannabis dispensaries is calling their first weekend of sales an “absolute success.”

Iowa’s only medical marijuana manufacturer MedPharm Iowa reports it served about 120 patients at its Windsor Heights dispensary in suburban Des Moines and at least 15 in Sioux City over the weekend.

MedPharm’s General Manager Lucas Nelson was at MedPharm’s Windsor Heights dispensary. He said opening day was “a whirlwind of emotions.”

Flickr/Phil Roeder


Recent reports on an Iowa-based residential school for foster children detail accounts of physical and verbal abuse, excessive restraint and segregation, and sex crimes against students.

Marco Verch

Special counsel Robert Mueller says President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort breached his plea deal by repeatedly lying.

The president is calling Mueller a “conflicted prosecutor gone rogue.”

On this politics day edition of River to River, political analysts Jim McCormick of Iowa State University and Tim Hagel of the University of Iowa cover numerous new developments in the Russia probe.

Wordshore / Flickr

This past August, John-Paul Chaisson-Cárdenas, Iowa’s then 4-H Youth Development Program leader, was fired. His termination came after he refused to follow a request to take down an LGBTQ inclusion policy that was posted to Iowa’s 4-H program website.

An investigation by the Des Moines Register has since provided details behind Chaisson-Cárdenas’ dismissal, finding that the Trump administration was behind the push to withdraw the LGBTQ guidelines in Iowa and other states.

William Simpson (artist, 1823–1899)

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with medical historian Thomas Morris about his new book, “The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine,” which details mysterious Illnesses, horrifying operations, dubious remedies and unfortunate predicaments from the early 17th Century to the turn of the 20th Century.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Governor Kim Reynolds' children's mental health board has new recommendations for how to better serve families with children who have a diagnosed mental illness. Under the plan being proposed, children would be routinely screened for mental health issues and services for children would be expanded. But, where will funding for the plan come from? 

John Pemble/IPR

A ship named after Sioux City will be commissioned as a Navy warship at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland Saturday

Iowa’s junior Republican U.S. Senator Joni Ernst will deliver the principal address at the commissioning ceremony, marking the beginning of the ship’s service. Ernst says it’s an honor for the ship to share a name with the state’s 4th largest city and engage with Iowa’s heritage.

"So we certainly want to share that with the sailors of that ship and make sure they understand how important they are to us," she says. 

BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

We think of Winston Churchill as a hero who saved the world from Nazism and warned of Soviet communism. But what does Churchill have to teach us about the challenges that leaders face today?

During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with New York Times Bestselling author Andrew Roberts about his new book "Churchill: Walking with Destiny." Roberts draws on new material never before used to pen a Churchill biography, including King George the VI's wartime diaries. 

Clay Masters/IPR

After firing Jeff Sessions, President Trump named native Iowan Matt Whitaker to be acting U.S. Attorney General. This has sparked controversy because the President leapfrogged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who was confirmed by the Senate.

This is important, because the Attorney General will oversee the Special Counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller. Whitaker has repeatedly criticized the Russia investigation.

AP/Charlie Neibergall

The U.S. Department of Justice is saying that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker's appointment as attorney general is constitutional, despite the fact that he hasn't been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dennis Goldford and Rachel Caufield of Drake University about what we might expect from Whitaker, who is a graduate of the University of Iowa Law School and former U.S. Attorney for Iowa's Southern District.  

John S. / Flickr

In an era of open hostility 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.