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Arts & Life

River to River Host Ben Kieffer Shares Some Of His Favorite Shows Of The Year

From Climate Change and Afghanistan to transparency and discovering a new way of life, host Ben Kieffer offers up his favorite shows of the year.

Overcoming A Near-Fatal Bicycle Crash

RTR Podcast 4-20-21.mp3


April 20, 2021

For a show like River to River, many of our ideas are driven by the biggest, most pressing stories of the day. But sometimes, we make time for a great story told well. That was the case with Guillermo Romano Ibarra, a cyclist who was run over from behind and survived.

For this show, producer Rick Brewer and I got to work trying to draw the full arc as Romano Ibarra used swimming to help redevelop his body, which was left partially paralyzed. He can now walk his dogs.

It’s one of the most technical and narrative rich pieces we’ve done all year, featuring my first interview conducted in the waters of Lake MacBride with Romano Ibarra. I’m happy to show it off any chance we get.

What Are Iowans Doing To Adapt To Climate Change?

River to River 8-19-21

Aug. 20, 2021

Higher temperatures, longer droughts, more flash floods — the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed what we are already seeing here in Iowa. Still, some have been slow to grasp the enormity of the change.

For a show like ours, it’s important we aren’t just talking about the big picture of what these reports are saying, but how Iowans are connected to it.

Iowa Journalists Struggle To Access Public Records

River to River 7-26-21

July 27, 2021

We know that Iowans make the best decision when all the relevant information is in front of them. But we have examples of state government missing that mark and digging in their heels to make public information harder to access. Often these battles playout behind the scenes as ignoring reporter queries, refusing interviews and stalling public records requests.

We spoke with a number of journalists from some of Iowa’s most read mastheads: The Cedar Rapids Gazette, The Des Moines Register, Iowa Capitol Dispatch and Bleeding Heartland. All had a story to tell about the struggle to do their jobs exercising the public’s right to know.

Leaving Afghanistan

A multi-part series: June-Sept. 2021

Since the beginning of the year — like many years before it — there was talk of leaving the country’s longest war. Since Oct. 7, 2001, the United States has been locked in a civil war in Afghanistan, dramatically reshaping geopolitics in the area and the world. Little did we know at the start of 2021 that this would be the year that the very last soldier would leave Afghanistan.

This is a time to reflect on what we’ve done for the last 20 years and what it will mean for our country going forward. Weekly on the show, you’ve heard voices from this conflict. Iowans who answered the call and served our country. Iowans who still deal with the aftermath of that decision.

I couldn’t talk about our work this year without mentioning four of my favorite interviews with Iowans who’ve experienced the conflict first hand: Chief Petty Officer and Navy Seal Jon Tumilson of Rockford, Navy aviation mechanic Maria Berdecia of Davenport, Iowa National Guard Staff Sergeant Jessica Beswick of Dewitt and Army Captain John Paluska of Ottumwa.

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New Discoveries And The Story Of Ripple Bus

River to River 8-2-21

Aug. 3, 2021

Rivers meander. Sometimes our show does too. When I saw an old school bus getting chopped and welded near my house, I had to see what was going on. What I found was a family working together to pull off a unique voyage: a two-year expedition around throughout North America in a school bus.

While away from the news cycle, I knew it was a story we had to tell when I learned it wasn’t just a chance to see new places, but to scout out new homes for the family’s oldest sons.

You can listen to River to River live at 12 p.m. weekdays or anytime with the River to River podcast.