Ben Kieffer

River to River Host

Ben Kieffer joined Iowa Public Radio in 2000 and is host of IPR’s daily noon talk show River to River, which he also helps produce. 

Prior to joining IPR, Ben lived and worked in Europe for more than a decade. He reported firsthand the fall of the Berlin Wall and covered the Velvet Revolution in Prague. Ben has won numerous awards for his work over the course of more than 30 years in public media.

Ben has taught courses at the University of Iowa on interviewing and radio news. He's a native of Cedar Falls and a graduate of the University of Iowa.

Ben Kieffer speaks with a variety of guests about top news stories from across Iowa on this July, 10th newsbuzz edition of River to River.

Courtesy of Kristin Kobes Du Mez

In 2016, more than 80 percent of white evangelical Christians voted for President Trump. Author Kristin Kobes Du Mez's new book, "Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation" attempts to understand why.

Gregory Pappas / Unsplash

Have you experienced problems sleeping, nightmares or strange dreams since the start of the pandemic? If so, you’re not alone.

CDC / Unsplash


COVID-19 rapidly displaced students from classrooms to their bedrooms this spring. Looking toward the fall, everyone is asking: how can students safely return to learn?

On today’s episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with educators, reporters and health experts about how Iowa students may return to the classroom. Later in the hour, we hear from an expert helping track COVID-19 and a statehouse reporter who explains Iowa laws that went into effect yesterday.

Patrick Semansky / AP Photo

During this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Megan Goldberg of Cornell College and Karen Kedrowski of Iowa State University. 

This program originally aired on May 9, 2017.  

What is time? Why does it always seem to move forward? Why is the earth made of matter and not of anti-matter? Are there really just three dimensions? Are we alone in the Universe? How big is the Universe? 

The short answer is, "we have no idea," and that's the point of a new book by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson. During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Cham and Whiteson about their new book We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe. 

Tim Rawle / Flickr

On this podcast episode of River to River, some of our favorite stories from our archives. Our first is from October 25, 2019 when private military historian Brent Westemeyer uncovered an error in an iconic image from World War II. He discovered that one of the six Marines who helped raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi at the battle of Iwo Jima in the South Pacific was mis-identified. The soldier turned out to be a man from Brooklyn, Iowa. His name was Harold "Pie" Keller.

Courtesy of Troy Stolp

This program originally aired on February 25, 2020.  

The relationship between Council Bluffs and Omaha goes back thousands of years. Evidence shows inhabitants of the region date as far back as 900 A.D. With such a long history of being joined across the Missouri River, Council Bluffs and Omaha have developed a complicated relationship.

On this 'Newsbuzz' edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer gets a look at the guidelines just released by state education officials for school reopenings, followed by a conversation with an infectious disease specialist about the spread of the novel coronavirus and how the public can continue to protect themselves and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Long before more than two million women and allies gathered in Washington D.C. for the 2017 Women’s March, and before almost daily protests against the current presidential administration spalshed across national headlines, Americans were organizing and mobilizing acts of resistance, dating back to the very founding of the nation.

Kevin Dietsch / Pool via AP

During this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political science professor Dennis Goldford of Drake University and political science professor Jonathan Hassid of Iowa State University. 

Here are some of the headlines discussed during the podcast. 

John Minchillo/AP

Historically, faith and religion have played a significant role in major social justice movements, including the 1960s fight for civil rights. Decades later, the Black Lives Matter movement is at its strongest and religious communities continue to participate, even as movement leadership takes on a more secular, grassroots form.

Zac Cain / Unsplash

What if you could produce meat without having to raise or slaughter an animal?

Maya Alleruzzo / AP Photo

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with poet, essayist and author Christopher Merrill.

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and University of Northern Iowa have each released plans to bring students back to campus in some capacity this fall, despite ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

At a time of extreme politcal polarization, Colin Woodard's latest book seems more pertinent than ever. On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks to Woodward about his book, "Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood." In it, he explores how the "myth" of national unity in the United States came to be.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

On this episode of River to River, political scientists Sara Mitchell of the University of Iowa and Evan Renfro of the University of Northern Iowa join host Ben Kieffer for a look at top political headlines from the week.

Courtesy of Fremont County Iowa Emergency Management

Globally and nationally, people are experiencing a multitude of crises. All at once, individuals are feeling the impact of a global pandemic, police brutality and the continuing effects of climate change. On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by experts in environmental health and sustainability for a look at the intersection of these global crises.

John Pemble/IPR

It was a sprint to the finish when lawmakers returned to the statehouse June 3rd. Back in March, after the first Iowa cases of the coronavirus were confirmed, the Legislature started what turned out to be a two-and-a-half month break. Yesterday, June 14th, Iowa lawmakers adjourned the 2020 session.

John Pemble / IPR

This week, the Iowa Legislature unanimously approved a bill to ban most police chokeholds. The legislation also addressed police officer misconduct, and was unanimously approved in each chamber. The Iowa House and Senate moved each of the bills very quickly through the legislative process, and after the final votes, applause erupted.

Heath Thompson / Advocates for Social Justice


Protests over the recent killings of unarmed black Americans at the hands of white police officers have been occuring all around the nation. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer brings together Cedar Rapids activists, elected officials and police to discuss the potential reforms that could come about as a result of the protests. 

Godofredo A. Vásquez / Houston Chronicle via AP, Pool

For more than two weeks, people accross the nation have taken to the streets to protest the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other black Americans.

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The coronavirus pandemic could cost Iowa hospitals well over a billion dollars. On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer checks in with hospitals, big and small, urban and rural, around the state to see how they've adjusted and to look into the future of health care in Iowa.

Engin Akyurt / Unsplash

According to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, so far this year 54 journalists have been attacked, 19 arrested. On this edition of River to River, is press freedom in crisis? 

Ben Kieffer speaks with a variety of guests, including the executive editor of the Des Moines Register about incidents between two of her reporters and police during protests. Later on, Kieffer is joined by the managing editor of the Northwest Iowa Review, Ty Rushing, about his experience covering protests as a black journalist.


Cory Woodward / Unsplash

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with IPR state government reporter about the Iowa legislature's return to the Statehouse this week. Also, a conversation with Negus Imhotep about his work with Urban Dreams helping those who were in desperate straits even before these crises.


AP Images

From George Washington and John Adams to George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, sitting presidents have often formed personal and professional relationships with presidents who came before.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

Yesterday’s election saw the highest ever turnout of voters for a June primary in state history and the end of the road for nine-term U.S. Representative Steve King. King lost his place as the Republican pick for Iowa’s fourth congressional district to State Senator Randy Fenestra. Meanwhile, protests continued across the state and country in response to the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans at the hands of police across the nation.

Mike Petrucci / Unsplash

Protests are raging in Minneapolis, Louisville and across the country as activists, family members and elected officials demand justice in the case of George Floyd, the black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police earlier this week.

Element5 Digital/Unsplash

On June 2nd, Iowans will vote in the state's primary election, selecting the major party candidates who will vie for four U.S. House seats and one U.S. Senate seat up for grabs in the November general election.