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.

Evan Vucci / AP Photo

President Trump has fired four governmental watchdogs in recent weeks.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by political scientists Dennis Goldford and Jim McCormick for a discussion about why the United States has an inspector general and why their dismissal matters.

Dan Gold / Unsplash

We’ve been enjoying super low gas prices due to a number of reasons. People have been driving less, and there’s a worldwide oil glut. Here in Iowa we’re paying on average $1.75 per gallon. The national average is about ten cents higher $1.86 per gallon.

So gas prices have plummeted, no secret there, but did you know the number of speeding tickets in the state has jumped? On this segment of River to River, Ben Kieffer speaks to Sergeant Alex Dinkla of the Iowa State Patrol to explain the jump in speeding tickets.

Courtesy of Grinnell College

After a decade as the president of Grinnell College, Raynard Kington is leaving for a position in Massachusetts. Kington will become the new "head of school" of Phillips Academy. The academy is better known as Andover, the prestigious university-preparatory boarding school.

Michael Leland/IPR

BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

This program origionally aired 11-15-18.

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. 

Enrique Leira / University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by infectious disease expert Dr. Eli Perencevich to talk about protecting yourself from the spread of coronavirus with a face shield.

IPR’s political reporter Clay Masters conducts interviews with Democrats Eddie Mauro and Kimberly Graham vying to face Senator Joni Ernst in the November election.

Win McNamee/Pool via AP

Host Ben Kieffer is joined by political scientists Evan Renfro of the University of Northern Iowa and Megan Goldberg of Cornell College for a discussion of the top political headlines of the week including recent Senate testimony by top health experts and a split in Congress over financial relief for states.

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To wear or not wear a mask – that is the question during this pandemic.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by psychologist Alison Phillips, of Iowa State University, to explore the psychological and sociological dimensions of donning a face mask.

Claire Anderson / Unsplash

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with legal scholars Todd Pettys and Paul Gowder from the University Of Iowa College Of Law for an analysis of cases, argued before the Supreme Court, that could chart a new course for abortion law. Also, a look at a case that could force presidential electors to vote a particular way and contemplation about the possibility of an election-year confirmation battle, in case of a High Court vacancy.  


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For Democrats, flipping the Senate seat held by Republican Joni Ernst is likely to be an uphill battle. On this Newsbuzz edition of River to River, we take a look at the democratic challengers and the week's coronavirus news.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Have you ever wondered who invented the wheel? Who told the first joke? Who drank the first beer? Who was the first surgeon? Who sparked the first fire? 

Charlie Neibergall/AP

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Chris Larimer of University of Northern Iowa and Sara Mitchell of University of Iowa about Gov. Kim Reynolds' trip to meet with White House officials about Iowa's response to COVID-19. They also discuss Vice President Mike Pence's upcoming trip to meet with Iowa religious leaders, and get a snapshot of Iowa congressional and senate races heading into the June 2 primary.


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Many childcare centers across the state have been forced to shut their doors because of COVID-19. For those who are still open, declining enrollment numbers, staff layoffs and difficulties in acquiring and affording necessary supplies has left providers facing tough decisions about the future of their childcare businesses, just as some Iowans begin returning to work.

IPR file

On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by former congressman Jim Leach, best known for his 30 years representing Iowa in Washington. Leach, who is also on faculty at the University of Iowa, offers his reflections on the COVID-19 crisis in the context of his latest course, titled “What is Precedented and Unprecedented in Contemporary Politics.”

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Across the country, restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus are being loosened in some states. On this news buzz edition of River to River, we get a snapshot of the picture here in Iowa.

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Some nursing homes in the state are facing a rash of COVID-19 cases within their facilities, and they’ve closed their doors to visitors. This includes visits by family members. 

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and his guests discuss how nursing home residents are missing the extra care usually provided by someone in their family, why the virus thrives in these facilities, and what might be done to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  


Lee Jin-man / AP Photo

The new Gross Domestic Product (GPD) figures show the economy’s sharp decline with the situation expected to get much worse.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by political scientists Jonathan Hassid and Jeff Taylor to get an analysis on a new poll indicating half of the country is being economically affected by the coronavirus, the Republican primary in Iowa’s 4th district and worries about North Korea’s stability.  


stu_spivack / Flickr

*This program originally aired on March 6, 2018.

The human brain has substantially different dietary needs than other organs, and new research suggests that diet may play a large role in the development of dementia, obesity, and even ability to sleep.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with neuroscientist and nutritionist Lisa Mosconi, whose new book, Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power, explains how diet affects brain power and health.

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The rash of coronavirus outbreaks in meatpacking plants across the country is causing alarm. On this edition of River to River, IPR’s Amy Mayer explains Iowa’s meat packing challenges. 

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Under normal circumstances, a cancer diagnosis can be life altering. But with cases of COVID-19 straining medical systems across the state and with new expectations for social distancing in place, the way in which cancer treatment is received and supported is creating new challenges for some Iowans.

Eric Risberg / AP Photo

What happens to our politics when oil craters?

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by political scientists Sara Mitchell and Jim McCormick to look at how the imbalance in oil markets may impact geopolitics and discuss the top political headlines of the week.


  • Sara Mitchell, F. Wendell Miller Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa
  • Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University

Liam Kieffer / Kieffer Family

The pandemic has forced change on all types of professions, including those in radio journalism. 

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer spends the hour visiting with a number of his colleagues here at Iowa Public Radio. The conversation spans from adapting to working from our basements, kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms and even converting closets into sound booths. We also explore both the emotional and technical challenges of working from home.  


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Dr. Stanley Perlman has studied corona viruses for more than 40 years. Now, his research is part of the global race to better understand COVID-19.

Courtesy of Larry Potter

After two weeks of hospitalization, Larry Potter became the first Iowan diagnosed with COVID-19 to be released from Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids after spending time on a ventilator.

Jack Sharp/Unsplash

Social distancing and self-isolation are the new normal under the COVID-19 pandemic, and this reality is changing every fiber of society, including the way substance abuse support is handled and administered.

Katarina Sostaric / IPR file

Democratic U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer said she’s disappointed that Gov. Kim Reynolds has not issued a “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home” order, despite promising to do so three weeks ago.

“In my district in particular, we make the country’s food. It is our meat processing. It is General Mills where we make cereal. It is so much a big part of that, I knew we had to do everything we could to keep those essential workers safe. I’ve been disappointed at the lack of urgency here from the state,” Finkenauer said.

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Governors on the East and West Coasts say they’ll work together to reopen businesses. But President Trump says he’s the one calling the shots.

Courtsey of Mara Hvistendahl

Let’s go back to some news you may remember from several years ago. In 2011, two ethnic Chinese men were seen digging up seeds in a cornfield here in Iowa. When approached, they sped away in a hired car. At first, it was a routine report of trespassing. It quickly grew into a long FBI investigation that uncovered a plot by the Chinese agricultural company DBN, to reverse-engineer seed lines belonging to Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer. 


This program originally aired on March 8, 2018.

The pandemic, environmental degradation, ever more divisive politics... Sometimes it seems like the world is falling apart. But is it really?

In his latest book, "Enlightenment Now," author Steven Pinker, one of the foremost writers on language, the mind, and human nature - urges everyone to step back from the headlines full of doom. 

StellrWeb / Unsplash

It’s a scary time for Iowans suddenly out of work and struggling to pay bills. On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer is joined by Iowa State University's Cindy Fletcher to answer questions about revising a budget, prioritizing bills, paying down debt and connecting Iowans with community resources to stretch reduced incomes. Also this hour, your COVID-19 medical questions answered from Dr. Dan Allen of UnityPoint Health in Des Moines.