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.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr


Democratic presidential candidate Eric Swalwell is out of the race, while billionaire Tom Steyer is in.  Also this week, pressure increases for U.S. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta to resign after a controversial plea deal and a court rules that President Trump may not block his Twitter critics.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Keiffer talks with analysts Steffen Schmidt of Iowa State University and Kedron Bardwell of Simpson College about these along with other political headlines. 

Hans Reniers / Unsplash

Summer weather has settled across the Midwest - and that means heat. Homeless people, children and the elderly become more at-risk to dehydration and possible fatality as temperatures climb. 

JFK Library

President Donald Trump made history last month when he became the first U.S. President to cross the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) into North Korea. Because diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Korea have been hostile dating back to the Korean War, the President has many wondering about the diplomatic implications of this meeting.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

This week, President Trump obtained a massive amount of money for his re-election campaign.  After the first round of Democratic candidate debates, Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren recieved top grades, according to a poll of voters.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Keiffer talks with analysts about the debate aftermath, Trump's campaigning and Fourth of July plans along with other polictical headlines. 

Kjetil Ree / Flickr

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with legal scholars Emily Hughes of the University of Iowa and Tony Gaughan of Drake University about some of the most notable recent cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Dr. Jennifer L. Graham / U.S. Geological Survey

Considered one of the cleanest lakes in Iowa, Lake MacBride was recently under a no swim advisory with DNR officials citing high levels of toxins from an algale bloom, and E. coli. These pollutants in public swimming areas has led to health warnings and the closing of some public swimming areas in lakes around the state. 

William Simpson (artist, 1823–1899)

This program origionally aired on 11-19-2018.

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.

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

This week, millions of Americans will meet the cast of Democrats trying to unseat President Donald Trump.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with analysts about expectations for the first round of Democratic presidential debates as well as other political headlines.

Also, we continue our series of interviews about the leadership of 2020 candidates with a home state view of Andrew Yang, entrepreneur and founder of Venture for America. 

Guests include:

Ben Kieffer

The University of Iowa has received a $115 million research award -- its largest ever -- from NASA to study the interactions between the magnetic fields of the sun and the Earth. 


It's easy to look back and rationalize the technological progress of the 20th century. The tough part is predicting what future technologies will impact the world of tomorrow. Together, Zach and Kelly Wienersmith tackle the question of how groundbreaking tech will shape the world of tomorrow in their book "Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything."

Penguin Random House

Larry Diamond is a political scientist who has spent decades promoting democracy in dozens of countries around the world. He now feels our country is facing the most serious constitutional crisis since Watergate, and perhaps since the American Civil War.

Joyce N. Boghosian / Flickr

Comparing United States Presidents is considered more or less a parlor game. But can U.S. Presidents actually be compared in a truly useful manner? What methods and variables do historians use to make these comparisons and how do they help us understand the present?

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is emerging as a solution to aid persistent insomnia in place of medication. 

University of Iowa Neurology Professor Mark Dyken and Psychiatrist Rachel Immen join River to River explain the impacts of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI).  

"I like to compare CBTI to physical therapy - you're working on a specific problem with exercises that help you improve the function of yourself," Immen says. "CBTI is very similar in that you're going to be working on exercises to improve your brain function and your sleep ability."


This year, the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone is forecast to be near record size. 

In this edition of River to River, we look at the role of nutrient pollution along the Mississippi River in creating this large, low-oxygenated area. Host Ben Kieffer sits down with Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter, and Chris Jones, a research engineer at the University of Iowa’s IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering to discuss Iowa’s influence on the issue.

Photo by Clay Masters/Iowa Public Radio

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden exchanged political jabs this week in Iowa. 

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by political scientists Jim McCormick of Iowa State University and Tim Hagle of the University of Iowa for a closer look at these high profile visits.

They also discuss Iowa ethanol and what it means for the president and other 2020 hopefuls, protests in Hong Kong over extradition laws, and former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean's testimony before Congress.

U.S. Air Force photo/Carol Lawrence

Persistent exposure to death and trauma puts firefighters, police officers, dispatchers, and paramedics at increased risk for negative mental health symptoms.

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer asks first responders how they go about tackling those challenges and how they get support for post-traumatic stress and depression related to their work.

Then, we examine why interest in becoming a police officer is down dramatically across the country as well as here in Iowa, and what’s being done about it.

Guests in today’s program include:

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Recently, the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled on cases dealing with Iowa's 2017 collective bargaining law, the judicial nomination process, wind energy restrictions, and jury selection and representation.

Element5 Digital

This Sunday, 19 Democratic presidential candidates will come together for the largest caucus event so far this season.On this News Buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with James Lynch, political reporter for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, ahead of this weekend's Democratic Party Hall of Fame event.

Before that, remembering the life of former Iowa Chief Justice Arthur McGiverin with current chief justice Mark Cady. Later in the program, a home state perspective on democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro from Ryan Poppe of Texas Public Radio. 

D-Day was arguably the most important day of the 20th century.

The White House / Flickr

President Trump has vowed to impose tariffs if Mexico does not stem the flow of migrants to the U.S. But Republicans are pushing back. 

Katie Peikes / IPR file

Extreme weather, including flooding and tornados, has been topping the news in Iowa and the Midwest. But the number of extreme weather events in the region may be even more numerous than we're able to recall. 

Heather Aitken

The cost of insulin has increased by 1,200% since the 1990's, and doubled in price between 2012 and 2016 alone. And as insulin prices steeply increase, many Iowans with diabetes feel the strain of accessing and affording this life-sustaining medication. When a sudden loss of insurance or financial strain comes in, the consequences can be devastating.

US Departmen of Defense

For ten years, Major General Timothy Orr served as adjutant general for the Iowa National Guard, and his entire career in the guard spans more than 40 years. On this segment of River to River host Ben Kieffer talks with Orr about his recent retirement and the challenges and highlights of overseeing the Iowa National Guard, including combat tours in the Middle East and disaster relief around the country.



This program originally aired on October 11, 2018.

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.


This program originally aired on October 9, 2018.

Palliative is one of the newest medical fields to date. With a focus on holistic physical, mental, and emotional pain management and support, palliative care seeks to reevaluate the way pain is understood and treated in our medical system.


Gage Skidmore

Legislation that would have limited the powers of the Iowa Attorney General has been vetoed by Governor Kim Reynolds, an action seen by some Democrats in the Iowa legislature as a "power grab".

On this Politics Day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer sits down with two political scientists to analyze the deal struck between the governor and Attorney General Tom Miller.

John Pemble

In this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by five freshman lawmakers who reflect on their first session at the Iowa Statehouse. They discuss what propelled them into politics, the challenges they faced as new lawmakers, and what they hope to focus on next year.

Emily Woodbury

  This program originally aired on November 8, 2018.

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. 

Flickr/Creative Commons


Heavy rainstorms have drenched the state over the last few weeks, and it’s not looking like Iowans' luck will change any time soon.

On this “news buzz” edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by Elwynn Taylor, professor emeritus of meteorology at Iowa State University for a look at the impact of several unusually wet weeks, particularly as farmers continue to work to get crops in and out of the ground.

Also on the program:

John Pemble/IPR

River to River's "Home State View" series helps us understand how the presidential candidates are viewed as leaders in the states they call home. Host Ben Kieffer interviews journalists who have spent years covering the candidates. We get the little-known details about each hopeful's history. Click the "play" button to listen.