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.

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Mary Altaffer / Associated Press

In this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Rachel Caufield, professor of political science at Drake University and Chris Larimer, professor of political science at University of Northern Iowa about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. The move comes after a whistleblower reported concerns about a phone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Claire Anderson / Unsplash

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Anthony Gaughan, professor of Law at Drake University and Paul Gowder, professor of Law at the University of Iowa, about the most significant civil and criminal cases before our nation’s highest court.

The major themes in cases to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court for the fall term are sex discrimination, 2nd amendment gun rights, the separation of church and state and much more.

The new term begins October 7, 2019.


Rachel Tayse / Flickr


Untreated sleep apnea can be devastating for health over a long period of time, according to Neurologist and Director of the University of Iowa Sleep Disorders Center Eric Dyken. Dyken joins host Ben Kieffer to give advice to people experiencing sleep problems and explain both the potential dangers of and treatments for sleep apnea. 

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Trump named Robert O'Brien, to replace John Bolton as his new national security adviser. O'Brien will be the fourth national security adviser in the Trump administration's term. 

Electoral College Isn't a Popularity Contest

Sep 17, 2019
Damon Taylor

This program originally aired on 2-6-18

In two out the past five presidential elections, the candidate who became president was not the one most Americans voted for. In this River to River program, host Ben Kieffer explores why our founding fathers created the Electoral College to elect presidents instead of relying on the popular vote.

Guests are presidential historian Tim Walch and University of Iowa political scientist Cary Covington. They examine the historical rationale behind the Electoral College and efforts to change its influence.

United Soybean Board / Creative Commons

China will exclude U.S. soybeans and pork from its latest round of tariffs, yet many Iowa farmers are concerned as the trade dispute continues to impact their bottom lines. 

David Differding and his wife Susan own Timeless Prairie Orchard, a small apple farm in Winthrop, Iowa. He says his business has lost tens of thousands of dollars as rising tariffs lead large-scale apple producers in Washington to flood the market with the lower priced produce they're unable to export.

Iowa National Guard / The National Guard

The Iowa National Guard has been added to a congressional investigation involving President Donald Trump's Turnberry resort.

Center For American Progress / Flickr

On Tuesday September 10, Van Jones spoke at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City. Jones is a news commentator, an advocate for social justice and New York Times bestselling author. He also served as President Barack Obama's special advisor for green jobs. Jones is also the President and Founder of Dream Corp., a justice incubator with the overarching goal of closing prison doors and opening doors of opportunity. His talk at Hancher was sponsored by the University of Iowa College of Law as part of the Levitt family lecture series.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On this Politics Day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Dennis Goldford, professor of Political Science at Drake University, and Sara Mitchel, F. Wendell Miller Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa, about the latest national and interantional news in politics. Topics include reactions to North Carolina's special election, the resignation of former National Security Advisor John Bolton, the failed Taliban summit at Camp David and reflections on the changes in politics since September 11, 2001.  

Guests include:

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Iowa State University has been undergoing several changes this fall, including the development of new mobile app safety technology.

"One of our new tools that we have in place is something called the ISU Guardian App," said Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen.

IsraelMFA / Creative Commons

Following the resignation of former National Security Advisor John Bolton, experts on foreign policy found themselves recounting President Donald Trump's foreign policy record.  

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A community college in western Iowa is reaching out to countries around the world and bringing international students to the area.

Terry Murrell is the president of Western Iowa Tech Community College. He says the school is the only one in North America where South Korea sends students. 

"We’re kind of the Harvard of South Korea, if you will, so if you go to any of the schools in South Korea, the hardest shirt to get is a Western Iowa Tech shirt over Harvard and some of the other schools."

Scott Webb / Unsplash

Satisfaction with your home can depend on its size compared to your neighbors' homes, according to new Iowa State University research. Dan Kuhlmann, assistant professor of community and regional planning, found that people are more likely to be dissatisfied with their house if it is smaller than their neighbors'.

Wikipedia Commons

As Hurricane Dorian rages over North Carolina's coast today after tearing through the Caribbean, a University of Iowa researcher is dedicated to finding the most efficient methods of transporting relief supplies to areas in need.

Ann Campbell, University of Iowa professor of management sciences, has focused her research on transportation logistics in the hopes of more effectively distributing humanitarian aid during times of natural disaster. 

Cayobo / Flickr

House Democrats passed gun background legislation in February and are expected to vote on more bills next week when members of Congress return to Washington after a six-week recess.

On this "Politics Day" edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Cary Covington and Jeff Taylor about President Trump's response to Hurricane Dorian and changes to the democratic caucus as well as other top political headlines of the week. 

Iowa Labor Collection / State Historical Society of Iowa Library-Iowa City

Since the late 1970s, the Iowa Labor History Oral Project has been collecting interviews from the working class across Iowa. They are collecting history from the ground up, as opposed to leaders or people with power.

C Zellmer / Wikimedia Commons

This program originally aired on 7-9-14.

Chief Flight Attendant Jan Brown remembers the approximately forty minutes between engine failure and crash-landing with crystal clarity.

What's Next For Iowa's Virtual Caucus?

Aug 30, 2019
Jonathan Velasquez/unsplash

The Democratic National Committee is planning to reject Iowa's proposal of a virtual caucus over fear of potential hacking. Iowa's original plan for a virtual caucus would allow voters to caucus online instead of in person. 

"The offical decision hasn't been made so the DNC officials are recommending this." IPR Reporter Katarina Sosatric says. "It's likely that the virtual caucus plan as it stands is not going to happen."

On this "news buzz" edition of River to River, a range of guests join host Ben Kieffer to discuss the latest news spanning Iowa. 

Women and the Race for the Presidency

Aug 30, 2019
John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

A historic number of women are running for the 2020 Democratic Party nomination. 

On this episode of River to River, Karen Kedrowski, the director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women in Politics at Iowa State University, joins Ben Kieffer to talk about how female candidates are working to stand out from the crowd.

AP Photo/Francois Mori

The G7 Summit brought together some of the world’s most powerful leaders to discuss the trade war in China, concerns over Iranian relations and climate change, creating ripples across the two-day affair in Biarritz, France.

Fire At Will / Creative Commons

On this edition of River to River, listeners will learn how a pair of Iowa brick-and-mortar retailers have been adjusting to the rise of e-commerce. These retailers are looking to emphasize services that online shopping cannot provide, such as experiences, entertainment options and advice on products. 

Watching Conflict In Sudan From Iowa

Aug 26, 2019
Ben Kieffer / IPR

Sudan has experienced widespread violence, economic collapse and protests for political change in recent months. As the political future of Sudan shifts, so does life for Iowa's large Sudanese population. This hour, host Ben Kieffer talks with Arab Americans about Sudan's path to civilian rule. 

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye / Indian Country Today

Fifteen presidential candidates expressed their support for organized labor at a union leader conference this past week in Altoona. Iowa Public Radio state government reporter Katrina Sostaric says the Democratic presidential hopefuls are trying to regain ground with union member voters after Hillary Clinton won union households in 2016 by the smallest margin in the past three decades.

Jessica Francis / Flickr

Cassie Mathes / University of Northern Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa has been facing a series of challenges, including a decline in enrollment, freezing tuition costs and re-branding. On this segment of River to River, host Ben Kieffer spoke with UNI President Mark Nook about these challenges as well as the new renovations on the Cedar Falls campus and what he's most looking forward to for the 2019-20 academic year.


Mark Nook, President, University of Northern Iowa

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

President Donald Trump expressed support for background checks in the days following two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio and then appeared to walk back those statements this week. Did a meeting with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre change his mind? The President says no, clarifying that he still wants to "close loopholes," in the background check system.

cordeauphotos / creative commons

Two weeks after a mass shooting shook the nation, members of Iowa's Latino community share their reactions to the hate-fueled violence.

The shooter, who killed 22 people in El Paso on August 3rd, told police he was specifically targeting Mexicans. Now, Latino Iowans are questioning their own safety.

Stacey MacNaught/Flickr


This program origionally aired 2-12-19.

With social networks at our fingertips, it’s easy to feel like we’re more connected than ever before, but your constant scrolling, liking, and app downloading may actually decrease your quality of life.

University of Iowa College of Public Health

This program origionally aired 3-4-19.

The Iowa Cancer Registry's 2019 report shows new cases of most types of cancer are holding steady. Investigator Mary Charlton says the exception is cancers caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV.