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.

University of Iowa Emergency Medicine Dr. Chris Buresh and Cedar Rapids Red Cross volunteer Peter Teahen have just returned to Iowa after a trip to Haiti where both provided medical relief to earthquake victims. Later in the hour, a conversation with Black Hawk County Public Health director Tom O'Rourke who reflects upon his 36 years in the public health sector.

Mountain Lions

Feb 2, 2010

A mountain lion shot near Marengo by a deer hunter in December marked the first confirmed sighting of the big cat in Iowa in more than five years. Among the guests- DNR Research Biologist Ron Andrews who discusses the history of the big cats in Iowa and whether they should be a designated wildlife species in the state.

Mental Health Services

Feb 1, 2010

A discussion of Mental Health services in Iowa. During the first half of the program we’ll debate legislation that would mandate broader insurance coverage for mental illness including drug or alcohol addiction. Later, Department of Human Services Director Charlie Krogmeier discusses closing one of the state’s four mental health institutes.

Should we use technology to catch people running red lights and reduce accidents? Cedar Rapids is the latest city to install red light cameras at intersections. Other cities are thinking about installing them while some states are voting to ban them altogether. We debate the pros and cons of red light cameras with representatives from law enforcement, the insurance industry and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa. Then, a look at the evolution of the egg industry with two Iowa State University professors featured on the History Channel Modern Marvels program.

Radon in Iowa

Jan 28, 2010

January is Radon Action Month in Iowa. We'll talk with Rick Welke from the Iowa Department of Public Health's Radon program about why the colorless, odorless gas is such a problem in Iowa.

Dick Ferguson, CEO and Chairman of ACT will talk about the history of the test, which is the subject of a new exhibit at the State Historical Museum, and how the test has evolved over time. Then, College Admissions officials from Iowa State University will discuss how the ACT and other tests are used for college admissions.

Are team names like the Redskins racially offensive? Anthropologist Christina Gish Berndt of Iowa State University says the use of indian imagery goes back to pre-Revolutionary War times when Americans wanted to set themselves apart from Europeans. Then, UNI men's basketball Coach Ben Jacobson talks about the secret to the success of mid-major conferences. The Panthers won an automatic birth to the NCAA tournament last year, and this year boasted one of the longest winning streaks in college basketball.

Tax Credit Debate

Jan 25, 2010

In 2007, the state awarded more than 400 million dollars in tax credits. In these lean economic times, are tax credits a necessary stimulus or a drain on state resources better spent on schools and kids? Among the guests- Peter Fischer of the Iowa Policy Project, Chris Nelson of Kemin Industries in Des Moines and State Senator Herman Quirmbach.

The Reverend James Lawson spent 14 months in prison after declaring himself a conscious objector and refusing to report for the draft in 1951. He later went to India to study the principles of nonviolent resistance from Ghandi. He met Martin Luther King Jr. and worked with him until King's death. Lawson is in Iowa City this week to discuss King and the human rights movement. Then a conversation with Celeste Bembry of the University of Northern Iowa's College of Humanities and Fine Arts. Bembery discusses UNI's School of Music concert focusing on the negro spiritual genre.

Members of the state Board of Education have received an update on the condition of community colleges. Enrollment numbers have continued to spike and the 15 state institutions are struggling to deal with budget cuts and one-time federal stimulus funds at a time when more displaced workers are seeking new employment skills. We discuss the report with Steve Ovel of Kirkwood Community College. Later in the hour, a conversation with Johnston High School teacher Sarah Brown Wessling, a finalist for the National Teacher of the Year award.

Copyright Criminals

Jan 20, 2010

The practice of remixing existing bits and pieces of sound to create new music is a central component of hip-hop and other musical forms. But, recycling someone else’s music without permission is also copyright Infringement. Ben Kieffer talks with U of I Associate professor Kembrew McLeod and UI alum Benjamin Franzen about their documentary film "Copyright Criminals" which examines this ongoing debate.


Jan 19, 2010

ISU Associate Professor of Anthropology, Jill Pruetz and Dr. Ben Beck, Conservation Director of the Great Ape Trust of Iowa discuss chimp research and findings.

Jeneane Beck talks about Governor Culver's push for government reorganization. Guests in the first half of the program include State Representative Mary Mascher and State Senator Randy Feenstra. Then, Governor Culver discusses reorganizaion and other legislative priorities.

Ben Kieffer talks with U of I Emergency Room Dr. Christopher Buresh. Dr. Buresh recently returned from Haiti, and is now collecting relief supplies to take on a return trip. Then, author Ethan Watters talks about his book, "Crazy Like Us," in which he contends the U.S. is changing the sypmptoms and prevalence of mental illness around the world.

Children's Issues

Jan 14, 2010

We talk with panelists at an upcoming Drake University Conference focusing on children's issues, including childhood obesity and growing up during wartime.

Bob Dorr Reflections

Jan 13, 2010

Legendary IPR Bluesman Bob Dorr reflects on his career at IPR as he prepares for a his "kind-of" retirement.

IPR's Ben Kieffer talks with representatives from Iowans for Tax Relief, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry and others for reaction to Governor Culver's Condition of the State speech.

Session Preview

Jan 11, 2010

IPR's Jeneane Beck talks with legislative leaders about what to expect from the upcoming session.

Ben Kieffer talks with individuals who have offered their compelling stories in the new book, 'Voices of Multiple Sclerosis'. The book offers candid, heartfelt, and inspiring testimonials of 40 diverse individuals who have been affected by the crippling disease. Among the guests is Dr. Terry Wahls of Iowa City, who overcame secondary progressive MS through intensive nutrition and exercise coupled with electrical stimulation.

Immigration Reform

Jan 7, 2010

Ben Kieffer talks with veteran filmmaker Nicholas Stein who is the series producer for National Geographic Channel's 'Border Wars.' During the filming, Stein was embedded with operational teams monitoring ports of entry for illegal aliens into the U.S. Later in the hour we examine the prospects for immigration reform with Mark Grey of the Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration and Tom Rendon of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa Wesleyan English professor Emma Rainey and University of Iowa veterans advisor John Mikelson about a new workshop for veterans to express their feelings through writing. Rainey views the workshop as a way to help veterans learn how to tell their stories in compelling and creative ways.

Child Welfare Changes

Jan 5, 2010

Ben Kieffer talks with Child and Family Services administrator Mary Nelson who is retiring after 35 years in one of government’s most demanding jobs. Nelson discusses the enormous changes in child welfare over the the past 35 years and how Iowa is doing in reducing child abuse and neglect.

Ben Kieffer talks with William Bernstein, author of 'The Investor's Manifesto'. Bernstein is an American financial theorist. He is known for his research in the field of modern portfolio theory and for his self-help finance books for individual investors who wish to manage their own equity portfolios.