Ben Kieffer

River to River and Java Blend 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. Since 2001, he has hosted and produced IPR’s weekly, live music program which features artists from around the state and the country called Java Blend.

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 20 years in public media.

Ben holds an adjunct faculty position at The University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he teaches courses on interviewing and radio news. He is a native of Cedar Falls and a graduate of the University of Iowa.

Ben’s favorite public radio program is Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

Ways to Connect

Emily Woodbury

The night before President Donald Trump's inauguration, Iowans gathered in Cedar Rapids for another round of "Pints and Politics." At the end of the show, panelists: Gazette columnists Lynda Waddington, Todd Dorman, and Gazette political reporter James Lynch, each geared up for inauguration day by reciting their own Mad Libs inauguration speeches.

(Remember Mad Libs?  It’s the word game where one player prompts others for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story, before reading the – often comical or nonsensical – story aloud.)

angela n. / Flickr

As Donald Trump is inaugurated today, President Obama will be in attendance, following a tradition that highlights one of the most important aspects of inaugurations.

"It's an amazing event in that it signifies the peaceful transition of power, usually from one party to another," says Cary Covington, Associate Professor of political science at the University of Iowa.

Justin Sloan / Flickr

As President Obama's presidency draws to a close, the nation is reflecting on his eight years in office. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Jessica Welburn, assistant professor of sociology & African American studies at the University of Iowa, Lori Chesser, Chair of Immigration Department at Davis Brown law firm in Des Moines, Donna Hoffman, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa, about the legacy Obama leaves as a president, as a politician, and as a man.

C Tanti / Flickr

Jennifer Holliday has performed at the inaugurations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. When President-Elect Donald Trump's team reached out, asking her if she would perform at his inauguration Friday, she received a huge amount of backlash, including death threats. She canceled.

When asked on The View yesterday why she originally considered taking the gig, her answer was simple.

John S / Flickr

There’s been a lot of talk about “fake news” and what “the media” do and who “the media” are. During this hour of River to River, we talk about fake news, real news and what makes a fact.

Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communications at Merrimack College, says it’s hard to tell sometimes what is real and what is not.

John Pemble / IPR

As the first week of Iowa's 2017 legislative session comes to a close, River to River host Ben Kieffer checks in with Iowa Public Radio statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell to get an idea of what's on tap in the Iowa House and Senate.

Proposal to change confirmation process

E. C. DeWolfe, Operations of Mammoth Vein Coal Co., Bussey, Iowa, / Wikimedia Commons

This week in his Condition of the State Address, Governor Terry Branstad signaled that he wants changes to laws that allow public employees collective bargaining rights. He said he'd like to see changes to health care plans available to state employees, which would mean rewriting the state's collective bargaining law for public employees. 

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer welcomes the signature pop melodies and tight harmonies of The Well Pennies to Iowa. 

The folk duo, who recently relocated from Los Angeles to Des Moines, earned national acclaim for their rendition of the classic Beatles tune "All My Loving," featured on a 2013 release called "Beatles Reimagined." 

Download the free podcast below to hear The Well Pennies play their Beatles takes and well-crafted original music that spans the length of their careers. 

Matt A.J. / Flickr

In his first news conference since the 2016 election, President-elect Donald Trump reacted to uncorroborated allegations of the Russians having compromising information about his personal life and finances. He also offered plans to deal with potential business conflicts of interests, the future of the Affordable Care Act, and his view of U.S. intelligence agencies.

John Pemble / IPR

State lawmakers opened the 2017 legislative session this morning as Republicans took control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 20 years. As lawmakers were sworn in and official business began, River to River Host Ben Kieffer and Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell sat down with legislative leaders from both parties to discuss priorities.

samdogs / Flickr

More people moved out of Iowa last year than moved in, according to a study by Atlas Van Lines. Atlas has been following what it calls interstate migration patterns of its customers since the early 1990s. 

Atlas says, in 2016, nearly 57 percent of all moves were people leaving the state.

Liesl Ethington, assistant scientist in the economics department at Iowa State University says the informal Atlas study is backed up by more scientific Census data.

2016 in Memoriam

Jan 5, 2017
Carl Wycoff / Flickr

2016 marked the passing of men and women who significantly contributed to Iowa. Artists, public servants, historians, broadcasters--all helped shape Iowa in the years they spent on Earth. On this hour of River to River, we remember just a few of the many notable Iowans who died last year.

Jennie Wolnernan, 91, one of the last survivors of the Holocaust in Iowa, died January 9th.

Roman Boed

Earlier this week, House Republicans went behind closed doors to gut their own ethics watchdog, and then reversed course after backlash.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Dennis Goldford of Drake University and Jim McCormick of Iowa State University, who offer their thoughts on why House Republicans sought to curtail The Office of Congressional Ethics.

Iowa Public Television

Dean Borg has hosted Iowa Public Television's public affairs program Iowa Press since 1972. Next week, he retires as the regular host of the program.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer asks Borg to reflect on more than four decades of Iowa news and political interviews, including his interview with President Jimmy Carter and the two Bushes who would eventually become presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

MCAD Library

Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.”

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on architecture in Iowa. He’s joined by Iowa State University College of Design associate professors Dan Naegele and Cameron Campbell. They explain how building design in Iowa has changed over the decades, what is says about us, and the art of the field.

Paul Sabin Photo

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer chats with Iowa music legend  and visual artist Tony Brown. 

Listen to and download the free podcast below to hear Brown impressive command of a wide-range of styles from old school Blues to R&B, Soul, Ska, Reggae, Jazz, Rock, Fold, Funk and Latin flavors. Plus, here incredible stories of Brown's childhood in Waterloo, as well as his experiences abroad. 

Tony Webster / Flickr

In his Condition of the State, then-Governor Tom Vilsack declared that 2004 would be "The Year of the Arts, Culture and Recreation in Iowa." 

He continued, "Studies show that creativity spurs economic growth; breakthroughs in understanding are essential to the task of building a world of opportunity. Creative thinking, the hallmark of Iowa's success, will lead us to a more dynamic future."

Andrea Mahoney / Briarwood Healthcare Center

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America says music, when used appropriately, can shift a patient's mood, help with managing stress and agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and help with motor movements. Now, researchers at the University of Iowa are studying the extent of that effect. Alaine Reschke-Hernandez, a music therapist, and Dr.

Learning to read music helps students in math and having a health outlet for creativity is part of what encourages innovative thinking.

Do students in Iowa have enough access to things like music lessons and art classes? Should arts education be a part of the Iowa Core in terms of curriculum? Some arts educators, including David Law, Executive Director of the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education, say "yes." There's been an unsuccessful push to make arts a part of the Iowa Core for the last decade.

In this special, outdoor episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa music greats David Zollo and William Elliott Whitmore join together to perform at IPR's second annual Great Iowa Potluck. 

Download the free podcast below to hear host Ben Kieffer chat with the pair about their storied music careers, their Iowa upbringings, and their new project Middle Western. 

scion_cho / Flickr

Never go to bed angry, the old saying goes, or that bad feeling will harden into resentment. Now scientists have found evidence to support the idea that negative emotional memories are harder to reverse after a night’s sleep.

The study published recently in the journal Nature Communications found a link between sleep and the consolidation of emotional memories. Dr. Eric Dyken of the University of Iowa Sleep Disorder Center explains:

Kari Bedford

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Illinois singer-songwriter Ben Bedford tells  host Ben Kieffer about the his background in history has shaped his songwriting. 

Listen in to the podcast below to hear tunes from Bedford's new album, "The Pilot and the Flying Machine.

Gage Skidmore

A tumultuous year in politics is drawing to a close. In a year when the word "unprecedented" was tossed around weekly in election coverage, choosing one defining moment is difficult for political analysts Dave Andersen of Iowa State University and Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa.

"This was a really unusual election year. Very unusual. Certainly the most unusual in my lifetime, and I think going back, even unusual beyond that," says Hoffman.

United States Office of Humanities

Jim Leach served Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years. He is now a senior scholar at the University of Iowa after serving on faculty at Harvard and Princeton and after serving as chair at the National Endowment for the Humanities. During this River to River interview, he talks with host Ben Kieffer about his view on global challenges facing the next president.

U.S. Navy photo courtesy of National Marine Fisheries Service

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer interviews scientist and ecologist Ari Friedlaender, who has been working in Antarctica for about 20 years. 

During the course of his more than 25 trips to the continent, he has developed a long-term ecological research program that has led to many important discoveries about whales in that polar region.

He is an associate professor at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, and he is featured in a new National Geographic documentary titled CONTINENT 7: ANTARCTICA.

Gage Skidmore

President-Elect Donald Trump has tapped Mobile Exxon’s Rex Tillerson to be the next U.S. Secretary of State. Rick Perry is to head the Energy Department he once vowed to eliminate.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer goes over the latest political news with Wayne Moyer of Grinnell College and Hans Hassell of Cornell College. They discuss Trump’s latest cabinet picks, and analyze reactions to the news of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

LinkedIn

Iowa’s Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart is stepping down on the 23rd of this month. He’s served as state insurance commissioner since February 2013, overseeing the state’s Medicaid transition, as well as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. During this River to River interview, he talks with host Ben Kieffer. 

Gerhart says that policy makers need to step back and take a look at the entire healthcare ecosystem, not just the insurance piece. 

Niall Kennedy / Flickr

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, with an Iowa-made instrument aboard, is near the end of its 20 year voyage.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Bill Kurth, research scientist in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa, about the significance of the Cassini mission and spacecraft, currently in orbit around Saturn.

"Cassini is kind of a veteran. It arrived in orbit at Saturn in 2004, in the summer. That was about a seven year journey from the Earth," he says. "So we've been in orbit for almost 13 years."

MadMaxMarchHare / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Northern Iowa’s new president, Mark Nook, says his first priority is developing UNI’s budget during the 2017 legislative session.

“And then…looking at what we can do…making sure they’re solid because they’re such an important part of our budget," he says. "More importantly, though, those enrollments are such an important part of Iowa’s future. Making sure we’ve got students from Iowa into our universities and getting the degrees and education they really need to be able to go out and lead in this state.”

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has accepted President-elect Donald Trump's invitation to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China. Jonathan Hassid, an assistant professor of political science at Iowa State University, says that gives Branstad a chance to capitalize on years of relationship building. Branstad has had a relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping since Branstad's first term in office. 

Pages