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

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

As he prepares to leave Washington, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warns the next administration about the impact of global markets on U. S. farmers. 

Vilsack is quick to point out he’s not privy to any information from the Republican president-elect, but he’s worried about how Donald Trump will approach immigration and trade.  Vilsack says bad decisions could spur retaliation from China and Mexico—two of the top three trading partners for the U.S.

Gage Skidmore

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts, Tim Hagle and Justin Holmes, about President-Elect Donald Trump’s latest cabinet picks and what the current appointees may plan to do if approved by the Senate.

Trump most recently nominated Georgia Rep. Tom Price as secretary of Health and Human Services. Price has been a consistent opponent of the Affordable Care Act in Congress, and he’s developed an alternative plan to replace the ACA.

Hagle doesn't expect the popular aspects of the ACA to be abolished.

Daniel R. Blume / Flickr, Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

The 1976 film, "All the President's Men," glamorized investigative journalism. The movie won four Academy Awards, was nominated for Best Picture and inspired a generation of investigative journalists. This year another film, "Spotlight," tells the story of an investigative team at The Boston Globe, who uncovered the Catholic Church's pattern of protecting priests accused of child sexual abuse. Will it spark the same inspiration in an industry facing financial struggles, that is growing increasingly fragmented and driven by a need to fill a 24-hour news hole?

There have been many protests in the United States recently. 

After Election Day, protests sprung up across the nation, the Black Lives Matter protests have been going on since 2013, and tensions have escalated at the Standing Rock Indian reservation in North Dakota, where protesters stand against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.

This hour on River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on protesting in America, from past to present.

IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" will host Iowa City's reggae master Tony Brown on Friday, December 2 at The Java House in downtown Iowa City. 

Stop by at 2 P.M. to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer chat with Brown about his long and storied career and listen to him perform tunes from his rich discography. 

In this episode of Iowa Public Radio Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa blues icon Kevin B.F. Burt stops by The Java House in downtown Iowa City to croon and belt his legendary tunes. 

Lend an ear to the podcast below to hear some of Burt's new works, as well as some searing covers of B.B. King, Bob Dylan, and more. 

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Des Moines powerhouse Bonne Finken trades laid back acoustic arrangements for grand, sprawling electronic tunes. 

Download the podcast below to hear host Ben Kieffer chat with Finken on her decision to go electronic. 

Wellcome Images

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and producer Emily Woodbury talk with medical providers about how different medical robots work, as well as the pros and cons of working side-by-side with machines to provide patient care.

Robots at the bedside: Telemedicine and the stroke robot

Ben Kieffer

The shooting in Ferguson, Missouri and the unrest that followed sparked a vigorous debate in the country about the role of law enforcement.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and producer Emily Woodbury visit the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) at Camp Dodge in Johnston to find out how training is changing due to the national debate over the role of law enforcement.

Josh More / Flickr

It was just a few weeks ago that the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines facilitated the birth of a rare baby black rhino, and now the zoo says one of their four giraffes is pregnant.

In this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with caretakers, veterinarian Dr. June Olds and large mammal supervisor Lou Keeley, about reticulated giraffe Uzuri's pregnancy and what they are planning for with the birth.

Daniel Rehn

This week, Google and Facebook announced measures aimed at halting the spread of "fake news" on the internet.

Google says it’s working on a policy change that will prevent websites that misrepresent content from using its AdSense advertising network. Facebook updated its advertising policies, spelling out that its ban on deceptive and misleading content applies to fake news.

Gage Skidmore

President Obama says countries across Europe, as well as the United States, are confronting populist movements based on a fear of encroaching global forces.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts who compare the fears in Europe that led to Brexit to those here in the U.S. that propelled Donald Trump into the White House. They also discuss President-Elect Donald Trump's potential cabinet picks and what that list says about how Trump may govern. 

Evan Vucci, AP

Republican candidate Donald Trump made a practice of criticizing the media at his campaign rallies, even calling out some journalists by name. That criticism was greeted by booing, jeering and worse from the crowds. NPR political reporter Sarah McCammon was there for all of it. She spoke with Trump supporters throughout the campaign and witnessed the Trump campaign’s relationship with the media.

Dubuque trio Cranes and Vultures brings its eclectic take on folk and alt-country to The Java House in downtown Iowa City in this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." 

Download and listen to the podcast below to hear the band chat with "Java Blend" host Ben Kieffer and play some of their intriguing, highly original tunes. 

Courtesy of Joe Palca

During the 25 years he has been with NPR, Joe Palca has covered everything from biomedical research to astronomy.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Palca about the process of science and how its findings get communicated to the public. They also discuss his latest series Joe’s Big Idea, which explores the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors.

Emily Woodbury

It’s been a long election season here in Iowa, and as the dust begins to settle, there's one thing left to do: grab a pint and debrief with fellow Iowans.

On this special edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer and Clay Masters host post-election conversations in front of live audiences in Marion and Des Moines.

NSHEPARD / FLICKR

In Des Moines, an elementary school teacher reports that a student on the playground hugged her and said she'd be missed if the student's family got deported back to Mexico, and in Cedar Rapids, the Islamic Center is providing counseling for young women struggling with whether or not to continue to wear hijab. 

But in other parts of the state, Iowans are excited about the changing political tides. During this hour of River to River, we hear from a handful of Iowans who are digesting the results of Tuesday and asking themselves, "now what?" 

el7bara/Flickr

The Imam at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids says Muslims in his community are reacting with a mix of fear and sadness to the election of Donald Trump as president.

Hassan Salim says he hopes President-elect Donald Trump will watch his language when talking about Islam.

“There are millions of American Muslims who are truly hurt every time he does not distinguish between what Islam is, what American Muslims are, and radical Islam. These are two separate things and he needs to make it very clear.”

Clay Masters / IPR

Whether very excited or fearful and upset, voter reaction to the results of Tuesday's election, when Republicans swept congressional and state contests and Donald Trump won the presidency, has been strong. During this hour on River to River, host Ben Kieffer debriefs on the results. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Iowa African-American Hall of Fame recognizes the outstanding achievements of African-Americans who have enhanced the quality of life for all Iowans. Since its inception in 2002, 65 Iowans have been inducted into the IAAHF. This year, they inducted four.

Kesho Scott

In this boot-stompin' episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa's old-time jazz group The Dandelion Stompers stopped by The Java House in downtown Iowa City- and the toes were tapping. 

Lend an ear to the downloadable podcast below for some jazz standards steeped in New Orleans tradition.

julep67 / Flickr

Tuesday marked the first day of open enrollment for Obamacare health insurance. It comes just a week after the Department of Health and Human Services announced the prices of policies sold on the exchanges would rise an average 22 percent for 2017.  Pete Damiano, Director of the Public Policy Center and of the Health Policy Research Program at the University of Iowa, says that number may be scarier in theory than it is in reality.

Don Becker, USGS / Flickr

Climate change, while a major issue with huge ramifications, has been nearly lost in the clamor of this year's election campaigns. During all three presidential debates – a total of some four and a half hours of debating – less than six minutes was spent discussing the candidates’ policies related to climate change.

Photo courtesy of Jason Sole

Jason Sole is a former gang member and three-time convicted felon turned community educator. He now works on reducing recidivism and bringing attention to the racial and economic disparities that lead to mass incarceration.

Tony Webster / Flickr

In a Quinnipiac Poll conducted from October 20 to 26 in Iowa, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are tied with 44% of likely voters backing each candidate. That polling took place before FBI director James Comey sent a document to Congress explaining there was additional evidence related to Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Iowa City's favorite bluesman, Kevin B.F. Burt, will take up a familiar role on the Java Blend stage for another electrifying performance of his award-winning roots and blues. 

Stop by The Java House in downtown Iowa City at 2 P.M. this Friday, November 4th, to hear the booming voice and distinct guitar playing that has cemented Burt as legend in blues music. 

Kevin Satoh

Twenty-five years ago today, on November 1, 1991, a 28-year-old University of Iowa student went on a shooting rampage, killing four members of the university faculty and one student: his professor Christopher Goertz, department chairman Dwight Nickolson, associate professor Robert Smith, fellow researcher Linhua Shan, and Anne Cleary, an associate vice president and professor of education. 

The shooter, a graduate student from China named Gang Lu, also seriously wounded another student, Miya Rodolfo-Sioson, before he shot himself.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

While all eyes are on a recently tight presidential race, politicos in Iowa are considering another razor thin margin: that of the Iowa Senate. With a Republican governor and the GOP holding 57 of the 100 seats in the House of Representatives, the outcome of one or two state senate races could determine whether the Republicans get a Statehouse trifecta.

Twin Cities jam band Frogleg crammed all seven of its members onto a tiny Java House stage for this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," so it's no wonder why their music sounds so tight. 

Join Java Blend host Ben Kieffer and listen in to the free podcast below to hear the group's stellar musicianship, infectious grooves, and dazzling chemistry. 

Clay Masters

Carl Bernstein is a name many remember from the Watergate era of the 1970s. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist on the life of Hillary Clinton.

A Woman in Charge is the title of the book from 2007 that Carl Bernstein wrote about Clinton’s life, from her upbringing in Illinois to the U.S. Senate and the White House. 

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