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

British Red Cross / Flickr

Pat Giorgio anticipated some problems with the transition of state-run Medicaid to three private management companies, but she didn't quite anticipate the breadth and depth of the woes the transition would cause for Evergreen Estates, residential communities she founded to serve the elderly in Cedar Rapids.

"Because I heard that it might be a difficult transition, I got a line of credit with my bankers of $100,000. I'm billing roughly $40-50,000 a month to Home and Community Based Services, and I've used up that $100,000 in my line of credit."

Photo by Clay Masters

With less than 100 days left until Election Day, Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump has flouted political conventions around religion, race, gender, and now military service. And he's refused to endorse fellow republicans John McCain and Paul Ryan. 

ABC News has been reporting that senior Republican officials are so confused by Trump’s behavior that they are exploring how they might be able to replace him.

John Reese / Flickr

Nathan Gibson--gun owner, gun rights activist, and father of two girls active in shooting sports--and Ako Abdul-Samad--democratic legislator, gun control advocate, and father of one boy who died of gun violence--are sitting in a radio studio together. The mood in the room is not tense at all. Serious, thoughtful, committed: yes. But a far cry from tense. A better word may be congenial. Or even friendly.

Michael Leland/IPR

A Democratic state senator says he’s hopeful the Iowa Legislature will take action next year to help make the state’s roads safer for cycling.  Nine people have died while biking in the state so far this year.  The latest death occurred last week, when a cyclist was struck from behind while riding in southwest Iowa.   Senator Joe Bolkcom of Coralville says he feels distracted drivers are part of the problem, and he thinks the legislature will consider ways to address that.

In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer chats with the activist-rock group the Muckrockers. 

Tune in below to hear the group's mission themed lyrics, set to a backdrop of catchy melodies. 

Local roots rock group The Mayflies join IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" in this special encore broadcast. 

Lend an ear to the downloadable podcast below to hear "Java Blend" host Ben Kieffer talk with the group- and to listen to the pickin' and grinnin' style of The Mayflies. 

In this summer encore podcast of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Indianapolis rock band Hero Jr. strip down their sound for an intimate, acoustic set. 

Download the podcast, originally aired on November 8, 2014, to hear "Java Blend" host Ben Kieffer learn about the band's then-brand new record, "Mixed Race Indiana Marriage." 

In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer welcomes Des Moines indie-reggae group Mighty Shady to the Java Blend stage. 

Download the podcast, which first aired on October 25, 2014, to bring Mighty Shady's grooves wherever you go. 

In this special encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City blues-rock icon David Zollo and his band, the Body Electric, stop by The Java House for a boogie-woogie filled afternoon. 

Download the podcast below to hear "Java Blend" host Ben Kieffer catch up with Zollo. This podcast originally aired on October 18, 2014. 


Some state lawmakers are saying they’d like to see Iowa’s three state universities consider expanding alcohol sales at sporting events. One of them is State Senator Brian Schoejahn, who chairs the senate’s higher education committee. He says the matter should at least be studied.  But, Iowa State University President Steven Leath says he has zero interest in expanding sales beyond the few private areas where drinking is currently allowed. 

Ida Mae Astute / ABC

The Republican National Convention was meant to unify Republicans and spotlight the best parts of Donald Trump’s unconventional candidacy. Instead, the focus has been on rumbling feuds within the party and unforced errors by the campaign.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Tim Hagle of the University of Iowa and Hans Hassell of Cornell College about the convention being held in Cleveland, Ohio this week.

Pokemon Go, a new game and cell phone app, was released earlier this month and has quickly become one of the most played games across the United States. If you're not playing it, someone you know is.

Pete Zarria

Even before the Declaration of Independence was signed, the founders of the United States established the post office as the circulatory system of America’s body politic.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with New York Times best-selling author Winifred Gallagher, author of How the Post Office Created America.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

This election campaign of 2016 has seen attacks on Mexicans as criminals and rapists, as well as a call for a ban on Muslim immigrants.  This hour, we continue our summer series "Beyond Iowa Nice" with a look at the contentious issue of immigration and get the thoughts of a number of Iowans on the issues involved.  We hear from Iowans with contrasting perspectives and from communities in Iowa most impacted by immigrants, including Marshalltown and Perry.

Trump photo by Michael Vadon, Clinton photo by Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

New swing-state polls released today show Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton in Florida and Pennsylvania and tied in the critical battleground state of Ohio.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Dave Andersen and Bruce Nesmith about results of the latest political surveys, Bernie Sanders endorsement of Clinton, and Donald Trump's announcement of his top three picks for a running-mate - Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

Iowa law enforcement officers are echoing comments made by Dallas Police Chief David Brown after last week’s shootings, saying, “Send us your applicants.”

Departments across the state have been actively trying to diversify their forces by reaching out to minority communities in the state, but they aren’t getting applications. Daniel Trelka  is Chief of the Waterloo Police Department.

shinosan / Flickr

What do parents of teenagers and an FBI special agent have in common? Negotiation is key to the job. Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, says the difference between high stakes international intrigue and a typical contentious daily interaction is smaller than you think.

“The difference between hostage negotiations and business negotiations is really only the stakes. I like to say, ‘Take the guns out of a typical bank robbery with hostages, you got a typical Monday morning staff meeting with the boss.’”

The Center for Volunteer Caregiving / Flickr

Over 317,000 Iowans care for an aging parent or loved one. While the focus is usually on the elderly person being cared for, caregivers often carry an unseen burden.

Lee / Flickr

In a report on psychiatric beds in all fifty states and the District of Columbia, the Treatment Advocacy Center found Iowa ranked dead last in terms of mental health beds per capita. Dr. Jimmy Potash, professor and chair of psychiatry at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, says that's a big problem.

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

Former Congressman Jim Leach pointed to Citizens United, and the equation of money to free speech, as a key catalyst for much of the electorate's dissatisfaction with the system.

Rian Castillo / Flickr

This year, 2016, marks the first election where there are as many millennials as baby boomers in the U.S. electorate.

River to River's Ben Kieffer kicks off Iowa Public Radio's summer series "Beyond Iowa Nice" by hosting a conversation on the political generation gap. He explores where boomers, gen-xers, and millennials see eye to eye, and where they don’t.  


John Pemble


Iowa U.S. Senator Joni Ernst met with Donald Trump on July 4th, fueling speculation that Ernst is high on his list for running mates.

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa and Kedron Bardwell of Simpson College about what Ernst would bring to the Trump ticket. 

They also discuss the impact of the FBI recommendation that no criminal charges be filed over Hillary Clinton’s use of private email servers while she was Secretary of State.

Sgt. Rebecca Linder/Flickr

There are more than four thousand untested rape kits awaiting testing in Iowa. The Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division Director Janelle Melohn has been conducting an audit of untested kits since February. 

As of the end of June, we have almost an 80% response rate. We have 381 active law enforcement agencies in our state, and just short of 80% have responded to us. We have just over a total of 4,000 kits that have been inventoried thus far," she says. 

Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration / Wikimedia Commons

A space probe carrying an instrument from the University of Iowa goes into orbit around Jupiter Monday, July 4.  The NASA probe “Juno” was launched in 2011 on a mission to learn more about the solar system’s largest planet. 

Bill Kurth is a research scientist at the University of Iowa, and the lead investigator of the Waves instrument.  He says it will examine radio and plasma waves around Jupiter, to understand how the planet’s auroras are formed. 

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

In 1961, President Kennedy said the US needed to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Now, more than 50 years later, Vice President Joe Biden says the nation needs a cancer moonshot – with a goal of doubling the rate of progress to end cancer as we know it.

On Wednesday, he held a summit in Washington. Organizations in all fifty states and Puerto Rico participated to, as Biden puts it, "break down silos, seize the moment, and double the rate of progress."

In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Minnesota-based artist Jack Klatt shows off his rolling Mississippi music. 

Lend an ear below to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer talk with Klatt about his extensive travel and the influence it has had on his songwriting. 

  In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Des Moines indie-pop band In Rooms enchants listeners with their blend of Latin rhythms and pop melodies. 

Download the podcast below to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer chat with the group about their wide range of influences. 

threefishsleeping / Flickr

A terrorist attack in Turkey has left 42 dead and more than 230 injured.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts about why Turkey was targeted in the attack. Joining the conversation: Kelly Shaw, political science lecturer at Iowa State University, Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield professor of political science at Grinnell College, and Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University.

Wikimedia Commons

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down one of the biggest cases on abortion in a quarter century. The court also issued several other rulings, including a case about affirmative action in college admissions, and another regarding when people convicted of domestic violence can own a gun. What does it all mean for you, and how will these cases reverberate around Iowa and around the nation?

Tony Webster, Portland, Oregon / Wikimedia Commons

A landmark piece of legislation that assures public access to government documents turns 50 on July 4th. President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation in 1966, without so much as a statement, just avoiding a pocket veto. That reluctance set the stage for a love/hate relationship between presidential administrations and the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.