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

Politics Day

Nov 28, 2012
Iowa Politics / Flickr

The recent discussions on the fate of the Iowa Straw Poll among GOP leaders has sparked further questioning on the effectiveness of the annual event and other political gatherings. Ben Kieffer talks with political scientists Steffen Schmidt and Wayne Moyer about the week’s political events including the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations and GOP discussions with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice.

Gene5335 / Flickr

Deer hunting in Iowa is a $214 million industry. The big question leading into this weekend’s shotgun season is, how will the discovery of chronic wasting disease in captive Iowa deer impact the industry? Host Ben Kieffer, talks with wildlife biologist Jim Pease and Iowa state Senator and hunting enthusiast Dick Dearden about what they think should be done to protect Iowa's wild deer population.

Pete Prodoehl / Flickr

While parents still worry about who their children are interacting with online, parents are focusing their concern now on how their children are represented online. Ben Kieffer talks with experts about the way children perceive the Internet and how their posts could affect their academic or professional future. Then Iowa school officials discuss efforts to prevent cyber bullying in Iowa.

Yew Kwang / Flickr

When thinking of U.S. – China relations, small town Iowa rarely comes to mind. But a few Muscatine residents are working to change that, by building stronger cultural, educational, and corporate relations between the two countries. Host Ben Kieffer speaks with four Muscatine residents who recently returned from a trip to China.

Frontline

The number of Iowa children living in high-poverty neighborhoods is growing at a much faster rate compared to results nationwide. On today's River to River, we’ll find out what it’s like for Iowa’s children to grow up poor, and we’ll talk to people across the state working to end childhood poverty in Iowa.

Growing Power / Flickr

Urban areas in the Midwest are often referred to as “food deserts”, lacking in affordable, local fresh greens and produce. Many people living in these areas are suffering from poor diet and subsequent disease. Ben Kieffer speaks with Will Allen, an urban farmer who is working to eliminate the fresh food shortage is these neighborhoods.

Arthur Rothstein

Urban areas in the Midwest are often referred to as “food deserts”, lacking in affordable, local fresh greens and produce. Many people living in these areas are suffering from poor diet and subsequent disease. Ben Kieffer speaks with Will Allen, an urban farmer who is working to eliminate the fresh food shortage is these neighborhoods. Then Iowa State historian Pamela Riney-Kehrberg  discusses a time when a large portion of the country was considered a desert, the 1930s Dust Bowl.

Iowa Rural Health Assocation website

At times, people living in rural Iowa struggle for access to medical specialists. The nearest pediatrician or cardiologist may be hours from a patient's home. River to River examines the state of rural health care in Iowa and now that health care is the law of the land, how will health care change in Iowa?

Politics Day

Nov 14, 2012
League of Women Voters of California / Flickr

After many in the GOP forecast a big win for Mitt Romney, it turns out he received fewer votes than John McCain did in 2008. Ben Kieffer talks with political experts, using  a week of hindsight to tackle some of the biggest questions in the aftermath of the 2012 election.

Katherine Newman / Beacon Press

In sociologist Katherine Newman's new book, The Accordion Family, she argues that globalization and weak economies have caused households to expand and incorporate grandparents, parents and children under one roof.

Host Ben Kieffer speaks with Newman about the challenges of loved ones living together to make ends meet. We'll also hear from an Ames family whose two adult daughters have moved back home in an effort to save money.

Pat Blank

William Schaefer, professor emeritus of photography talks about his exhibit showcasing some of Iowa’s notable veterans, which is currently on display at the Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge in Iowa. Then, Captain Dan Grinstead of the Iowa Army National Guard is one of the veterans featured in the exhibit and he shares his story of his decision to enlist later in his life.

Doctor Michael Merzenich, a professor emeritus at the University of California at San Francisco, talks about the human brain how it works and how it can recover from injury.

Dean Borg / IPR

How many times a day do you wash your hands? Most people don’t keep track, but researchers at the University of Iowa are studying how well and how often hospital workers hand-wash. Ben Kieffer speaks with several researchers who are studying how infections spread in hospitals. But first, we discuss the impact of a drug-resistant bacteria discovered in some wildlife species in the state.

Dan Shechtman headshot

In 1982, Dan Shechtman of Iowa State University and the Ames Laboratory discovered a type of crystal so strange, so unusual it upended the scientific world.

Bill Roehl / Flickr

After months of campaigning, it’s all over. Ben Kieffer talks with political experts Christ Larimer from the University of Northern Iowa, and Dennis Goldford of Drake University, to analyze the election results for Iowa’s Congressional, legislative, and judicial races.

Jason Mrachina / Flickr

Most people will have the experience of voting in an election but few of us will ever know what it is like to be on the ballot. We talk with two former Iowa congressmen - Democrat Dave Nagle (1987-1993) and Republican Jim Ross Lightfoot (1985-1997) to find out what election day is like from the candidates' perspective.

Eagle.Dawg / Flickr

Analysts are saying the outcome of this election hinges on one factor – turnout. Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa party officials across the state to find out what the major parties are doing to get out the vote.Then, Greg Hamot a University of Iowa College of Education professor, and Rachel Willis, executive director at Kids Voting USA, talk about how kids perceive the candidates and the discussions parents can have with them about the election.

Gage Skidmore / flickr

Award-winning journalist and foreign policy analyst Robin Wright is visiting Iowa this week. She’s spent decades exploring new trends in the Islamic world. We get her take on the major policy challenges for the United States and the West. Also, a conversation with incumbent Republican Tom Latham who is facing another incumbent Leonard Boswell for Iowa’s new 3rd district.

Judicial Retention

Nov 1, 2012
Shane Vander Hart / Flickr

As it was two years ago during the midterm election, judicial retention is again a contentious issue in Iowa. Ben Kieffer talks with members of the Iowa State Bar Association to help lay out all the facts and arguments pertaining to the retention of Justice Wiggins, as well as the different opinions on what makes a judicial system political.

Clay Masters

Iowa has been in the center of the presidential campaign since mid-2011. In less than a week campaigning will end, and governing will begin. It’s the last politics day before the election. Steffen Schmidt of Iowa State University and Tim Hagle of the University of Iowa asses where things stand.

Iowa Democratic Party / Flickr

This election season we’ve invited all of the Republican and Democratic candidates vying to represent Iowa four new congressional districts to share their views. Host Ben Kieffer talks with Christie Vilsack, who is challenging Republican Congressman Steve King in Iowa’s new 4th district.

Then Ben talks with incumbent Democrat Leonard Boswell who is facing Tom Latham in Iowa’s new 3rd district.

Religion In Iowa

Oct 26, 2012
NASA

This week’s Being in Iowa series has taken us to Hindu and Sikh Temples, examined the faiths of Mormons and Quakers, and talked with those who choose not to believe. Ben Kieffer and wraps up the series with a conversation about faith in some of Iowa’s smaller religious communities. Iowans tell their stories of coming to faith and moving away from it, and how those journeys have impacted lives.

Renee Betrand / Flickr

New York Times bestselling author and Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate Justin Cronin takes us into the post-apocalyptic world he’s created in the newly released second book of his highly-acclaimed vampire trilogy.

401(K)2012 / flickr

It’s the tail end of election season, meaning many Iowans have received calls, or survey requests online, all to see where political support stands with voters. But how much do we know about these polls, and the organizations that conduct them? Host Ben Kieffer finds out more about what these polls mean, and how much impact they are on voters. Then Megan Took, the executive director and legal counsel for the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, discusses campaign spending within the state of Iowa.

Daniel Horacio Agostini / Flickr

 In an election year when billions will be spent on political advertising, how much can you trust the claims you see on TV? Host Ben Kieffer talks with Tim Karr, director of strategy at Free Press, about recently published reports on how ads are impacting the race nationwide. Then, two Iowa TV stations explain how they're fact-checking ads.

Iowa App Makers

Oct 19, 2012

It wasn’t too long ago, when nobody knew what an “app” was. Today, many of us wouldn’t know what to do without our favorite mobile software applications. Host Ben Kieffer talks with mobile app and tech developers across the state, and we’ll discover some newly created apps, from our developers right here in Iowa.

Ralph Nader's book titled, "The Seventeen Solutions"
Ralph Nader / Harper Collins Publishers

The Atlantic named Ralph Nader one of the 100 most influential figures in American history. A political activist and five-time presidential candidate, Nader talks with host Ben Kieffer about his new book "The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future."

Photos: Clay Masters

There’s a joke going around among journalists: This presidential debate is the most important one since the last one, or until the next one. Host Ben Kieffer talks with analysts Dave Peterson from Iowa State University and Bruce Gronbeck emeritus professor from the University of Iowa, to give their take on the latest face off, and how  it impacts the presidential race.

 

Daniel Hillel headshot
Daniel Hillel / Headshot photo

On today's River to River the 2012 World Food Prize laureate, Daniel Hillel, talks about his role bringing advanced irrigation techniques to crops in arid and dry regions in the Middle East. Hillel has impacted farming lands in more than 30 countries with his technique of “micro-irrigation” that keeps the soil continuously moist without overusing the water supply.

Senator Chuck Grassley talks with host Ben Kieffer as he reflects on the death of former Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter. Then Walter Olson, a fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional studies, shares the importance of a current legal case where a University of Iowa law school graduate claims the school didn't hire her because of her conservative political views. Then, Des Moines Register's Senior News Director, Carol Hunter, discusses the launch of a new series examining the living conditions of Iowa’s children, and a political update by IPR’s Clay Masters.

Anthony Robles was born with one leg but it was his courage and resolve that  allowed him to chase his dream and to reach something that is remarkable for anyone, becoming a national wrestling champion. Host Ben Kieffer talks with the champion about his life and  his book UNSTOPPABLE: From Underdog to Undefeated: How I Became a Champion.

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