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

Latinos in Iowa

Oct 9, 2012
Latino mural in Chicago, IL
Richie Diesterheft / Flickr

The Latino Midwest examines the history, education, literature, art, and politics of Latinos in the Midwest in light of the demographic changes experienced by states in this region with growing Latino populations. It aims to explore the changing demographics and dynamics of Latino communities in Iowa, and to strengthen the responsiveness of policy makers, business leaders, and community organizations.

David Shankboone / Wikimedia Commons

The idea was to transform Afghanistan from a desert to a bread basket when a U.S. settlement was established in Helmand Province in the 1960’s. But, Little America has become a modern example of our misunderstanding of a country where 80 thousand U.S. troops are trying to win hearts and minds . Host Ben Kieffer talks with Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of “Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan.”

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention / Facebook

The last decade has seen a rise in suicide rates in the United States and several groups in Iowa are trying to do something about it. Host Ben Kieffer talks with several Iowans who are reaching out to those in danger of suicide, to family members who have experienced such a tragedy and a psychiatrist with advice on suicide prevention.

DonkeyHotey / Flickr

The first presidential debate kicks off this evening and many voters across the nation will tune in to hear what President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney will discuss. Our political experts talk about the expectations they have for the candidates and listeners say what they want to hear from each candidate.

Univeristy of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics sign
Jon Farvel / Flickr

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Clinic, staffed by two primary care physicians Dr. Nicole Nisly and Dr. Katie Imborek, will focus on comprehensive primary care for adult LGBT patients delivered by providers and staff with expertise in the health care needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. 

Video Gaming In Iowa

Oct 1, 2012
Caitlin Monahan / Flickr

As the video game culture continues to grow, several people in Iowa are making efforts to expand the industry even further. Host Ben Kieffer talks with a University of Iowa instructor who developed an entire curriculum based on video game journalism. Then, a recent Iowa graduate talks about becoming an editor at the world renowned gaming magazine, 'Game Informer.' Employees at the International Video Game Hall of Fame in Ottumwa, join the conversation to discuss upcoming gaming events in the city.

Iowa is facing a shortage of middle-skill workers. Those are people to fill jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a college degree. Host Ben Kieffer talks about Iowa workforce development efforts to fill the gap. And hear from employers and educators about their needs.

Jason Brackins / Flickr

Early voting begins tomorrow in Iowa and many county auditors have said they've seen an increase interest in absentee ballot requests. It's six weeks from Election Day, and on today's Politics Day we talk with our political experts about recent events and IPR's Sarah McCammon gives an update of the presidential candidates' ground game throughout the state.

Then, one Urbandale newlywed shares how his nuptials where thrown for a curve when the president showed up.

European Parliament / flickr

In an election cycle where many top policy concerns are labeled “women’s issues,” about three-quarters of newspapers’ presidential coverage is written by men according to recent survey data by the Fourth Estate Project. River to River hosts a panel of women journalists from news outlets across the state to find out why this is, and what its impact could be on the upcoming presidential election.

Daniel Schildt / Flickr

In recent years, partisan publications and blogs are becoming more of a resource for voters. Host Ben Kieffer explores the impact niche political news organizations have on elections, specifically with this year’s presidential election. Journalism professor, Frank Durham, and political science professor, Tim Hagle join the discussion, as well as representatives of partisan news sites across the state.

J. Stephen Conn / flickr

The town of Hampton is recognizing the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution with a week long "Libertyfest" celebration. Shawn Dietz, mayor of Hampton, wants to emphasize the historical document's impact on the nation. Though the event falls during election season, Dietz says the festivities honor patriotism and not partisanship.

Dietz joined "River to River" host Ben Kieffer in a discussion on the festivities.

This week people across Iowa are recognizing the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution during this year’s national observance of “Constitution Week”. Historian David Wendell talks with Ben Kieffer about constitutional issues 225 years ago and their prevalence today. Then, the mayor of Hampton, Iowa, discusses his efforts in organizing “Libertyfest”, a week long celebration of the constitution and the founding fathers who established it.

Author Hisham Matar

Sep 20, 2012
Hisham Matar headshot
Writer's Centre Norwich / Flickr

In 1990, the father of Libyan-American writer Hisham Matar was taken away by Colonel Qaddafi's agents. That kidnapping became the basis for Matar's critically acclaimed novel, Anatomy of a Disapperance. Matar is visiting Iowa as the Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor in the University of Iowa International Writing Program from September 18 - 21. We discuss Libya's past, present and the anti-American protests across the Muslim world.

Politics Day

Sep 19, 2012
Dave Lawerence / Flickr

Are you one of the 47 percent of Americans who quote, “don’t pay taxes” and “believe government has the responsibility to care” for you?

Host Ben Kieffer, joined by our political experts, discuss the fallout from the surreptitiously taped video of Mitt Romney. Then, our experts talk about the impact of the Middle East attacks on the presidential race.

Ed Schipu / Flickr

Newsweek has named Hunter Lovins a "Green Business Icon" and a "Millennium Hero of the Planet" by TIME Magazine for her work in sustainable development. She is the President of Natural Capitalism Solution, and is also the Chief Insurgent of the Madrone Project a non-profit educational team that brings greater depth and scale to sustainability education by delivering advanced modular curricula curated for digital media purposes.

You Can't Lie To Me

Sep 17, 2012

Research shows one out of every five times a person opens his or her mouth -- out comes a lie. Also, 80 percent of all lies go undetected. Host Ben Kieffer talks with deception detection expert Janine Driver tells us how to sharpen our inner lie detector. Her new book is titled, "You Can't Lie to Me: The Revolutionary Program to Supercharge Your Inner Lie Detector and Get to the Truth."

This hour we visit a conversation host Ben Kieffer had with author Scott Cawelti, who tells us about the infamous Mark family killings and reflects on the mind of a mass murderer.

On Halloween night in 1975, Jerry Mark murdered his brothers’ entire family…four people, including two young children, in Cedar Falls. Since 1976, Jerry Mark has been held at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison where he is serving four consecutive life sentences.

The November elections feature only four congressional districts in Iowa instead of five… and the districts’ new boundaries offer new challenges for incumbents.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with several political experts about Iowa’s congressional districts including the match-ups, the issues, the polls, and the prospects.

University of Maryland Press Releases / Flickr

A committee of scientists led by University of Iowa professor Jerry Schnoor says the Environmental Protection Agency will need to develop novel tools, technologies, and a systems approach to solve environmental problems in the 21st century.

NASA

Thirty-five years after its launch, Voyager 1 is now the most distant man-made object, more than 11 billion miles from the sun and new evidence shows it’s nearing interstellar space. Host Ben Kieffer, talks with Voyager 1 scientist and University of Iowa space physicist, Don Gurnett, about the next phase of the spacecraft’s journey.

After 9/11, suspicion and animosity toward American Muslims spiked. Host Ben Kieffer talks with Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core. Patel says this prejudice is not just a problem for Muslims, but a challenge to the very idea of America. Patel also discusses his new book, Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America.

After 9/11, suspicion and animosity toward American Muslims spiked.

I’m BK. Next time on RTR, my guest is Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core.

Media Violence

Sep 6, 2012
FireFish45 / Flickr

Ever wonder if consuming media violence makes someone more likely to act out violence in real life? On River to River, we’ll examine a new report by Iowa State psychology professors Craig Anderson and Douglas Gentile that says violent images such as scenes in movies, games or pictures in comic books, act as triggers for activating aggressive thoughts and feelings already stored in memory. Also, what can parents do about it?

Four years ago, the first African-American won the presidency. To win the White House in 2012, Barack Obama will once again have to make history. Only Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected with unemployment this high. Today on Politics Day, we'll recap recent political developments including the ongoing Democratic National Convention.

Sheep Purple / flickr

University of Iowa clinical associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Michael Pentella, joined host Ben Kieffer on the talk show "River to River" to talk about the state of antibiotic resistance in the country. The discussion focused on tuberculosis, since ISU researchers are currently studying an extensively antibiotic resistant strain of the disease that is growing in parts of the world.

To hear the full show, visit the "River to River" page here.

Carissa Byers / Flickr

In Iowa, the average amount of tuberculosis (TB) cases is 30-50 a year. In the U.S., TB affects an estimated 10 to 15 million people.

Daniel Slaughter / Flickr

Nearly one new brewery opens every day in the United States and a new Gallup poll shows Americans prefer beer over wine, with craft beer enjoying a double-digit growth in popularity. Host Ben Kieffer talks about the growth of Iowa breweries and their impact on the state’s economy with several members of the Iowa brew industry. 

Michael Perry / Sneezingcow.com

On today's River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa delegates at the GOP convention in Tampa, Florida and what challenges their party now faces in the next 10 weeks before the presidential election.

Then, author Michael Perry gives a glimpse of the life of an 82-year old man in rural Wisconsin in his new book, Visiting Tom: A Man, A Highway and the Road to Roughneck Grace.

The next two weeks are a political junkie’s delight with back-to-back party conventions. Host Ben Kieffer talks with the experts to recap happenings in Tampa, look ahead to North Carolina, and talk about President Obama’s return trip to Iowa this week.

Iowa Film Productions

Aug 28, 2012
City Year Flickr Account

Frank Meeink became a skinhead when he was just thirteen. He roamed the country as an Aryan leader and Neo-Nazi recruiter with gangs that would beat people indiscriminately. Now, he’s a civil rights activist.

Today on River To River we will talk to Meeink and filmmaker Kristian Day who is documenting Meeink’s journey throughout Iowa as he searches for his spirituality.

NASA

What does weather in space have to do with us on Earth? A lot it turns out.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with University of Iowa Astronomy Professor Craig Kletzing. He talks about the instrument created by University of Iowa researchers that is aboard NASA’s latest mission to study the extremes of space weather and help scientists improve space weather forecasts.

Then, David Perlmutter, Director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa, talks about his trip this summer with other delegates to experience the culture of media in Turkey.

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