In the Field: River to River Radio

Issue: 
Ben Kieffer hosting his show at Iowa Public Radio.
Ben Kieffer hosting his show at Iowa Public Radio.

Ben Kieffer takes pride in hosting popular Iowa Public Radio show

Browsing through multiple tabs on his desktop computer, Ben Kieffer (BA ’86) bookmarks one site covering the latest news on President Trump’s wiretapping claims and another on Steve King’s controversial “anti-immigration” statement. Skimming through each, he looks for details relevant to the topic he plans to spend the next hour talking about.

Time inches closer to noon, Kieffer takes his seat behind the microphone—his highlighted notes organized in front of him. A chat box pops up in the corner of his computer screen, “ready in the studio,” he types to producer, Emily Woodbury (BA ’12), and eagerly presses send.

At the top of the hour, Kieffer, the host of Iowa Public Radio’s flagship news talk show, River to River, conducts interviews on a wide range of topics in the news.

In the adjoining room, Woodbury, who took Kieffer’s radio production course that sparked an interest in a public radio career, searches the internet for up-to-date subject material, screens potential callers, and listens in on the show.

News Producer Dennis Reese has worked closely with Kieffer since before the founding of Iowa Public Radio more than a decade ago.

“Ben does an outstanding job,” Reese says. “It’s been fun to watch him progress from working in operations as a student at WSUI to hosting a very popular radio show.”

During his time with Iowa Public Radio, Kieffer has made a name for himself, and although he is widely recognized for his work here in Iowa, he has been humbled by the experiences he has had elsewhere.

After graduation, Kieffer left the comforts of home and spent 11 years working in Germany. He reported major historical events back to North America such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution in Prague for Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcasting service.

“While I enjoyed living in Germany, I really missed Iowa. I was happy to find a job back here where it all started,” Kieffer says as he sits back in his chair looking around the studio that has become a second home to him. “Leaving what you know in your 20s and then coming back with completely different eyes—that’s when I realized just how special Iowa is to me.”

Kieffer is currently working with SJMC Director David Ryfe to establish a partnership with Iowa Public Radio for a radio-focused capstone course. This fall, he’ll work as a journalist-in-residence for the UI College of Public Health.

Just as Kieffer has made his mark in the radio broadcasting industry, he now shares his passion for learning by educating the next generation of radio journalists.