The Why

50 EpisodesProduced by WHYYWebsite

Listen to episodes of WHYY’s “The Why.”

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‘Row house’ or ‘rowhouse’? Philly’s debate over a space

August 22nd, 2019


Ryan Briggs, investigative reporter for WHYY’s PlanPhilly, recently got pulled into a mystery a little less hard-hitting than usual: is …

Three Mile Island is closing. Now what?

August 21st, 2019


Three Mile Island, infamous for being the site of the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history 40 years ago, is shutting down in September. StateImpact …

For low-income Pennsylvanians, dental care can be a nightmare

August 20th, 2019


Philadelphia social worker Summer Mills is one of the 1.2 million Medicaid patients in Pennsylvania left with bare bones dental coverage after recent budget cuts. WHYY’s Dana Bate explains why Summer’s recent saga to …

Trouble in the ‘Blueberry Capital of the World’

August 19th, 2019


Hammonton, New Jersey is known as the “Blueberry Capital of the World,” but several farms there were recently cited for illegally housing migrant …

Could alleged Boy Scout victims in Pa. get justice years later?

August 15th, 2019


The Boy Scouts of America are facing 800 new allegations of sex abuse, including 40 in Pennsylvania. Many of those allegations go back decades, but WHYY’s Nick Pugliese explains why the victims’ attorneys say they can …

The fight over the Phillie Phanatic

August 14th, 2019


The creators of the Phillie Phanatic are threatening to sell the beloved mascot to another team — unless the Phillies renegotiate their licensing agreement and offer them more money. Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Oona …

Philly gives out tickets for trashy blocks. Why isn’t it working?

August 13th, 2019


Ticketing for litter on sidewalks is the No. 1 code violation in Philadelphia. The city handed out about 20,000 tickets to property owners for that …

Why is there a Hepatitis A outbreak in Philly? One answer: poop

August 12th, 2019


Philadelphia is experiencing an outbreak of Hepatitis A with 154 cases reported as of Aug. 1. The reason? Too much poop on the streets in some neighborhoods. Jake Blumgart with WHYY’s PlanPhilly explains why that’s …

Question for Camden: How many tax breaks is too many?

August 8th, 2019


Camden has given out tax breaks to companies that have already gotten big ones from New Jersey just to move there or to stay put. Those deals have …

Why some Philly neighborhoods have lots of trees — and others don’t

August 7th, 2019


Philadelphia may be home to the nation’s biggest urban park, but an analysis from WHYY’s PlanPhilly revealed there’s a shortage of trees in some neighborhoods. And that has serious implications for residents as the …

When two N.J. reporters tried to break up with plastic

August 6th, 2019


New Jersey dumps more than a million tons of plastic in landfills every year. Some towns have banned single-use plastic bags or straws — but is it possible to ditch plastic altogether? reporters Erin Petenko and …

The mystery of the gay wedding photos

August 5th, 2019


The search is on to identify two men in a series of photos from a gay wedding that were printed in a North Philly drugstore in 1957 — but never returned to their owners. Why didn’t these photos ever make it to the …

Are blue lights a solution to Philly’s opioid epidemic?

August 1st, 2019


Why have blue lights been popping up around Philadelphia — even in some Starbucks bathrooms? Michaela Winberg, a reporter for WHYY’s Billy Penn, …

How Drexel’s public school experiment could change West Philadelphia

July 31st, 2019


Drexel University’s plan to build a new public school building on the edge of its campus is giving some West Philadelphia residents Déjà vu. Almost …

The chemical that could have killed millions in the Philly refinery fire

July 30th, 2019


Hydroflouric acid is a toxic chemical used in local refineries, including Philadelphia Energy Solutions where part of the refinery exploded last …

The Pa. loophole a Penn prof and confessed killer almost slipped through

July 29th, 2019


Penn economist Rafael Robb confessed in 2006 to bludgeoning of his wife, Ellen to death. He served only 10 years in prison before trying to go to …

Why so many bodies go unclaimed in the Philly suburbs

July 25th, 2019


Hundreds of unclaimed dead are lying in morgues and unmarked graves in the Philly suburbs. Jo Ciavaglia, an investigative reporter for the Bucks County Courier Times, has been digging for answers about who they are, why …

Saving a cherished mural — and Philly’s civic well-being

July 24th, 2019


Last summer, a cherished Philly mural honoring young victims of gun violence was on the verge of demolition. An outraged community help save it. As …

Did busing work in New Castle County schools?

July 23rd, 2019


As the debate over the legacy of school busing programs continues on the presidential campaign trail, we look back at the history in New Castle …

Bucks family’s struggle with Pa.’s mental health system

July 22nd, 2019


Bucks County resident Kim Stringer has been struggling with mental illness for a decade and has refused treatment. Her parents have turned to …

Cheyney University’s survival plan

July 18th, 2019


For years, Cheyney University has been on life support.Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Susan Snyder explains why now, America’s first historically …

Lucy The Elephant at 138: Standing the test of time

July 17th, 2019


Lucy The Elephant — the 65-foot-tall wooden structure that stands as a venerable Margate landmark— turns 138 years old on Saturday. The oldest …

The fate of Hahnemann Hospital’s medical residents

July 16th, 2019


One of the many unanswered questions swirling around the impending closure of Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia is what will happen to the more than 550 doctors training there. The hospital’s own bankruptcy …

Pa.’s widening PFAS water-contamination crisis

July 15th, 2019


A class of toxic chemicals called PFAS were recently discovered in private water wells in Bucks County. This came as a surprise because the homes are 15 miles away from the former military air bases bases in Bucks and …

Why it’s hard to permanently fire a Philly cop

July 11th, 2019


Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross vowed to fire some of his officers involved in a scandal over offensive Facebook posts — but whether …

Battle over immigrant youth center is bigger than Philly

July 10th, 2019


VisionQuest, a for-profit company, wants to open a center in North Philly that would house60 unaccompanied immigrant teen boys. WHYY’s Laura Benshoff …

The Pa. Senate’s viral shouting match and the state of state politics

July 9th, 2019


A dispute over a bill to end a cash assistance program devolved into chaos in the Pennsylvania Senate recently. Video of the incident quickly went …

Independence Park is falling apart

July 8th, 2019


Independence National Historical Park is the fourth most visited national park in the country, but Philadelphia Magazine reporter David Murrell says it’s falling apart. During his visits to Independence Hall and other …

The Philly woman who videotaped a million hours of TV

July 3rd, 2019


Philadelphian Marion Stokes recorded nearly a million hours of television over her lifetime, on more than 70,000 VHS tapes. Was she an archivist …

Are we doing severe weather alerts wrong?

July 2nd, 2019


Dangerous weather watches and warnings are on the rise. The National Weather Service in Mt. Holly, New Jersey has issued 140 severe thunderstorm …

The explosion that shut down the South Philly refinery

July 1st, 2019


Philadelphia Energy Solutions says it’s closing after an explosion and fire that destroyed one of its units last month. But it was not the first fire

Who’s filling the local news void in Philly’s suburbs?

June 27th, 2019


As local newspapers in the Philly suburbs continue to shrink, dozens of scrappy, new media startups have risen to fill the gaps in coverage. WHYY’s Laura Benshoff explains what that’s doing to the quality of local …

How Wilmington is shedding its ‘Murder Town’ label

June 26th, 2019


In 2017, Wilmington experienced its highest levels of gun violence ever. But the following year, shootings dropped by 60%. WHYY reporters Mark …

N.J. official’s rape allegation could change state law

June 25th, 2019


Katie Brennan says she was raped by a member of N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign staff in 2017. She reported the alleged assault to the police, …

Searching for Bigfoot in Pennsylvania

June 24th, 2019


Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jason Nark recently made a surprising discovery: There are lots of people in Pennsylvania who believe in Bigfoot. As legend has it, the large primate — also known as the Sasquatch — is …

Uncovering abuse in Pa.’s Amish, Mennonite communities

June 20th, 2019


Members of Pennsylvania’s Amish and Mennonite communities are coming to terms with a widespread sexual abuse crisis that is at odds with their …

Confronting racist stereotypes in Princeton’s high school musical

June 19th, 2019


When Princeton High School performed the 1934 musical “Anything Goes” this spring, students complained about the show’s racist stereotyping of …

The Philadelphia tragedy that changed gene therapy

June 18th, 2019


Twenty years ago, 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger died after taking part in a clinical trial for gene therapy at the University of Pennsylvania. The …

Philly’s trash is Chester’s air pollution

June 17th, 2019


About one-third of Philadelphia’s garbage goes to a facility in Chester, Pa. where it’s burned and converted into energy. But that incinerator also …

A Philadelphia fertility clinic’s secret

June 13th, 2019


The Farris Institute for Parenthood was once Philadelphia’s premiere clinic for artificial insemination. When it closed, it left an unknown number of babies who grew up wondering who their fathers really were. Maiken …

One cancer survivor’s case for assisted suicide

June 12th, 2019


New Jersey recently became the eighth state to decriminalize assisted suicide, and allow terminally ill residents to end their lives with medical help. Two-time cancer survivor Judy Govatos explains why she’s pushing …

The consequences of cutting back on opioid prescriptions

June 11th, 2019


To fight the drug epidemic, public health officials, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies have been working to limit opioid prescriptions. WHYY’s Nina Feldman explains why that’s leading some patients to use more …

Computer virus still crippling Philly courts and their online systems

June 10th, 2019


It’s been nearly a month since the Philadelphia First Judicial District shut down their websites after a virus threatened their computer system. Max Marin, reporter for WHYY’s PlanPhilly, says this has caused chaos; …

Pennsylvania’s student debt crisis

June 6th, 2019


Pennsylvania ranks No. 1 in the nation for student debt, with students owing an average of $36,193. Temple University professor Sara Goldrick-Rab …

Before Stonewall and Pride, Philly staged LGBTQ protests

June 5th, 2019


Before the Stonewall riots, there was another — very different — group of gay and lesbian protests called the Annual Reminders in Philadelphia. Marc Stein, a professor at San Francisco State University, explains why …

Why this Rosie the Riveter from Bucks County is still fighting

June 4th, 2019


Mae Kreier is one of the millions of women who went to work in factories and shipyards during World War II while men went off to fight. Now at the …

The Thwaites Glacier is melting. Here’s why the Philly region should care

June 3rd, 2019


The massive Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is melting. Scientists are racing against time to figure out how it much could contribute to sea level …

Why a West Philly political dynasty is ending

May 30th, 2019


Jannie Blackwell and her late husband have held a City Council seat in West Philadelphia for a combined 45 years — that is, until her surprising …

Why Chester’s future hangs on a soccer team’s new development plans

May 29th, 2019


Chester has struggled for years as one of the nation’s poorest and most violent cities. In 2008, it appeared Chester would catch a break with plans …

Why Alabama’s abortion ban is reminiscent of Pennsylvania challenge to Roe v. Wade

May 28th, 2019


Alabama’s new law outlawing almost all abortions in that state is part of a strategy to challenge abortion nationwide, written so it could get the …

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