Cover art for podcast The Why: Philly Explained

The Why: Philly Explained

50 EpisodesProduced by WHYYWebsite

There’s more to every story, if you take the time to tell it. Get to the “why” behind the issues that matter in the Greater Philadelphia region with hosts Annette John-Hall and Shai Ben-Yaacov. Each episode, they’ll pluck one local story from your feed and break it down.

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400 stories: What The Why taught us about Philly

December 14th, 2020


Shai Ben-Yaacov and Annette John-Hall, the hosts of The Why, have spent the past two years asking the questions many people have in their minds after reading the news: Why is this happening? Why is this person doing …

Will Philly’s new police oversight commission be any better?

December 10th, 2020


Philadelphia has had a Police Advisory Commission for decades. In theory, it was responsible for handling complaints from citizens about police …

A decade after lawsuit, Philly is still stopping and frisking

December 8th, 2020


We look back on the 10th anniversary of the Philadelphia lawsuit that released decade’s worth of data showing the racial disparities of stop-and-frisk. What have we learned from this lawsuit? And why is it important …

A camera, a mask and 2020’s most enduring image

December 7th, 2020


Since March, Philadelphia area photographer Kyle Cassidy has taken pictures of essential workers as a part of a series called “Between Us and Catastrophe:” healthcare workers, Instacart shoppers, members of city …

$1 billion in relief sat around while Pa. businesses struggled

December 3rd, 2020


Last spring, small business owners in industries like food service and entertainment say they were able to limp through COVID-19 restrictions thanks to help from the CARES Act, which provided relief from the federal …

The struggle is real for working women during the pandemic

December 1st, 2020


In January, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a milestone: For only the second time in history, and the first during a non-recession, women held the majority of jobs in the country.  It was a sign of the future and …

Philly’s Wanamaker Organ has survived 2 pandemics

November 30th, 2020


For many in the Philadelphia area, the holidays mean taking a trip to Macy’s in Center City to see its famous light show and listen to the symphonic …

Penn’s $100 million pledge has a backstory

November 24th, 2020

Christmas came early this year for the Philadelphia School District. The University of Pennsylvania pledged $100 million to go toward fixing unsafe …

Delaware’s new class of LGBTQ representatives

November 23rd, 2020


Delaware has never sworn an openly gay person into its General Assembly. That will change this January, when three members of the LGBTQ community join the legislature, making history for the state.

WHYY reporter Zoë …

Not all remote learning is created equal

November 19th, 2020


As more schools decide to stay remote during the pandemic, education advocates worry about the effects of virtual learning, especially on …

Why Trump’s lawyers keep targeting Pa.

November 17th, 2020


A full two weeks after the election, the Trump campaign is still challenging the Pennsylvania vote. Today, a federal judge will listen to the …

Inside Philly’s new COVID-19 restrictions

November 16th, 2020


As COVID cases soar, Philadelphia is unrolling a new round of restrictions: no more indoor dining at restaurants, and gyms and movie theaters must …

What worked for Biden in Delaware might not in D.C.

November 12th, 2020


Delaware politicians are known for their civility and a spirit of compromise. It traces back to one of the state’s oldest traditions: Return Day, an …

NJ voters legalized recreational marijuana — but the fight isn’t over

November 10th, 2020


Last week, New Jersey voted overwhelmingly on a constitutional amendment to make recreational marijuana legal, a law that has been 10 years in the making. Philadelphia Inquirer cannabis reporter Sam Wood walks us …

The trauma caused by viral videos of police killing Black men

November 9th, 2020


A cell phone video of the killing of  West Philadelphia resident Walter Wallace Jr. was viewed more than a 1 million times. Then, on Nov. 4th, the …

Van Drew race speaks to U.S. political divide

November 5th, 2020


All across the United States,  election officials are counting votes — not just for the presidential race, but for Congressional races, too.

In New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, U.S. Representative Jeff Van Drew …

Why Pa. didn’t have results on Election Day

November 3rd, 2020


Over the weekend, President Trump said he wanted to see election results by the end of Election Day and suggested that Democrats may try to steal the …

Pa. voters speak

November 2nd, 2020


Tomorrow is Election Day. More than 2.4 million early ballots have already been collected in Pennsylvania. Millions more people are expected to head …

911 program could have helped spare Walter Wallace’s life

October 29th, 2020


Walter Wallace Jr.’s family says they called for an ambulance on Monday afternoon because the 27-year-old was in the midst of a mental health crisis. …

Philly could ban using tear gas, rubber bullets on protesters

October 27th, 2020

On Thursday, Philadelphia City Council is expected to pass a ban police officers’ use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other “less lethal munitions” …

The chances of flipping the Pa. legislature blue

October 26th, 2020


Republicans have dominated state politics in Harrisburg for decades. For Democrats, gaining control of the General Assembly has been something of a …

Philly’s new legal strategy to bypass the state and enact gun laws

October 22nd, 2020


Philadelphia is suing state of Pennsylvania so it can enact stronger gun control laws, as at least 391 people have been murdered in the city so far …

A historic deal on affordable housing in Philly

October 20th, 2020


It was a movement born out of the George Floyd protests for racial justice: Hundreds of people who had experienced homelessness camped out on the Ben Franklin Parkway, on Ridge Avenue and squatted in empty houses across …

New push to boost LGBTQ protections in Pa.

October 19th, 2020


Violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people has been on the rise for years. Here in Philly, three Black trans women have been …

Philly Orchestra’s first Black player’s final curtain call

October 15th, 2020


When the Philadelphia Orchestra paused live performances in March, violinist Booker Rowe didn’t expect it would be his final curtain call. Rowe, the …

Toomey, Trump and the future of Pa.’s Republicans

October 13th, 2020


When Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jonathan Tamari got a tip that Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey would be leaving politics after his current term

Rooting out Philly’s gun violence epidemic

October 12th, 2020


With nearly three months left to go, more people have been murdered in Philadelphia this year than in all of 2019 and 1,655 people have been shot. …

Voting anxiety? Here’s what you need to know

October 8th, 2020


Less than a month away from Election Day, there’s a lot of anxiety hanging over voters’ heads: an unprecedented number of people voting by mail,  the coronavirus pandemic and President Trump sowing seeds of doubt over …

SEPTA’s rampant overtime spending

October 6th, 2020


The pandemic has thrown SEPTA into a budget crisis. Ridership and revenue are both way down and the agency is considering service cuts. But that didn’t stop them from spending what experts say is an unusually large …

Enrolling in COVID-19 vaccine trial as a Black doctor

October 5th, 2020


While surveys have found many Americans — particularly Black Americans — are wary of getting a COVID-19 vaccine if one were to become available …

How Pennsylvania fumbled COVID-19 death counts

October 1st, 2020


During the deadliest months of the pandemic so far, Pennsylvania’s new electronic death reporting system was not ready for prime time. The state still relied on faxes — yes, faxes — from funeral directors, doctors and …

The new COVID-19 app: the promises and the tradeoffs

September 29th, 2020


As we wait for scientists to produce a COVID-19 vaccine, contract tracing is one of the most reliable ways to stop the spread. Now, Pennsylvania and Delaware have also released a new “exposure notification app” to let …

Why the Biden-Harris ticket needs Black Philadelphians

September 28th, 2020


Pennsylvania is going to be one of the most important states — if not THE most important state — in determining the outcome of this year’s presidential election. President Trump won Pennsylvania by a narrow margin in …

Want answers to Philly gun violence? Ask someone who’s lived it

September 24th, 2020


More than 1,500 people have been shot in Philadelphia this year, many of them children. Over the past 20 years, the city has tried all kinds of …

Philly Latinos are under-tested for COVID-19

September 22nd, 2020


Latinos in Philadelphia make up 15% of the city’s population — but only 6% of those who’ve gotten tested for COVID-19. In fact, they’re getting …

HIV-era policy still limits gay men from giving blood during COVID

September 21st, 2020


Antibody-rich plasma from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 is one treatment being researched to help those still battling the virus. But an estimated 360,000 people willing to donate their plasma are not allowed to …

Philly’s changing union labor scene

September 17th, 2020


Union membership is at a historic low in the U.S. while public support for unions is on the rise. And in Philadelphia — long known as a blue-collar …

Philly’s looming eviction crisis

September 15th, 2020


Having a safe place to live has never been more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as the economic fallout forced millions of people out of work, many of them struggled to pay their rent. Now, the state’s …

Incarcerated instead of in treatment

September 14th, 2020


Nationwide, 20% of people in jails have a mental health condition — which means there are a lot of people like Kim, who end up incarcerated instead of in treatment. That’s exactly what happened to a Bucks County woman …

COVID forced a reckoning in Philly’s restaurant scene

September 10th, 2020


The pandemic and the George Floyd protests that followed brought to a boil long-simmering issues of inequity in the Philadelphia restaurant industry. …

Racism and deadly traffic on Cobbs Creek Parkway

September 8th, 2020


Avante Reynolds was a new mom with a growing YouTube following when she was killed in a hit and run on Cobbs Creek Parkway in West Philly a few weeks …

Community fridges a fresh form of a long Philly tradition

September 3rd, 2020


Here’s one good thing that’s popped up in Philly during the pandemic: community fridges full of free food to help people who have been struggling to …

The Underground Railroad stop in Philly’s Fairmount Park

September 1st, 2020


In the final installment of our series Why Didn’t I Go There?, The Why co-host Shai Ben-Yaacov and his 10-year-old son Gil take a virtual tour of …

The long road back for the longterm unemployed

August 31st, 2020


Pennsylvania has one of the country’s highest unemployment rates during the pandemic. And while things have gotten a little better as some businesses have reopened, people in industries that rely on interacting in …

Philly battles two public health crises

August 27th, 2020


Philadelphia is hurting. Not only is the city fighting a global pandemic, but it’s also battling an escalating and deadly epidemic of gun violence. …

COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ face uncertain future

August 25th, 2020


When the pandemic started, most doctors seemed to think that COVID was an illness that typically lasted about two weeks. Now, we know a lot of people are still experiencing sometimes debilitating symptoms weeks and …

Detective, social worker, telemarketer: Contact tracers wear many hats

August 24th, 2020


Ranem Atia works as a contact tracer and case investigator for the Philadelphia Department of Health, playing a critical role for understanding where …

How the virtual show went on at Upper Darby Summer Stage

August 20th, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic threatened to make the Upper Darby Summer Stage go dark. But one of the oldest and most popular theater camps in the region …

Enforcing mask-wearing in Pa.? The struggle is real

August 18th, 2020


Pennsylvania requires everyone to wear masks when they leave the house — but the state has left business owners, transit agencies and individuals to …

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