The Why There's more to every story if you take the time to tell it. The Why gets to the "why" behind an issue that matters in your community, diving deep to give you a fuller view – and an illuminating listening experience.
The Why

The Why


There's more to every story if you take the time to tell it. The Why gets to the "why" behind an issue that matters in your community, diving deep to give you a fuller view – and an illuminating listening experience.

Most Recent Episodes

400 stories: What The Why taught us about Philly

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 this or this thing a certain way? As we listened back to the podcast's 400 episodes, common themes emerged. Philadelphia is strangely unique; Philly has system flaws; Philly is a city full of interested, committed people, and Philly is just plain fun. So for this final episode of The Why, Ben-Yaacov and John-Hall look back on some of their favorite shows — stories that revealed a little bit about why Philly is the way it is.

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

Philadelphia has had a Police Advisory Commission for decades. In theory, it was responsible for handling complaints from citizens about police misconduct. In practice, the commission wielded little power, and the process for a single complaint to be fully adjudicated often took years. Now, Philadelphia voters have approved a new independent body to do the job. But there are very few details about how the Citizen Police Oversight Commission will work, and how it will be funded–leaving some wondering whether it will be any better than the body it's replacing. Annette talks this over with WHYY Criminal Justice Reporter Aaron Moselle.

A decade after lawsuit, Philly is still stopping and frisking

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 that we keep tracking this data? Longtime civil rights attorney David Rudovsky, who brought the suit a decade ago, says progress has been slow, but that he has some hope for improvement.

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

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 government, sanitation workers, and more. Cassidy interviewed these workers as well, asking them about the risks they're taking and the sacrificing they're making to keep us all safe. "Some of these people are fighting COVID because they heard the clarion call and they ran out to stand between us and this virus and fight it. And other people are fighting this virus because we left them out there," he says. Why could pictures like these, highlighting essential workers, stay with us as the most enduring images of 2020? Cassidy's photographs are currently on display at an outdoor exhibit at the Science History Institute.

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

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 government. Then a second wave of COVID hit and some of those businesses were asked to adhere to restrictions yet again. But this time, no relief was forthcoming — even though some was available. Pennsylvania had $1 billion dollars of CARES Act money sitting around for six months while the state's small business owners struggled and lawmakers haggled. Why didn't the remaining money go to direct aid? Keystone Crossroads reporters Miles Bryan and Katie Meyer walk us through why things shook out the way they did, and why politicians on both sides of the aisle are pointing the finger at the federal government.

The struggle is real for working women during the pandemic

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 of the changing American workforce. That is, until the pandemic hit. Since March, women have been more likely than men to lose their jobs in 2020, and four times more likely to leave the workforce. Executive director of the Mayor's Office of Women's Engagement Jovida Hill explains why the pandemic is hitting women's working lives the hardest, and what women she's spoken to say they need.

Philly's Wanamaker Organ has survived 2 pandemics

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 sounds of the Wanamaker Organ. This year, because of the pandemic, Macy's is putting most of their holiday traditions online in their interactive Santaland experience. But department stores haven't always changed their celebrations for the sake of public health. In 1918, when the Spanish Flu was spreading, Wanamaker's — the store that later became Macy's in Center City Philadelphia — put on a parade where people stood shoulder to shoulder, a sing-along organ concert inside the store. Department store historian Michael Lisicky explains what changed between 1918 and now, and how Macy's can keep the holiday spirit alive in a Christmas season like no other.

Penn's $100 million pledge has a backstory

Christmas came early this year for the Philadelphia School District. The University of Pennsylvania pledged $100 million to go toward fixing unsafe school buildings. Over the next decade, the Ivy League institution will send $10 million to city schools each year. Activist leaders on campus and across the city have called for a donation like this for a long time. They want Penn to pay payments in lieu of taxes, known as PILOTs, calling foul on the regulations that allow a nonprofit that owns $3.2 billion in city real estate to skip property taxes. Like the tax dollars contributed by other property owners in the city, their payments could towards public schools and infrastructure, these critics say. Emily Dowdall, policy director of Reinvestment Fund, says the university has instead chosen to invest in public amenities in its own backyard, like the Penn-funded elementary school in West Philadelphia where university employees and their neighbors in the area can now send their children. She explains why Penn is now turning its attention to the school district as a whole and the difference the donation could make.

Penn's $100 million pledge has a backstory

Delaware's new class of LGBTQ representatives

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 Read spoke to queer people across the state who said they saw this election as an especially important victory. They say that their hard-fought rights have slowly come under threat during the Trump administration, and they worry they could lose things like marriage equality with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Zoë explains the progressive agendas of Delaware's new representatives, and what they'll be able to do to protect the rights of their LGBTQ constituents.

Not all remote learning is created equal

As more schools decide to stay remote during the pandemic, education advocates worry about the effects of virtual learning, especially on socialization and early literacy. Keystone Crossroads reporters Miles Bryan and Emily Rizzo have been spending time with families across the economic spectrum who have been striving to help their kids get what they need out of remote learning. They say parents have been doing everything from creating learning pods lead by private tutors to utilizing city-provided programs housed in recreation centers — all evidence the pandemic is further exposing the opportunity gaps between rich and poor students that have long existed.