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

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






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

Ryan Briggs, investigative reporter for WHYY’s PlanPhilly, recently got pulled into a mystery a little less hard-hitting than usual: is Philadelphia’s iconic home called a “row house” or a “rowhouse”? He explains why the question of a single space is so contentious, so steeped in Philadelphia history, and so wrapped up in our city’s identity.


Three Mile Island is closing. Now what?

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 Pennsylvania reporter Marie Cusick explains what the closure means for how Pennsylvania gets its energy — and why the nuclear waste it generated is staying put.


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

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 deal with a sore tooth reveals major gaps in the system.


Trouble in the ‘Blueberry Capital of the World’

Hammonton, New Jersey is known as the “Blueberry Capital of the World,” but several farms there were recently cited for illegally housing migrant workers in sheds without proper septic systems — violations that could also affect the crops. Why were these farms allowed to operate this way for years? Philadelphia Inquirer investigative reporter Claudia Vargas explains.


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

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 still sue, despite the state’s short statute of limitations.


The fight over the Phillie Phanatic

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 Goodin-Smith explains why the team is suing the creators to keep that from happening. Do the Phillies have a case?


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

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 one offense last year — but half of them didn’t get paid. So why do it at all? Max Marin of WHYY’s Billy Penn breaks down which neighborhoods are hit the hardest.


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

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 happening and how the city wants to fix the problem.


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

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 critics wondering if the city is catering to big corporations at the expense of its residents. WHYY’s Nick Pugliese explains why companies are off the tax hook while Camden’s deficit grows.


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

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 planet heats up. Reporter Catalina Jaramillo explains why there’s a green divide and what the city is doing to fix it.


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

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 Michael Warren gave it a shot. They explain why it’s so hard to live plastic-free, and why it’s important to try anyway.


The mystery of the gay wedding photos

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 couple and what do they tell us about what life was like for Philly’s LGBTQ community in the 50s and 60s? Filmmaker P.J. Palmer is creating a documentary series based on his investigation. You can see the photos and share tips at


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

Why have blue lights been popping up around Philadelphia — even in some Starbucks bathrooms? Michaela Winberg, a reporter for WHYY’s Billy Penn, explains the city thinks the lights are one solution to the opioid crisis, while critics say they’re making it more dangerous.


How Drexel’s public school experiment could change West Philadelphia

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 20 years ago, nearby University of Pennsylvania also created a public school, Penn Alexander, that transformed the surrounding neighborhood in the process. WHYY education reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent explains why universities create public schools and what that can mean for local communities.


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

Hydroflouric acid is a toxic chemical used in local refineries, including Philadelphia Energy Solutions where part of the refinery exploded last month. StateImpact Pennsylvania reporter Susan Phillips explains why a release of HF would have been disastrous. Could public backlash push the refining industry to stop using it?


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

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 Israel, while owing his daughter millions of dollars in damages. From conviction to parole, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Maria Panaritis explains why Robb’s case has revealed cracks in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system — and why that could be changing.


Why so many bodies go unclaimed in the Philly suburbs

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 no one is claiming their remains — and how some coroners are going above and beyond to help them find a final resting place.


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

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 they get ready to dedicate the new “Stop the Violence” mural in Point Breeze today, we bring you an update of our episode from December. Murals Arts Executive Director Jane Golden explains why projects like these mean so much to what she calls the city’s “civic well-being.”


Did busing work in New Castle County schools?

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 County. Did the court-ordered program ultimately achieve racial integration and help close the achievement gap for black students there? University of Delaware law professor Leland Ware explains.


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

Bucks County resident Kim Stringer has been struggling with mental illness for a decade and has refused treatment. Her parents have turned to involuntary commitment as a last resort, but Pennsylvania law has worked against them. WITF’s Brett Sholtis explains why a recent change in state law meant to keep people like Kim from falling through the cracks doesn’t go far enough.