Who What Why Where When How



Some 50 years apart, Joe E. Brown and I pursued our ambitions related to the business of entertainment.

While he delved into fictional situations of entertainment, acrobatics, movies, and the like, I got involved in newspaper reporting and its credo of telling a story by using the six-factual approach: who was the story about, what happened, where did it take place, when did it happen, why did it happen, and how did it happen?

Normally, most newspaper editors demand that those who, what, why, where, when, and how answers appear in the first paragraph, or two, of the total news story, setting the entire tone for the informative, factual article.

Here’s an example of a paragraph from the Sports Section of a local newspaper told in one sentence that gives the whys and wherefores of the coming story:

“LeBron James recorded a triple-double, Kyrie Irving scored 40 points and the Cavs, bothered by chatter from Golden State’s players, broke scoring records while outperforming the NBA’s most electrifying offense in a testy Game 4 filled with technical fouls Friday night, beating the Warriors 137-116 and snapping their 15-game playoff winning streak.”
WHO = LeBron James and the (Cleveland) Cavs
WHAT = game 4 win
WHY = response to other team’s chatter and attempting to break Warriors’ win streak
WHERE = game 4 (location — Cleveland — already shown in dateline), but Quicken Loans Arena could have been included
WHEN = Friday night
HOW = broke scoring records while outperforming the Warriors’ offense

Basically, all the six-factual approach is accounted for in this one-sentence paragraph. Now the details can be added to the story.

In Joe E. Brown’s autobiography, “Laughter is a Wonderful Thing”, as told to Ralph Hancock, a typical long sentence of information is the following one:

“Thus the birth of the town’s most famous citizen got only a bare mention in (The Holgate) Times (which later became the Henry County Review, ‘Independent in all things — Neutral in nothing’), and he rated that only because Dr. Archer was the town’s leading M.D.”

The differences in newspaper reporting and factual book-length manuscripts is clear. The newspaper paragraph crams in as much information in as little space as possible, while the book discussions unfold at leisurely speed.

And, although I soon discovered my first love was Fiction writing, my newspaper writing experience and education was what enabled me to meet and interview Joe E. Brown in 1965. For that, I’m ever thankful, even all these many years later.

To know that our different pursuits ultimately brought us together at one place in time to create a who-what-why-where-when-how scenario is pretty magical.

Photo copy from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg