Who What Why Where When How

 

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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.

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

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(Image retrieved from Pixabay.com/Barni1)

Born to Mathias and Anna Evans Brown, comedian Joe E. Brown first began to entertain people as an acrobat. Acrobatics, he thought, was what he wanted to work at to help with the family income, but by the time he was seven he’d already become gainfully employed as a newspaper carrier.

Five cents, Joe E. related in his 1956 autobiography, “Laughter is a Wonderful Thing”, bought a carrier ten papers, and he’d make five cents if he sold all ten copies. However, he was disappointed not to earn a profit initially and it was a little while into his first business endeavor that Joe E. realized his first earnings “high”. One day, he sold all ten papers, went back to purchase some more, and smilingly presented his mother with eight cents worth of income.

It was during his paper route one day when a less than discreet individual made fun of his face and large mouth. The insults were hard to ignore, he says, but facts were facts, and he later turned career profits on those disappointing experiences, as well.

Joe E.’s newspaper delivery started with the Toledo Bee, then extended to the Blade. He remembers the week of President William McKinley’s assassination to be a very profitable one, as everyone wanted the latest news while the President clung to life for a week.

While continuing his newspaper routes, he also gathered together a shoeshine kit and began to offer shines. Later, a John Robinson Circus poster attracted his attention and that of his best buddy, Alec Reuben. Alec declared he wanted to be a trapeze artist., and Joe E. went flying through the air in his mind. After absorbing the circus poster and taking imaginary flight, Joe E. was certain that he would find satisfaction in becoming an acrobat.

A first true exposure to the art of acrobatics for Joe E. were the talents of a man named William Ashe, who earned actual pay for his performances. Another friend of Joe E.’s, George Jones, began working with Ashe, which inspired Alec and Joe E. to try to impress George with their nimble cartwheels, handsprings, and to practice back somersaults off a couch on Joe E.’s porch.

“I begged and cried and altogether made such a fuss that they (his parents) finally relented” to letting him talk with Ashe about employment, as long as it didn’t interfere with his school work, Joe E. says in his autobio.

Thus began Joe E. Brown’s first venture into the entertainment business. He would quickly learn that it wouldn’t be an easy field from which a newcomer could hone a livelihood.

I had a much easier route to begin to find satisfaction from the craft I chose by the age of ten. Reading was easy for me, and writing stories was immediately my passion as soon as I learned to put words in a comprehensible order. Storytelling continues to fascinate me to this day.