There's a particular moment I love in “Newsies,” the Broadway musical that wrapped up its Orlando run on Sunday. One of the striking newsboys is thrilled to realize that an article about his cause is on the front page — and at the top of the front page, no less. “It's above the fold!” he exults, repeating for emphasis, “above the fold!”
The plot of “Newsies” takes place more than a hundred years ago — but we in the newspaper biz still use the phrase “above the fold” with the same sort of reverence. It means exactly what you think — if you fold the newspaper in half, stories “above the fold” are on the top half. That means they have bigger headlines and can be seen in newspaper vending boxes. In other words, primo placement.
But that's just one of the show's moments that brings a smile to the face of a jaded newspaperman. One especially funny "Newsies" moment for a critic: The reporter critiquing a burlesque show is so busy chatting and flirting instead of watching the performance that the theater owner chastises her!
A few lines -- not so funny -- mirror the current media climate: “Circulation's down 30 percent,” frets a bigwig in the publisher's office.
And some things never change. The song “Watch What Happens” details the emotions felt by a young writer working on her first big story — it's a mix of feelings every reporter has experienced.
“Write what you know, so they say,” the lyrics begin. “All I know is I don't know what to write or the right way to write it.”
Yet also in that song are lyrics that sum up why many get into journalism in the first place: To be a voice for those who need one. As the reporter finds her confidence, she triumphantly sings: “Give life's little guys some ink, and when it dries just watch what happens.”