Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Newsies Paradox

On April 23rd, 2012, YouTube user Nick Pitera (username goonieman86) uploaded his "One Man Newsies" medley, which has already received over 87,000 hits in the last five days. Pitera is a YouTube celebrity of sorts, with over 95 million combined video views, the bulk majority of which come from videos of him singing covers of popular songs with intensely layered vocals. This latest video strikes an interesting chord, however, as it uses 21st century technology (known for its user generated content) to transmit a self-made arrangement of songs from a new Broadway show adapted from a 1992 film based on a strike held by newspaper boys in 1899. With so many media industries intertwined in its backstory, why is Newsies so popular with a new generation so completely removed form the very concept of a newspaper boy?

In 1899, the newspaper boys of New York City jointed together to protest against Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Heart, two newspaper tycoons who had implemented cost increases for their publications during the Spanish-American War. These newspaper boys roamed the streets, shouting headlines and selling newspapers to pedestrians. This form of distribution, once a common occurrence, slowly evolved into the more familiar imagery of the suburban newspaper delivery boy on his bicycle. Nowadays, however, many individuals turn to the Internet to read their daily news, and those who still have print subscriptions often receive papers which are thrown out of car windows by delivery drivers in the early hours of the morning.

In her article entitled "'Newsies' Is a Relic of a Journalism Past", Barbara Chai writes about the show's inclusion of an actual antique printing press, used in a song near the end of the second act. Used in context as a means for the newsies to print fliers to publicize their strike, younger viewers might very well have no idea as to what the printing press is, or how it works. And in some ways, the technology itself isn't what Newsies is all about. With the story full of action and romance, and the stage filled with choreography and singing, the function of the newspaper itself is merely one piece of a broader puzzle.

The final paradoxical aspect of Newsies new Broadway run is the ways in which the show is actively being promoted. With guest appearances and song performances on The View and Good Morning America, as well as a website, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook page, the promotional team behind the show has gone to great lengths to make sure that Newsies is fully represented on media avenues that many attribute to the downfall of print journalism in the first place. Thus, while it may be over 100 years too late, perhaps the newsies have finally seen their dream of crippling the newspaper giants come to fruition, albeit through much more unprecedented means.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great story about how the golden age (or, in the case of Hearst's empire, the yellow journalism age) of newspapers is memorialized, romanticized, and remixed as a spectacle for audiences. I particularly like how you point out how this Broadway show about print culture thrives on the web and social media. (And -- besides -- I am a fan of anything that involves both singing and the news, as my comments on should show.