Newsies is based on the true story of Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. Thousands of homeless and orphaned children are living in Newsboys lodging houses, including 17-year old Manhattan newsboy Derek Hale, who is a regular newsboy selling newspapers for Joseph Pulitzer and his paper, the New York World. Jack meets Stiles Stilinski, who leaves school temporarily and joins the Newsies to help out while his father is out of work with a broken arm. Derek decides to team up with Stiles to sell papers. After they witness a violent part of the trolley strike, Stiles invites Derek back to his house to meet his father. After declining to spend the night, Jack confesses his desire to escape to Santa Fe. Shortly afterward, the price of newspapers for purchase by the newsboys is raised one-tenth of a cent, decided by joint decision of Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.
Feeling they will be unable to bear the added cost, Derek organizes a strike with the aid of Stiles. Derek struggles with his past as he forms an important friendship with Stiles. Between his dream of one day going to Santa Fe and currently wanting to help his friends, he faces many difficult decisions involving money and loyalty. Along the way, the boys are aided by newspaper reporter Bryan Denton, as well as being hindered by Snyder, warden of “The Refuge” juvenile detention facility. Derek and the Newsies gain the cooperation of rival newsboy groups from New York and Brooklyn to team up and strike against the big-shot newspapermen. They eventually win their hard-fought demands after self-publishing and distributing a sympathetic newspaper flier and gaining the support of other non-union child workers around the city. Denton tells Derek that Governor Theodore Roosevelt, who was grateful Derek brought the strike to his attention, is offering to give him a ride anywhere, and Derek requests to be taken to the train station to catch a train to Santa Fe. His friends are disappointed to see him leave, but Roosevelt gives Derek advice, convincing him to change his mind. Derek returns to the Newsies and Stiles, knowing this is where is family - and heart - truly lies.