It sounds to me from the context that early in his career the paper made a lot of his articles, and published them prominently [='in pride of place'] - 'above the fold' is traditionally the best place in a newspaper. But the use of 'played' sounds odd to me. It is used in, say, football: 'Sven Joran Ericssohn always played Beckham whenever he was fit' (this may not be true, I'm not a fan - the example is just to show the use of 'played' to mean 'deployed'). But I've never met it in this sort of context.
Student or Learner