Harry Potter’s Constructive Journalism

A 2008 paper from the American Communication Journal argues that the “extremely negative depiction of journalism” in the Harry Potter novels “could have an adverse effect on child readers.”

Nonsense, I reply. The Potter series actually offers critical lessons about journalism, including how it can be subjected to government censorship.

I have published my new essay, “Harry Potter Series Maligned by Media Article,” over at the web page devoted to my book, Values of Harry Potter.

I hope you’ll read the entire article. Here I want to briefly excerpt the piece. The background is that Hermione Granger (Harry’s friend and ally) wants Rita Skeeter to write up a truthful interview with Harry for publication in the Quibbler, a publication Skeeter mocks:

Hermione persists in her view that journalism can and properly does serve to tell the truth to the public. She tells Skeeter, “Well, this is your chance to raise the tone of it a bit, isn’t it?”

Skeeter replies that nobody will take an article in the Quibbler seriously.

Hermione’s reply is noteworthy:

Some people won’t. But the Daily Prophet’s version of the Azkaban breakout [in which Voldemort’s followers escaped from prison] had some gaping holes in it. I think a lot of people will be wondering whether there isn’t a better explanation of what happened, and if there’s an alternative story available, even if it is published in… an unusual magazine — I think they might be rather keen to read it.”

… Hermione’s views of journalism are precisely the opposite of what Sturgill’s paper claims the series promotes. While Hermione rightly recognizes the dangers and shortcomings of government-controlled media, she also recognizes the crucial role journalism can play in relating the truth to the public. …

Without Skeeter’s assistance, Hermione could have found another writer to cover the story, or she could have written it up herself. In our world, citizen journalists often write letters, op-eds, and blog posts to advance a story. While [the cited] paper claims that Skeeter is the only “journalist of any consequence” named in the series, this is wrong: Hermione also functions as an important journalist — a citizen journalist — in this case.

Read the entire essay.