Harry Potter Discourages Journalism Careers?

Mr. Prinzi has already posted about this at The Hog’s Head, but I want to take the discussion in a different direction, namely, the function of satire and why reporters have never attacked Ms. Rowling.

First, the story: Harry Potter Bad for Newspapers?

The Spring 2008 (?) copy of the American Communication Journal featured a piece called Harry Potter and Children’s Perceptions of the News Media by Amanda Sturgill, Department of Journalism at Baylor University, Jessica Winney, University of Houston Clear Lake, and Tina Libhart, also of Baylor.

The abstract of the article reads:

This framing study examines how author J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of children’s books treats the news media and how that treatment could affect children. Researchers first studied quotes from the first six books regarding the media, and based on the overall categorization of those quotes, they determined the three main frames in which media is viewed: Government Control of Journalism, Misleading Journalism, and Unethical Means of Gathering Information. Based on these frames, researchers argue the Harry Potter series does not put the media in a positive light. Because of this, children could potentially perceive the news media in general as untrustworthy and controlled by the government. Given the prevalence of tabloid journalism and “entertainment” news, children’s understanding of true journalistic integrity, journalism as a career, and even positive social behaviors could be negatively affected due to this depiction, in light of the overwhelming popularity of the series

Okay, nothing earth shattering here, except that a group of journalists or reporter-wannabes have noticed that the depiction of media stars in the Potter books is not positive.

In fact, of course, the several depictions are uniformly and viciously negative.

From the daft Muggle talking heads on the Dursleys’ television featured in the opening chapters of Stone, Prisoner, and Phoenix to Rita Skeeter and Xenophilius Lovegood, Ms. Rowling uses her own poisonous and satirical pen to deliver some real shots at television, newspaper, and tabloid reporters. Her comments to her fans about not trusting the government “or the media” have been consistent and to further the same point.

Despite this, she is a media darling. It is a rare event — I cannot think of anything other than editorial comment on the RDR Copyright trial — in which the press is not overtly fawning in their praise of Harry and his literary mum.

Wassup with that? Is it true, as Swift asserted, that satire is the mirror in which no one is able to see himself?

I don’t think so.

The reason the press has overlooked Ms. Rowling’s satirical thrusts at them in her stories and public comments is in their continued perception of her through the original Cinderella story arc of her success, a story which included fierce condemnation of Ms. Rowling’s novels from several parts of the Christian community.

In a word, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” As long as Ms. Rowling is publicly perceived as being “anti-fundamentalist,” which to the Skeeters of Fleet Street and the Grey Lady means “anti-religion” and “anti-faith,” she is made of teflon no-stick-um for bad news. Not quite as thick a coating of impregnability as President Obama enjoyed as candidate and enjoys as Candidate-In-Chief — but doggone close.

Here’s hoping that the reporters are right in their illogical conclusion that Potter readers won’t become reporters, at least not like the irresponsible journalists that Rowling satirizes and those that have never researched Ms. Rowling’s background and ‘deep story’ the way Skeeter did Dumbledore’s or Salon did Palin’s.

Your thoughts?


  1. revgeorge says

    John wrote: “As long as Ms. Rowling is publicly perceived as being “anti-fundamentalist,” which to the Skeeters of Fleet Street and the Grey Lady means “anti-religion” and “anti-faith…”

    Bing, bing, bing!!! We have a winner!! I think you’ve hit upon the most obvious reason why Rowling is a media darling. Dare I say it, also why she is such a darling of major Harry Potter fan sites & also Harry Potter social movements.

    Although I don’t it’s all anti-religion or anti-faith but also a result of them believing, probably with good cause, that Jo Rowling is a fervent believer in Political Correctness.

  2. revgeorge says

    I probably should’ve written “I don’t think it’s all anti-religion, etc., etc.”

  3. revgeorge – oh please do dare to state the obvious on those “other” websites and causes. (wink). That’s actually why I only visit this site and The Hog’s Head for my HP fix!

    Nice insight, John. Quite the “ah-ha” moment for me.

  4. rev george, both you and John hit the “bulls-eye” on this issue.

    While I understand how the “media-elite” percieves Jo’s “anti-fundmentalist” statements as “anti-religion”, I would believe it stems from this main factor.

    The HP series is laden heavy with postmodern themes as both John and Travis have covered in their respective books on the “keys” to the meaning behind the magic.

    I would venture to believe that if one has been educated in journalism/social sciences at any college or university in the US in the last 50 years or so, you had “postmodern” elements integrated into the philosophy and teaching of most of your classes. Hence, the media’s abhorrence toward any religion or philosophy that contains any hint of absolutism, namely in this case, Biblical Christianity since some in this group were the most outspoken against the Harry Potter series.

    As you stated rev george, Jo follows a pattern of “political correctness” to a degree within the HP series and postmodernism to a degree as well, but I would venture to point out that these two issues are not exclusive to the religious elements in the books.

    I believe I have stated this point before that J K Rowling will not allow her literary work in HP to be “pigeonholed” into one genre of literary class, group of thought, political persuasion(though in her public life she has leaned liberal), or even in the religious themes (though the Christian parallels are obvious). *See Shaun Adler’s article from MTV News.


    Jo has stated in a recent letter, “Kings Cross” (in DH) refers to a place, a limbo where Harry and his Headmaster meet, not quite Heaven……. While I am no Christian proselytizer,……….. the name “Kings Cross” leaves no doubt of the Christ-like sacrifice and resurrection that takes Harry into the forest (in DH) to meet the Dark Lord”.

    WHAM!! SLAM!!! goes the door, as the Skeeters of Fleet Street and the Gray Lady and the “anti-religious media” leave the room in dismay at the above statements made by, none other than their “anti-fundamentalist” hero, J K Rowling!!

    She may not be a Christian fundamentalist, nor as she stated, a Christian proselytizer, but boy does she love to hide the “treasure” to let the “seeker” find that treasure hidden in a field (Matt. 13:44), or…..in a series of books called Harry Potter.

  5. revgeorge says

    David, excellent thoughts. Of course, my thoughts on JKR’s PCness was more about her public statements & stances rather than anything in the books. Although the media will of course focus on things in the books they favor. Look at how much coverage Rowling’s comments on the Christian elements in the books, which one can actually find in the books, got as opposed to the coverage given Rowling’s remarks on Dumbledore’s sexual orientation which can be found nowhere in the books. The press totally ignored the one & trumpeted the other to the high heavens.

  6. deacondon says

    Great post, David. You nailed it. Exactly. Mr. Granger, I hope you have not touched the Third Rail by posting those criticisms of Mr. Obama.

  7. As a student journalist, I generally agree with your post. Rowling definitely laid some jabs at mainstream media but I don’t think they are undeserved, mainstream media has become rather cowardly and irrelevant (if it was ever anything else in the first place). Rowling even thought to put in wizarding world versions of alternative media, like the The Quibbler and the sort of radio show in the 7th book (it’s been a while since I read it so I forgot what it’s called, sorry). Of course this opinion is biased because I happen to agree with her assessment, obviously some other journalists wouldn’t.

    I disagree with your assessment of why Rowling is a media darling though. First of all, though the books are probably as popular among journalists as in any other adult population (ie very), some of the journalists who have written articles about Rowling probably have no idea of her book’s critiques. They’re not a major theme in the books. Or they might just not care, as HP is not the only work of fiction by far in which the media is portrayed this way, it’s something of a trope.

    Her media darlingness is probably due mostly to the fact that HP is extremely popular, hence writers and editors know that readers will want to hear about her. And in an image-conscious society, it doesn’t hurt that she’s a very pretty woman (as shallow as that sounds, this is a factor).

    Those are my two cents anway. Excellent post.

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