“The Prophet exists to sell itself, you silly girl.”
~ Rita Skeeter, fictional journalist for The Daily Prophet
This quote comes from “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2003) by J. K Rowling. Journalist Rita Skeeter uses this quote in the context of the Prophet’s indifference to the protagonist’s plight and disinclination to lend their support. Skeeter’s quote exemplifies a core ideology and tactic of yellow journalism. Yellow journalism embodies the triumphs of subjectivity over objectivity and disinformation over information. It also involves both an attitude and an action that fails to consider the well-being of its intended audience.
In the case of the Prophet, the well-being of readers is not being considered nor respected by enshrouding them in a fictional euphoria regarding the antagonist.
Subjectivity and disinformation, together and independently, constitute a gross violation of the standards of journalistic ethics with respect to representative governments, companies, and businesses. Representative governments must uphold ethics in serving its people. Similarly, businesses and corporations must uphold ethics in providing goods and services to their consumers. In the novel, a popular newspaper actively wages a smear campaign against the protagonist’s declaration of the antagonist’s return. This smear campaign was instigated by the government’s desire to maintain current cultural, attitudinal, and political status quos in regards to the longstanding defeat and absence of the antagonist. The newspaper is not interested in reporting objective, factual, and well-researched information of public interest and importance. Rather, its sole purpose is profit-based. Simply put, objective, factual, and well-research information (AKA the truth) is against public mood.
The Ministry of Magic, the novel’s government, is analogous to companies and businesses today that convey corporate interests through published print and electronic content of mass media. Such a conveyance is made much easier through corporate ownership of the mass media. Passive-aggressiveness can be a factor at play with respect to affiliations between companies and businesses and the mass media. The mass media in all its varied forms (internet, film, radio, music) is a dominant presence and influence in our society whose scope covers social, pop cultural, scientific, environmental, and political issues.
Yellow journalism, especially that which includes undertones of corporate interests, greatly reduces the diversity of views and objective information to which readers have access and are exposed. When companies and businesses engage in this type of conduct, they create an intimidating prospect for democracy. Diversity of views and objective information is an important component of a healthy democracy. In all outlets of mass media, yellow journalism is a source of waste products such as bias, subjectivity, and disinformation. As municipal, commercial, and industrial wastes create social ramifications, the same holds true for yellow journalism wastes. Examples of those include slander and libel, which themselves can have legal consequences.
Yellow journalist Rita Skeeter, in her non-human form as a beetle, does not know best…
~by Angelo Teachout
photo credit of Featured Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lisap/2567469865 (License)
photo credit of J.K. Rowling: https://www.flickr.com/photos/27077452@N04/4513125422 (License)
photo credit of The Yellow Kid: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yellow_Kid_02829v.jpg (License)