30

Throughout the Harry Potter series, we see several forms of journalism and communication. The most obvious is the Daily Prophet, represented by Rita Skeeter, which, as the name suggests, appears to be published once a day. A number of breaking news stories are published through this paper:

"Mrs Weasley, who had evidently been waiting for them in the front yard, came running towards them, still wearing her bedroom slippers, her face pale and strained, a screwed up copy of the Daily Prophet clutched in her hand. [...] Harry saw the headline: SCENES OF TERROR AT THE QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP, complete with a twinkling, black and white photograph of the Dark Mark over the trees." GoF, Chapter Ten, Mayhem at the Ministry

We see Patronuses being used for targeted communications, particularly life-or-death warnings, but they are very individual messages, not a large-scale broadcast:

"Graceful and gleaming, the lynx landed lightly in the middle of the astonished dancers. [...] Then, the Patronus's mouth opening wide and it spoke in the loud, deep, slow voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt. 'The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming.'" DH, Chapter Eight, The Wedding

The radio is also used, broadcasting music in the Half-Blood Prince and, on a secret station, Order of the Phoenix news in Deathly Hallows. This requires a password:

"We suggest that you continue to show your devotion to the man with the lightning scar by listening to Potterwatch! And now let's move to news concerning the wizard who is proving just as elusive as Harry Potter..." DH Chapter Twenty-Two, The Deathly Hallows

However, given the amount of breaking news stories that occur during the books (the Triwizard Tournament, the Quidditch World Cup, and quite a few large-scale Dark wizard terror attacks), I'm surprised that we don't see a more consistent channel for reporting breaking news - the kind where a headline the day after doesn't really do it justice, and where it's likely that people will want a live feed, for sports commentaries, or updates on attacks. In the Muggle world, we can assume this happens through radio, television, social media, news feeds, etc.

Given the potential of magic, is there a consistent way for your ordinary wizard or witch, sitting at home in a scenario such as the Quidditch World Cup, to stay updated on what's happening, without needing to wait for a newspaper's publication, or requiring passwords to a secret network?

I appreciate the answer may be just the radio (I assume there are "standard", possibly Ministry-controlled stations), but considering all the magical items we encounter, I thought there may be some other magical means.

Ideally, I'm looking for canon based answers - either methods or confirmations from the books, or from interviews. However, I'm also willing to hear speculative answers or notes from films or other media.

  • they have radio! plus info is heavily censored by the ministry, so im sure most things have to go through the waiting period till the morning newspaper to have ministry approval. – Himarm Dec 23 '15 at 14:05
  • 1
    What's so awful about "waiting" for the morning paper? – Matt Gutting Dec 23 '15 at 14:10
  • @MattGutting nothing, most of the time. This question is specifically asking about breaking news - if your kids are stuck in a battle at school, or if there's an attack at, say, a large sporting event, as happens often during the books, you're gonna want updates more frequently than once a day. – Luna Dec 23 '15 at 14:12
  • @Himarm I'm not sure the censorship bit is true. The Daily Prophet may be more controlled (particularly after Death Eaters took over the Ministry) but for most of the books it's not exactly ministry propaganda. Plus, other publications, like the Quibbler are clearly not controlled or vetted before publication. – Luna Dec 23 '15 at 14:14
  • 2
    You could argue that the wizarding world/community is stuck in a different era, one that isn't reliant on electricity, and communicating to one another is quite simple. Getting news around is a lot easier by word of mouth, theres other ways like the dark mark, the charmed galleons by hermione, and ways that Dumbledore mentions to be a more secure channel of communication for the order of the phoenix – user3564421 Dec 23 '15 at 14:51
31
  1. Rumors. Word of mouth.

    'Tokens from your friends and admirers,' said Dumbledore, beaming. 'What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally, the whole school knows. I believe your friends Misters Fred and George Weasley were responsible for trying to send you a lavatory seat. No doubt they thought it would amuse you. Madam Pomfrey, however, felt it might not be very hygienic, and confiscated it.'
    (HP&PS - CHAPTER SEVENTEEN- The Man with Two Faces)

  2. More seriously, you're labouring under the misunderstanding that "breaking news" is something natural to the Wizarding world.

    Au contrair: "breaking news" is a concept conceived of in the Muggle 20th century paradigm of more realtime news culminating in late 20th century "24-hour news cycle" (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_news#Usage).

    In earlier Muggle societies - which Wizarding world much more strongly borrows from - that concept did not exist, and at most, was covered by 19th century special editions of newspapers (see @Richard's excellent answer for HP canon version of that).

  • 12
    Wish I could upvote more than once for pointing out that "breaking news" is not a necessary part of life. – Martha Dec 23 '15 at 17:43
  • @Martha - lately I started to buffer my news intake and discovered my life was significantly improved by it. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 23 '15 at 18:05
  • @Martha Indeed. Even 20 years ago, the web barely existed and most people in the UK, at least, got their news from specific scheduled TV news programmes (as distinct from a 24-hour rolling TV news channel), the radio and newspapers. If something extremely important (such as a major natural disaster or terrorist attack) happened, regular TV programming might have been interrupted; for anything else, you were just used to the idea that news bulletins happened every few hours and you'd probably not find out anything new between them. – David Richerby Dec 24 '15 at 13:16
26

Breaking news in the HP universe is reported in the "Evening Prophet", a special edition of the wizarding newspaper that is hastily printed and released when there's late, breaking news.

Per the Pottermore article on the Daily Prophet

"Occasionally (when something particularly interesting or exciting happens, such as the illegal flight of a Ford Anglia the length of Britain) an Evening Prophet edition will be rushed out."

Given that the majority of the newspaper's readers are subscribers, presumably they also expect the paper's owners to provide them with special editions as the need arises, rather than waiting for the morning paper to arrive.

enter image description here

  • Good find :) Matches up to 19th century muggle culture – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 23 '15 at 17:20
11

Some good answers so far, but you've missed the most instantaneous news service the wizards have:

The Wizarding Wireless Network

Wizards have a radio network which is mentioned a few times in the books and seen in passing in the film version of Deathly Hallows. It's first mentioned in Goblet of Fire:

The last week of term became increasingly boisterous as it progressed. Rumors about the Yule Ball were flying everywhere, though Harry didn't believe half of them - for instance, that Dumbledore had bought eight hundred barrels of mulled mead from Madam Rosmerta. It seemed to be fact, however, that he had booked the Weird Sisters. Exactly who or what the Weird Sisters were Harry didn't know, never having had access to a wizard's wireless, but he deduced from the wild excitement of those who had grown up listening to the WWN (Wizarding Wireless Network) that they were a very famous musical group.

-- Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, Chapter 22- The Unexpected Task

Mrs. Weasley listens to some music on her wireless in Half-Blood Prince, but the use of it as a news carrier is mostly shown in Deathly Hallows in which the students in hiding at Hogwarts operate a pirate broadcast called Potterwatch. After Ron abandoned them, he spent some time listening to this on his Wireless, and brings it back with him when he returns:

Hermione was lying on her bunk reading, while Ron, after many nervous glances up at her, had taken a small wooden wireless out of his rucksack and started to try and tune it.

"There’s this one program," he told Harry in a low voice, "that tells the news like it really is. All the others are on You-Know-Who’s side and are following the Ministry line, but this one ... you wait till you hear it, it’s great. Only they can’t do it every night, they have to keep changing locations in case they’re raided, and you need a password to tune in. ... Trouble is, I missed the last one. ..."

-- Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Chapter 20- Xenophilius Lovegood

Later, Ron is using his wand to try and tune into the correct broadcast, and its indicated that there are at least three stations at this point (the two mentioned below plus Potterwatch):

Ron spent evening after evening using his wand to beat out various rhythms on top of the wireless while the dials whirled. Occasionally they would catch snatches of advice on how to treat dragonpox, and once a few bars of "A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love."

-- Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Chapter 22- The Deathly Hallows

After finding the correct station, the students on the Potterwatch station indicate that there is an official channel of the wireless dedicated to news:

"But before we hear from Royal and Romulus," Lee went on, "let’s take a moment to report those deaths that the Wizarding Wireless Network News and Daily Prophet don’t think important enough to mention. [...]

Wireless sets themselves can't be very expensive either, as the Weasley family has a minimum of 2 (Ron doesn't return home so the one he has isn't the one the Weasley family was listening to in Half Blood Prince), I think it's fair to assume they're quite common in the wizarding world.

6

DVK and Richard have covered this question nicely, but I have one addition:

Protean Charms.

This may not be exactly what you're looking for, but Dumbledore's Army used enchanted coins -- which Hermione charmed by using a very difficult protean charm -- to get information to each other very quickly. This was not shown to be worldwide, though. However, Draco Malfoy used the same kind of charm and coin to communicate with Madam Rosmerta at the Three Broomsticks while she was under the Imperius curse in Half-Blood Prince.

‘You see the numerals around the edge of the coins?’ Hermione said, holding one up for examination at the end of their fourth meeting. The coin gleamed fat and yellow in the light from the torches. ‘On real Galleons that’s just a serial number referring to the goblin who cast the coin. On these fake coins, though, the numbers will change to reflect the time and date of the next meeting. The coins will grow hot when the date changes, so if you’re carrying them in a pocket you’ll be able to feel them. We take one each, and when Harry sets the date of the next meeting he’ll change the numbers on his coin, and because I’ve put a Protean Charm on them, they’ll all change to mimic his.’
Order of the Phoenix - Chapter nineteen, The Lion and the Serpent - Page 353 - Bloomsbury

In Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore asks Draco how he communicated with Madam Rosmerta:

‘Enchanted coins,’ said Malfoy, as though he was compelled to keep talking, though his wand hand was shaking badly. ‘I had one and she had the other and I could send her messages –’

‘Isn’t that the secret method of communication the group that called themselves Dumbledore’s Army used last year?’ asked Dumbledore. His voice was light and conversational, but Harry saw him slip an inch lower down the wall as he said it.

‘Yeah, I got the idea from them,’ said Malfoy, with a twisted smile.
Half-Blood Prince - Chapter twenty-seven, The Lightning-Struck Tower - Page 550 - Bloomsbury

Just another means of fast communication in the Wizarding world. I think it's more the Proten charm that I'm offering up as a method of fast commmunication, rather than the coins specifically; the coins are merely an example of how the Protean charm works. It can be applied to any object for communication purposes.

1

Apart from the newspaper Daily Prophet and published works like Quibbler, news is also spread by word of mouth, especially insider news. Like how Minister Fudge was discussing insider information about Sirius Black at Honey Dukes in PoA. We see another instance of this when the bus conductor Ernie is carelessly talking about Sirius Black and his association with Voldemort to his bus driver.

-1

Bear in mind that the early parts of the Harry Potter series were written in the early-to-mid-1990s. At that time, at least in the UK, the 24-hour news thing hadn't kicked off. Sky News was the only 24-hour news channel and you needed some kind of subscription to get it; most people didn't have that. The BBC didn't launch their 24-hour news channel until 1997, the same year that Philosopher's Stone was published. At the same time, the internet wasn't a big thing in people's houses. Up-to-the minute news wasn't something the British public, presumably including J.K. Rowling generally expected at that time.

Most people would have found out about what was happening from hourly news bulletins on the radio, and from scheduled TV news programmes on the main networks (the most important ones were at 6pm, 9pm and 10pm). If you wanted more detail and analysis, you bought a newspaper the next day. If something incredibly important was happening, such as a major terrorist attack or natural disaster, normal TV programmes might be interrupted. But, in general, you were used to the idea that you'd only find out about things once every few hours. In general, there was no breaking news.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.