Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Rita Skeeter
|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character|
|Eye color||Green, behind garishly bejeweled spectacles|
Rita Skeeter is a free-lance journalist specializing in writing poison-pen stories based on false information and misreported interviews. Her recording tool is a green "Quick-Quotes Quill" that she apparently likes the taste of. Her stories have appeared in The Daily Prophet, Witch Weekly, and, when blackmailed by Hermione Granger, The Quibbler – this last publication does not pay for stories.
Role in the Books
Rita Skeeter is first mentioned after the Quidditch World Cup, where the Muggles in charge of the campsite are attacked by Death Eaters. Rita's story, appearing in The Daily Prophet, over-sensationalizes events, and includes some inventions such as supposed dead people being removed from the forest after the Dark Mark appeared. Molly Weasley, reading this, comments that Rita's stories always contain fabrications and should not be believed.
A week later, Ludo Bagman mentions that Rita has heard about Bertha Jorkins' disappearance, and she soon writes a story about it. While we are told the story has been published, we hear nothing else about it.
When the Goblet of Fire selects Harry as a Triwizard Champion, Skeeter interviews him at the Wand Weighing ceremony. However, her 'Quick-Quotes Quill' fabricates many of his supposed comments, such as, "Sometimes at night I still cry about them. I'm not ashamed to admit it." Harry is both troubled and embarrassed by these erroneous statements.
Following the First Task, as Harry returns to the Castle with Ron, she appears from behind a bush in the Forbidden Forest, asking Harry for a word. Harry provides her with one: "Goodbye."
Skeeter later interviews Hagrid, supposedly for an article about the Blast-Ended Skrewts. While she is setting up the interview, Ron wonders how she got there – hadn't she been banned from Hogwarts? She actually wants to pump Hagrid for information about Harry for another scurrilous story, although Hagrid refuses to say anything negative about him. When she later discovers Hagrid's Giant ancestry, she writes an awful article claiming he is dangerous to students and brutal in his classes.
During the Hogsmeade visit just before the second Triwizard task, the trio encounters Skeeter, who approaches Harry for another interview, but Hermione chases her off, telling her she ruins peoples' lives. This leads Harry to suspect Hermione will be Rita's next victim. Readers may recall that Rita had hinted about a romance between Harry and Hermione, using Colin Creevey as a source. Shortly after this most recent encounter, a vengeful Rita, now writing for Witch Weekly, claims in a new story that Hermione, whom she calls "plain," may be using illegal love potions on both Harry and Viktor Krum. As a result of this story appearing, Witch Weekly readers send anonymous and threatening letters to Hermione. One of the readers taken in by this story is Mrs. Weasley; this temporarily sours the relationship between Mrs. Weasley and Hermione.
After the final Triwizard challenge, Hermione traps a beetle while visiting Harry in the school infirmary: it is Rita Skeeter, who is an unregistered Animagus. That is how she eavesdrops on private conversations and reports them in her articles. Hermione suspected she was an Animagus after observing Draco Malfoy conversing with a small object, shortly before the article about Hagrid appeared. She also recalled that whenever any secrets were discussed in private conversations, and then appeared in Rita's stories, there had always been a large beetle in the vicinity. Hermione tells Skeeter she will not report her as an unregistered Animagus if she abstains from writing any stories for the next year.
Rita is seen again when Hermione meets with her in Hogsmeade village. When Hermione had forced Skeeter to stop writing stories for one year by threatening to expose her as an unregistered Animagus, Rita fell upon hard times. This is evidenced by her once fashionable clothing that has became frayed and worn.
After Harry's assertion that Voldemort has returned (in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), the Ministry of Magic waged a smear campaign against him and Dumbledore in The Daily Prophet, disputing his claims. To garner support for Harry, Hermione blackmailed Skeeter into writing a favorable story about Harry that Luna Lovegood's father published in his paper, The Quibbler. Rita's story convinced many readers that Harry was telling the truth and Voldemort had returned.
After the Battle at the Department of Mysteries, several Ministry employees, including Cornelius Fudge, personally see that Voldemort has returned. Shortly after, the Daily Prophet reverses its editorial stance, and Harry once again becomes a hero. The Prophet buys the rights to the Quibbler interview and runs it as an "exclusive".
Although Rita is presumably writing for The Daily Prophet, she plays no role in the story.
Rita is seen at the end of the book, attending Albus Dumbledore's funeral, with her notebook in hand.
The Daily Prophet sends a reporter to interview Rita as a result of her having written a book. This book, a scurrilous and unauthorized biography of Dumbledore, is a typical Skeeter hatchet-job, putting the worst possible interpretation on everything that was known of Dumbledore's early life. This book, which alleged that Dumbledore's sister Ariana was a Squib who had been locked away from society for all her young life, that Dumbledore had been friends with the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald as a youth and had been discussing his plan to take over the entire world, and that Aberforth had broken Albus' nose at Ariana's funeral, among other things, leaves Harry wondering about his hero. The book plays a major part in this part of the story, appearing first as the interview mentioned above, then twice in excerpts of the book published in the Daily Prophet, and finally Hermione retrieves an actual copy of the book from Bathilda Bagshot's parlour. Harry's worries about Dumbledore, inspired by this book, are only put to rest when Aberforth later tells Harry what actually happened.
Little is known about Skeeter's magical talents, though she learned to become an (unregistered) Animagus, which apparently takes considerable wizarding ability. She appears to be an intelligent and resourceful journalist, who uses whatever means she can to uncover information for her stories. As an unregistered Animagus, she uses her beetle form to eavesdrop on unsuspecting witches and wizards who are then victimized by her scurrilous pieces.
Skeeter intuitively knows her readership and works hard and fast to meet their expectations. Her biography of Dumbledore is researched and written in just a few weeks after his death. Skeeter is able to gain her sources' confidence, including Bathilda Bagshot and others, which allows her to document unpleasant aspects of Dumbledore's youth, many based on fact.
Vain and self-serving, Skeeter is a ruthless and unethical journalist who uses any means to gather information, accurate or false, for her sensationalistic stories. It is quite possible that she employed some magical method on the elderly and senile Bathilda Bagshot to obtain her memories about the Dumbledore clan, information that Bathilda most likely would never have divulged otherwise. Skeeter cares little for how her subjects are affected by her malicious lies, and uses an enchanted "Quick-Quotes Quill" to fabricate "quotes" for her articles. Surprisingly, few, other than her victims, ever seem to doubt Skeeter's words once they are published.
Hermione is eventually able to manipulate Skeeter's shady practices against her, threatening to expose Skeeter as an illegal Animagus to the Ministry of Magic unless she agrees to write a truthful story about Harry Potter and Voldemort. Skeeter's article helps gain the public's sympathy for Harry and Dumbledore's cause.
Relationships with Other Characters
While little is shown of Rita's relationships with other people, we do see that she appears to have a good working relationship with her photographer. This is possibly because she never intends to write anything about him. Anyone else needs to guard what they say around her for fear of having their life histories published, slanted for maximum readership (thus maximum scurrilousness). Likely because of this, Rita has co-workers, but few friends.
Among those she interviews, Rita is regarded with emotions ranging from anger at her misinterpreting what has been said (Elphias Doge, Hermione), through fear that similar misinterpretations are forthcoming (Rubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter), to, at its mildest, cheerfully dismissing anything she has to say or write (Albus Dumbledore).
Rita's favourite subjects for her stories appears to be Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore, whose fame in the Wizarding realm makes them especially profitable to write about, particularly when she can distort or smear their sterling reputations. While Harry is continually enraged by her ridiculous falsehoods, Dumbledore generally finds what she writes about him as amusing.
At the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Daily Prophet buys the publishing rights to Skeeter's interview with Harry that appeared in The Quibbler. It is interesting that the galleons paid for that story go to the Lovegoods. Quite possibly, Rita received nothing, and this may have increased her hatred of Harry and Hermione, though any story that appears critical of them will be spiked in the editorial environment of the day. It is entirely possible that this is why Rita turned her eye on Dumbledore at the start of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; if nothing else, Rita is a realist and would know that with Potter still "the Chosen One", she would not be able to get anything published against him. As the tide turned, and Harry became "Undesirable Number One" with a price on his head, it is likely that a large part of the venom hitting the press about him was hers.
Rita is hardly selective with her venom. It appears that previous to her biography about Dumbledore, she had written a similar book about Armando Dippet, the headmaster at Hogwarts before Dumbledore. That book, Armando Dippet: Master or Moron?, is mentioned only in passing, on the cover of the book Rita wrote about Dumbledore.
The reader may wonder why Rita is kept in the story, rather than being abandoned like many other single-note characters, when Hermione "pulls her teeth" at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the subsequent book, however, we learn that despite Rita's unavailability, the Daily Prophet still appears to have a fair amount of venom available, and continues to use it in a somewhat successful attempt to discredit Harry and Dumbledore. The fact that Rita seems unable to earn a living without muckraking is highlighted in that book as well, so it is little surprise that in the final book of the series, she returns to her original style. Additionally, it is necessary to have a skilled and sympathetic journalist available to tell Harry's side of the story of Voldemort's return. Having met Rita, we are certain of her skill, and Hermione's blackmail forces the sympathy. It is a safe assumption that the author believed that Rita would be useful, despite her hatefulness.
In fact, Rita's venom is a major influence on the plot line of the final book. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry's faith in Dumbledore is shaken by revelations in the book Rita writes, and the apparent inability of anyone to refute Rita's scurrilous claims. As discussed in the article on that book, the revelations of Dumbledore's life, and Harry's being forced to deal with them, are an important part of Harry's maturation and becoming an independent individual, rather than just a cog in Dumbledore's machine.