Update: In response to speculation around the editorial changes on the Pottermore website, a spokesperson told Refinery29:
"Right now, we are working on some exciting new initiatives with Warner Bros. and our franchise partners, which will bring compelling digital experiences to global fans of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. As a result, there have been a small number of redundancies within Pottermore. We are sorry to say goodbye to those affected but looking forward to sharing our new plans soon."
Original story was published below on March 23, 3:55 p.m.
It's not just fans who are having a hard time grappling with Warner Bros' decision to cast Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald. Those who worked for the prominent Harry Potter website Pottermore, which J.K. Rowling launched in 2012, reportedly struggled with the decision as well. BuzzFeed reports that the website laid off its editorial staff on Wednesday, with a spokesperson citing "reorganisation" (with an "s" because British) as the root of this decision. However, sources revealed that writers had been having problems for some time before getting the axe, with one such issue being how to cover Depp's role in the franchise.
However, in a post #MeToo world, the decision to keep Depp in the film caused some backlash, which may have affected Pottermore's reporting. While certain news posts on the site openly mention Depp in their coverage of The Crimes Of Grindelwald, in which Depp plays the titular character, others forgo mentioning him all together. This could just be a coincidence, but also could be a potential solution for a writer (all of whom write under names like The Pottermore News Team) who doesn't feel able to cover the actor objectively.
"Reporting from inside a franchise that so values its secrecy has been limiting because there’s so much [Pottermore] can’t say that other outlets can," a source told BuzzFeed. "I’d say, as an important side note, that they’ve also suffered from a very sad waning in confidence from fans since the decision to cast Johnny Depp."
This is not the first time the website has gone through a rebrand. When it first began, it was a place for J.K. Rowling to publish her notes and backstories that didn't make it into the Harry Potter books, as well as a more interactive experience for fans to get sorted, explore Hogwarts, and make their way through each of the chapters like a video game, casting spells, brewing potions, and dueling other users. There's hardly a trace of those things anymore, and now the more recent editorial component is also in question.
"I think turning Pottermore into an editorial site a few years ago was a lovely idea with the potential to be great, but the execution has been disappointing," a former Pottermore employee told BuzzFeed. "It’s essentially a glorified merchandise shop with some cute articles that might appeal to hardcore fans but don’t have enough of a point of difference from the rest of the internet’s writing about Harry Potter to survive."
But the biggest thing to blame is time. While Fantastic Beasts is going strong, the heyday of Harry Potter is behind us. Moving on is natural, and with controversies like Johnny Depp persisting, sometimes it may even be necessary.
Refinery29 has reached out to Pottermore for comment.
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