News media satellite up-link trucks and photojournalists gathered outside the Prudential Financial headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, in August 2004 following the announcement of evidence of a terrorist threat to it and to buildings in New York City.

Media circus is a colloquial metaphor, or idiom, describing a news event for which the level of media coverage—measured by such factors as the number of reporters at the scene and the amount of material broadcast or published—is perceived to be excessive or out of proportion to the event being covered. Coverage that is sensationalistic can add to the perception the event is the subject of a media circus. The term is meant to critique the coverage of the event by comparing it to the spectacle and pageantry of a circus. Usage of the term in this sense became common in the 1970s.[1][2] It can also be called a media feeding frenzy or just media frenzy, especially when the media coverage itself is covered.

History

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Tonya Harding arriving at Portland International Airport after the 1994 Winter Olympics

Although the idea is older, the term media circus began to appear around the mid-1970s. An early example is from the 1976 book by author Lynn Haney, in which she writes about a romance in which the athlete Chris Evert was involved: "Their courtship, after all, had been a 'media circus.'"[3] A few years later The Washington Post had a similar courtship example in which it reported, "Princess Grace herself is still traumatized by the memory of her own media-circus wedding to Prince Rainier in 1956."[4]

Media circuses make up the central plot device in the 1951 movie Ace in the Hole about a self-interested reporter who, covering a mine disaster, allows a man to die trapped underground. It cynically examines the relationship between the media and the news they report. The movie was subsequently re-issued as The Big Carnival, with "carnival" referring to what we now call a "circus". In the film, the disaster attracts campers including a real circus. The movie was based on real-life Floyd Collins who in 1925 was trapped in a Kentucky cave drawing so much media attention that it became the third largest media event between the two World Wars (the other two being Lindbergh's solo flight and the Lindbergh kidnapping).[5]

Examples

This section may contain unverified or indiscriminate information in embedded lists. Please help clean up the lists by removing items or incorporating them into the text of the article. (January 2024)

Events described as a media circus include:

Aruba

Australia

Brazil

Canada

Chile

Colombia

India

Indonesia

Italy

Japan

Malaysia

Peru

Philippines

Romania

South Africa

South Korea

Spain

Thailand

Ukraine

United Kingdom

United States

Cameras and reporters in front of the Strauss-Kahn apartment on May 26, 2011

See also

References

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  3. ^ Lynn Haney (1976). Chris Evert, the Young Champion.
  4. ^ Washington Post B1, June 29, 1978. This is the oldest quote the Oxford English Dictionary has listed, although obviously there are older occurrences.
  5. ^ Brucker, R. and Murray, R. Trapped! the Story of Floyd Collins, University Press of Kentucky, 1983.
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