Media circus

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 they cover the media coverage.

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.


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] The term has become increasingly popular with time since the 1970s.[citation needed] Reasons for being critical of the media are varied; at the core of most criticism is that there may be a significant opportunity cost when other more important news issues get less public attention as a result of coverage of the hyped issue.[citation needed]

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]


Events described as a media circus include:





  • Conrad Black, business magnate of newspapers, convicted of fraud, embezzlement and corporate destruction, imprisoned in Florida (2007)[13]
  • Toronto mayor Rob Ford's life, including his usage of drugs, alcohol and involvement with organized crime (2013)[14][15][16]
  • Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (serial killers) (1987–1990)[17]
  • Omar Khadr (detained as a minor at Guantanamo Bay in 2001, transferred to Canada in 2012, released in May 2015)[18]
  • Luka Rocco Magnotta and the Murder of Jun Lin (2012)










South AfricaEdit

South KoreaEdit



United KingdomEdit

United StatesEdit

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

See alsoEdit


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