Media circus
Media circus is a colloquial metaphor
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

, or idiom
Idiom is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is comprehended in regard to a common use of that expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made...

, describing a news
News is the communication of selected information on current events which is presented by print, broadcast, Internet, or word of mouth to a third party or mass audience.- Etymology :...

 event where the media coverage is perceived to be out of proportion to the event being covered, such as the number of reporters at the scene, the amount of news media published or broadcast, and the level of media hype. The term is meant to critique the media, usually negatively, by comparing it to a circus
A circus is commonly a travelling company of performers that may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists and other stunt-oriented artists...

, and is considered an idiom as opposed to a literal observation. Usage of the term in this sense became common in the 1970's.


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
Chris Evert
Christine Marie "Chris" Evert is a former world number 1 professional tennis player from the United States. She won 18 Grand Slam singles championships, including a record seven championships at the French Open and a record six championships at the U.S. Open. She was the year-ending World No...

 was involved: "Their courtship, after all, had been a media circus.'" A few years later The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

 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." The term has become increasingly popular with time since the 1970s.

Reasons for being critical of the media are as varied as the people who use the term. However, at the core of most criticism is that there may be a significant opportunity cost
Opportunity cost
Opportunity cost is the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the best alternative that is not chosen . It is the sacrifice related to the second best choice available to someone, or group, who has picked among several mutually exclusive choices. The opportunity cost is also the...

 when other more important news issues get less public attention as a result of coverage of the hyped issue.

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 it reports. The movie was subsequently re-issued as The Big Carnival, with "carnival" referring to what we now call a "circus."

United Kingdom

  • The life, death and funeral of Jade Goody
    Jade Goody
    Jade Cerisa Lorraine Goody was an English celebrity. She came into the public spotlight while appearing on the third series of the Channel 4 reality TV programme Big Brother in 2002, an appearance which led to her own television programmes and the launch of her own products after her eviction from...

  • The News International phone hacking scandal. Often shadowed stories on the Libyan/Syrian civil wars, east-African famine, and economic crisis.

United States

  • David Gelman, Peter Greenberg, et al. in Newsweek
    Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

     on January 31, 1977: "Brooklyn born photographer and film producer Lawrence Schiller managed to make himself the sole journalist to witness the execution of Gary Gilmore
    Gary Gilmore
    Gary Mark Gilmore was an American criminal, and murderer, who gained international notoriety for demanding that his own death sentence be fulfilled following two murders he committed in Utah. He became the first person executed in the United States after the U.S...

     in Utah....In the Gilmore affair, he was like a ringmaster in what became a media circus, with sophisticated newsmen scrambling for what he had to offer."
  • The Blizzard of '96
    North American blizzard of 1996
    The Blizzard of 1996 was a severe nor'easter that paralyzed the U.S. East Coast with up to of wind-driven snow from January 6 to January 8, 1996. It was followed by another storm on January 12th, then unusually warm weather and torrential rain which caused rapid melting and river...

     (1996). "...this storm hyped by the media in the same way that the O. J. Simpson murder case
    O. J. Simpson murder case
    The O. J. Simpson murder case was a criminal trial held in Los Angeles County, California Superior Court from January 29 to October 3, 1995. Former American football star and actor O. J...

     became hyped as the "Trial of the century
    Trial of the century
    Trial of the century is an idiomatic phrase used to describe certain well-known court cases, especially of the 20th century. It is often used popularly as a rhetorical device to attach importance to a trial and as such is not an objective observation but is the opinion of whoever uses it. As...

  • The trial of Martha Stewart
    Martha Stewart
    Martha Stewart is an American business magnate, author, magazine publisher, and television personality. As founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she has gained success through a variety of business ventures, encompassing publishing, broadcasting, and merchandising...

     (2004)."The stone-faced Stewart never broke stride as she cut a path through the media circus." The motives of the Federal prosecutor in the case United States v. Stewart, Martha, Eliot Spitzer
    Eliot Spitzer
    Eliot Laurence Spitzer is an American lawyer, former Democratic Party politician, and political commentator. He was the co-host of In the Arena, a talk-show and punditry forum broadcast on CNN until CNN cancelled his show in July of 2011...

    , have subsequently been called into question.
  • The Casey Anthony Murder Trial (2011) "Once again, it was relentless media coverage that in large part fed the fascination with the case," Ford observed.


  • The Beaconsfield Mine collapse
    Beaconsfield mine collapse
    The Beaconsfield Mine collapse occurred on 25 April 2006 in Beaconsfield, Tasmania, Australia. Of the 17 people who were in the mine at the time, 14 escaped immediately following the collapse, one was killed and the remaining two were found alive using a remote-controlled device...

  • 2009 Violence against Indians in Australia controversy
  • 2009 Victorian Bushfires


  • Joran van der Sloot
    Joran van der Sloot
    Joran Andreas Petrus van der Sloot is a Dutch national who lived in Aruba. He has been indicted by a federal grand jury in the United States for wire fraud and extortion related to the whereabouts of Natalee Holloway, who disappeared in Aruba on May 30, 2005, and is charged in Peru with the...

     and the death of Stephany Flores Ramírez

See also

  • 24-hour news cycle
    24-hour news cycle
    The 24-hour news cycle arrived with the advent of television channels dedicated to news, and brought about a much faster pace of news production with increased demand for stories that can be presented as news, as opposed to the day-by-day pace of the news cycle of printed daily newspapers...

  • Broadcast Journalism
    Broadcast journalism
    Broadcast journalism is the field of news and journals which are "broadcast", that is, published by electrical methods, instead of the older methods, such as printed newspapers and posters. Broadcast methods include radio , television , and, especially recently, the Internet generally...

  • Cause célèbre
    Cause célèbre
    A is an issue or incident arousing widespread controversy, outside campaigning and heated public debate. The term is particularly used in connection with celebrated legal cases. It is a French phrase in common English use...

  • CNN effect
    CNN effect
    The CNN effect is a theory in political science and media studies that postulates that the development of the popular 24-hour international television news channel known as Cable News Network, or CNN, had a major impact on the conduct of states' foreign policy in the late Cold War period and that...

  • Deviancy amplification spiral
    Deviancy amplification spiral
    Deviancy amplification spiral is a media hype phenomenon defined by media critics as a cycle of increasing numbers of reports on a category of antisocial behavior or some other "undesirable" event, leading to a moral panic...

  • Feiler Faster Thesis
    Feiler Faster Thesis
    The Feiler Faster Thesis is a thesis, or supported argument, in modern journalism that suggests that the increasing pace of society is matched by journalists' ability to report events and the public's desire for more information.-Origin:The idea is credited to Bruce Feiler and first defined by...

  • It's Not News, It's FARK
    It's Not News, It's FARK
    It's Not News, It's Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass off Crap as News is the first book founder Drew Curtis. It is a critical look at the Mass Media industry and the go-to stories used when there is a lack of hard news to report.-Background:...

  • Journalism
    Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

  • Journalist
    A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

  • Local news
    Local news
    In journalism, local news refers to news coverage of events in a local context which would not normally be of interest to those of other localities, or otherwise be of national or international scope.-Television:...

  • Media event
    Media Event
    A media event, as loosely defined by evolving modern usage, is an occasion or happening, spontaneous or planned, that attracts prominent coverage by mass media organizations, particularly television news and newspapers in both print and Internet editions....

  • Media scrum
    Media scrum
    A media scrum is an impromptu press conference, often held immediately outside an event such as a legislative session or meeting. Scrums play a central role in Canadian politics and also occur in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand....

  • Missing white woman syndrome
    Missing white woman syndrome
    Missing white woman syndrome or missing pretty girl syndrome is a term used by some media and social critics to describe the seemingly disproportionate degree of coverage in television, radio, newspaper and magazine reporting of a misfortune, most often a missing person case, involving a young,...

  • News broadcasting
    News broadcasting
    News broadcasting is the broadcasting of various news events and other information via television, radio or internet in the field of broadcast journalism. The content is usually either produced locally in a radio studio or television studio newsroom, or by a broadcast network...

  • News program
    News program
    A news program, news programme, news show, or newscast is a regularly scheduled radio or television program that reports current events. News is typically reported in a series of individual stories that are presented by one or more anchors...

  • Reporter
  • Sensationalism
    Sensationalism is a type of editorial bias in mass media in which events and topics in news stories and pieces are over-hyped to increase viewership or readership numbers...

  • Television news
  • Television program
    Television program
    A television program , also called television show, is a segment of content which is intended to be broadcast on television. It may be a one-time production or part of a periodically recurring series...

  • Trial by media
    Trial by media
    Trial by media is a phrase popular in the late 20th century and early 21st century to describe the impact of television and newspaper coverage on a person's reputation by creating a widespread perception of guilt or innocence before, or after, a verdict in a court of law.In the United Kingdom there...

  • Yellow journalism
    Yellow journalism
    Yellow journalism or the yellow press is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism...

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