Media circus

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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 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 the spectacle and pageantry of a circus, and is considered an idiom as opposed to a literal observation. Usage of the term in this sense became common in the 1970s.[1][2]

History

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.

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

Events described as a media circus include:

Aruba

Australia

Brazil

Canada

  • Conrad Black, business magnate of newspapers, convicted of fraud, embezzlement and corporate destruction, imprisoned in Florida.
  • Toronto mayor Rob Ford's life, including his usage of drugs, alcohol and involvement with organized crime (2013).[12][13][14]
  • Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (serial killers)
  • Omar Khadr (Afghan war criminal, detained at Guantanamo Bay for killing American soldier, transferred to Canada, released on May 7, 2015 on the "promise of good behavior".)
  • Murder of Victoria Stafford, (8-year-old girl murdered for unclear reasons by a couple who have unclear relations to each other and the victim.)
  • Jian Ghomeshi, (CBC employee alleged to have committed more than a dozen sex assaults over more than a decade.)
  • Luka Rocco Magnotta, gay porn actor convicted of killing Chinese roommate and mailing remains to the Prime Minister and an elementary school in British Columbia.
  • Elijah Marsh, a 3-year-old Toronto boy of black descent who wandered outside in February 2015 in just a diaper, shirt and boots and froze to death.

Chile

Italy

Malaysia

Peru

Romania

South Africa

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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  2. Miller, Gene (1976-12-08). "Only in America - the Gary Gilmore Circus has everything but dancing bears". The Evening Independent. There is most appallingly, an only-in-America spectacle wherein a quest for justice becomes an extravaganza for the fast buck. Come, come, come to the circus.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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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  8. Radio | ABC Radio Australia
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