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What is a Media Circus?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2016
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Major news events never happen in a vacuum, which means when a story of national or international interests breaks, a real courthouse, hospital, press room or small town may soon be inundated with hundreds of members of the media. Television crews will set up satellite hook-ups for live broadcasts, print reporters will jockey for position at news conferences and photojournalists will compete for the best shots. In short, the media coverage a major news event such as a celebrity's day in court or a politician's resignation will become a story in itself, often called a media frenzy or media circus.

A media circus does not contain a single elephant act or a ringmaster, but it does have all the frenzied energy of a real circus. Major news organizations such as CBS or CNN may assign seasoned professionals with state-of-the-art remote broadcasting facilities to cover a breaking story, but these journalists often find themselves surrounded by hundreds of others who are all interested in the same news event. The result can be a chaotic scene filled with dozens of satellite trucks, mobile editing bays, stationary cameras, microphones and police barricades. When local, national and international media outlets converge on one small area, the result is often a media circus.

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When an event such as a celebrity's court trial begins, the media hype may be largely maintained by freelance journalists or low-level photographers known as paparazzi. Once the trial reaches a certain level of public interest, however, competing news organizations may send out reporters to obtain exclusive interviews or be the first to report on new developments. It is this drive for exclusivity and original content which can turn a routine news event into a media circus. Media coverage of the 1995 OJ Simpson murder trial would be an example of a media circus, since hundreds of reporters and photographers literally camped out for weeks to get exclusive shots of witnesses entering and leaving the courthouse.

It is not unusual for a media circus to become a temporary part of the local landscape. Media professionals often stay in local hotels or other lodging, eat in local restaurants, interview local residents for side reports and otherwise ingratiate themselves into the local society. A media circus can vacillate between the frenzied energy of a breaking story and the significantly less dramatic downtime between press conferences and major interviews. When the story is over, however, the phenomenon known as a media circus generally leaves with it.

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SarahGen
Post 4

Any significant news about a well known politician, businessman or celebrity naturally becomes the center of attention for media, at least for a while. But sometimes, it really does go out of hand. The thing with media and publicity is that it feeds on popularity. So when regular people are interested on an issue, media really goes after that because they want the high ratings and viewers. But it soon turns into a frenzy and more important news pieces may be ignored in the process.

Celebrity trials seem to be a popular for media circuses and it's nothing new either. From Oscar Wilde's case in 1895 to George Zimmerman's case in 2013, many became media circuses.

discographer
Post 3

@ddljohn-- Oh no, the O.J. Simpson case was definitely a media circus. It's probably one of the best examples. Media coverage of that case was ridiculous. It was definitely exaggerated. I was young at that time but I remember people talking about for weeks on end. It was everywhere -- TV, newspapers, magazines, radio. It was impossible to read a paper without some update on the case. Most papers ran the story longer than they ran stories on international disasters.

I also remember that the court case was telecast live from the courtroom. So I think the judges kind of fueled this on too. If they had restricted media presence, it wouldn't have become such a circus.

ddljohn
Post 2

But isn't a media circus when the presence of media is out of proportion when compared to the event? It's like an exaggeration right? So was the O.J. Simpson case really a media circus? He was a well known person, so wasn't it normal that the media was so interested in that case?

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