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.
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.