A media event is an event or activity that exists for the sole purpose of media publicity. It may also include any event that is covered in the mass media or was hosted largely with the media in mind. Media events may center around a news announcement, a corporate anniversary, a press conference in response to a major media event, or planned events like speeches or demonstrations.
The term pseudo-event was coined by the theorist and historian Daniel J. Boorstin in his 1961 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America: “The celebration is held, photographs are taken, the occasion is widely reported”. The term is closely related to idea of hyperreality and thus postmodernism, although Boorstin’s coinage predates by decades the latter two ideas and the related work of postmodern thinkers such as Jean Baudrillard.
In recognizing the differences between a pseudo-event and a spontaneous event, Boorstin states characteristics of a pseudo-event in his book titled "Hidden History." He says that pseudo events are: dramatic, repeatable, costly, intellectually planned, social, cause other pseudo-events, and that one must know about it to be considered "informed".
A number of video artists have explored the concept of a pseudo event in their work. The group Ant Farm especially plays with pseudo events, though not so identified, in their works "Media Burn" (1975) and "The Eternal Frame" (1975).
A news conference is often held when an organization has an announcement and wants members of the press to get the announcement simultaneously. The in-person events may include interviews, questioning, and show-and-tell.
Award ceremonies, red carpet events and celebrity photo opportunities are all considered a type of media event, where the event is orchestrated for the sole purpose of introducing certain narratives into the media.
Sex tapes when created with the intention of being 'leaked' are a form of pseudo event because their only purpose is to generate media attention.
A protest may be planned almost exclusively for the purpose of getting media attention to an issue or cause.
Press releases, such as a planned presentation or speech about company earnings or the President's State of the Union Address is a form of media event.
The driving of the Golden Spike in Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869 has been described as one of the first media events in the United States. Edward Bernays Torches of Freedom stunt in 1929 is an example of an early media event that successfully influenced public opinion. Similarly, Nikita Khruschev visit to the USA in 1959 was highly influential, and has been cited as the first example of media events being utilised in Politics. Most agree that media events began in the middle 19th century, as Morse radio introduced same-day news cycles. The emergence of the internet led to many media stories being published Live from the media event, real-time Twitter coverage, and immediate analysis of televised media events. Douglas Kellner identified the September 11, 2001 attacks as a media event orchestrated by terrorists to use the press to sow fear in the American public.
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. "media event". Houghton Mifflin Company. Retrieved 2006-09-15.
- Boorstin, Daniel Joseph (1961). The image: A guide to pseudo-events in America. New York: Vintage. ISBN 0-679-74180-1.
- Boorstin, D. Hidden History. Harper & Row, 1987. 279-280. Print.
- Andrew Mueller. "Defining Moment: Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to the US becomes the first ‘pseudo-event’, September 1959". Financial Times.
- Douglas Kellner. "Theorizing September 11: Social Theory, History, and Globalization". UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. Retrieved 2006-09-15.
- Bösch, Frank: European Media Events, European History Online, Mainz: Institute of European History, 2010, retrieved: June 13, 2012.
- Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz, Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992).
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- Post Graduate Programme: Transnational Media Events from Early Modern Times to the Present