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Call me a heretic, but 'media' isn't always plural

I
n editing copy for The Washington Post, I follow the "rule" that "media" is always plural, but I don't agree with it. (In other words, because I don't have the luxury of footnoting the copy I edit, I follow the convention to avoid incurring the wrath of educated readers, who no doubt overwhelmingly subscribe to this myth. I feel the same way about the "hopefully" taboo.)

Here's why the "rule" is wrong:

"Media" as a plural means "more than one medium." Fine. If you're using the word as a plural, make it plural.

But that's not usually the way it's used nowadays. It's used as a synonym for "press," as a collective noun meaning "the representatives of each medium." Still a plural, you say? Well, yes, it's a plural of "media representatives" or "media outlets," but it's not a plural of "medium." Each individual unit of "the media" is a reporter or photographer or newspaper or magazine; the units are not "TV," "radio" and "print."

If you really think it's a legitimate plural, try substituting "mediums" and see if any contemporary uses of the term make any sense: "The mediums are biased"? Uh-uh. People who say "The media is biased" mean there's an inherent bias in reporters and TV anchors. They don't mean there's an inherent bias in TV cameras, radio microphones and printing presses.


Now what?

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