OnWords: Media

Nov 15, 2016

We tend to use the word “media” somewhat ungrammatically.

It is plural, but we generally reference “the media” as if it’s a single entity and not various different ways of conveying information.

This is curious, since the last few decades have seen a proliferation of new media, each medium failing to completely supplant the last.

Perhaps we lump all media together because the messages we receive from our various sources are largely the same.

Cell phone videos of the latest scary car crash or cute kitten get fired from laptop to tablet, tweeted and texted. Then then end up, inexplicably, on the evening news, even though such things are not really newsworthy, and by five o’clock, not even new.

News sources are the main target of critics of “the media.” These critics use the term to define the sources they abhor by saying “the mainstream media.” Or, they harden it into an insult, like “the lamestream media,” “corporate media,” “the liberal media,” and so on.

Media defenders say the haters are just targeting outlets that don’t support their point of view.

It may go deeper than that, though. “The media” about which we love to complain don’t support any point of view but drift along on whatever is trending, ignoring the real problems real people have.

If so, maybe our ungrammatical lumping of “the media” into the singular expresses deep disappointment in those we trust to speak truth to power.

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