Josh Larson

Media: Singular or Plural?

This might sound weird, but I’ve been thinking about something on a near-daily basis: the use of the word “media.”

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This might sound weird, but I’ve been thinking about something on a near-daily basis: the use of the word “media.”

In a dictionary, you’ll find that “media” is a plural form of the noun “medium.” Standard use of the word “media” would require a matching plural verb. As the Merriam-Webster online dictionary states that the word is the plural form of “medium.”

But why do you hear people saying, “The media is ruining this country,” or, “The media is reporting a shooting”? I’ve noticed this a number of times. The Iowa State Daily recently published a special article called “The Top Ten News Stories that Changed Our Lives.” They referred to the media as a singular term multiple times. Author Dan Brown refers to media as a singular term in both The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons. I always get the temptation to refer to the news media as a singular unit – the media. So what is right?

Patricia T. O’Conner (who began at the Des Moines Register) and Stewart Kellerman met as editors at the New York Times and keep a blog about grammar. They discuss how “plurals with Latinate endings take a beating in English, and tend to become Anglicized over time.” Apparently the words “data“, “agenda,” “opera,” and “insignia” are the same way! O’Conner and Kellerman predict that the word will eventually evolve and become a singular term, like “data.”

My verdict: Stick to the plural form for academic, professional, and preferably journalistic writing. Although the word will be fine to use as a singular term in speech, I think it’s best to play it safe for the time being and use the word as a plural term. Until someone proves me wrong, that’s what I’ll be doing!