Megan Taylor

web developer, hack-n-slasher, freelancer, information junkie, journalist, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

We Are the Media, This Is the Media

I read BuzzMachine, a blog by Jeff Jarvis, on a regular basis, and yesterday I also happened to listen to On the Media.

Jarvis was interviewed for On the Media regarding his decision that the word media, so long the bane of grammar students, is not plural but singular.

The folks at On the Media are sticking with tradition.

It occurred to me today that there are so many angles to the word media, it might as well be both. I have a background in linguistics, so I might approach this a little differently.

Let’s start with the definition of media:

1. a plural of medium

2. (usually used with a plural verb) the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, and magazines, that reach or influence people widely

3. pertaining to or concerned with such means

OK, so if media are tools, and the tools are becoming a Leatherman Charge TTi (19 tools in one!), then it becomes singular.

We also use the word media to refer to the people holding the tools collectively: CNN, The New York Times, NPR. Singular or plural?

Jarvis would say it’s still singular. But I don’t think the lines have been erased that far yet, if they ever are. Even though everyone can participate online, not everyone does to the same degree. There are still the giants.

Companies now producing across various platforms. Across media. Plural.

Jarvis argues:

Today, still photographers shoot video with a still camera. Print reporters take pictures and make slide shows and shoot video. TV people write text. Magazine people make podcasts.

Yea, but those are still separate media. He gets closer when trying to qualify Twitter:

What is Twitter? A medium? A conversation? Both? Yes. So how does one
separate one medium from another? It’s impossible, I came to see.

So there are some platforms that are an indistinguishable mixture of media. Singular.

But you can still have each medium on it’s own. And sometimes they’re more powerful that way, depending on the subject. Plural.

Now I’m confusing myself.

I think it can be used both ways. And we’ll just have to figure out from context the intended meaning.

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4 Comments

  1. I listened to that OTM podcast over the weekend and thought it was the biggest piece of navel-gazing I’ve heard in a long time. Who cares? And who cares what Jarvis thinks about it?

  2. I listened to that OTM podcast over the weekend and thought it was the biggest piece of navel-gazing I’ve heard in a long time. Who cares? And who cares what Jarvis thinks about it?

  3. That’s why I wanted to look at it from a linguistic standpoint. No one cares, it’s not important. But I used to love doing tree diagrams. Now I like playing with descriptive grammar.

  4. That’s why I wanted to look at it from a linguistic standpoint. No one cares, it’s not important. But I used to love doing tree diagrams. Now I like playing with descriptive grammar.

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