What is the plural of media?
Media began its linguistic life as the Latin plural of medium. The latter entered English in the late 16th century and developed as a countable noun with a range of meanings. So what then, is the plural of media? Just as happens with many other Latin words which are now established in English (such as aquarium and optimum), it turns out that the accepted plurals are both media and mediums.
Some grammatical traditionalists believe that media (like data) should therefore be treated as a plural noun in all its senses in English and be used with a plural rather than a singular verb:
It’s difficult to adapt plays to the cinematic format – the two media are very different.
Painting and other static visual media have limited narrative possibilities.
The media do play a role in fuelling panics.
The meaning represented by the last sentence above, ‘a channel of mass communication, such as newspapers, radio, and television; the people working for such organizations’, is first recorded in the OED in 1911. This developed in the 1920s into a collective noun, meaning ‘television, radio, and the press considered as a whole’. Collective nouns, like family or government for example, can be treated as singular or plural, as I’ve explained elsewhere. It therefore follows that it’s widely acceptable in standard English for media (in this sense) to take either a singular or a plural verb:
✓ The media is to blame for this controversy.
✓ The media are to blame for this controversy.
A further point you may wish to consider is that, as with other collective nouns, sometimes it’s more natural or idiomatic to opt for a singular verb, depending on the emphasis you want to convey. If you’re referring to mass communications as an industry or sphere of activity, it may sound more natural to use a singular verb:
The media is to blame for this controversy.
Whereas if you’re talking about the people who work as journalists and reporters, it’s often more suitable to use a plural verb:
The media were camped out on her doorstep all night.
A note of caution: some authorities and style guides are adamant that media should only ever take a plural verb, so always check the policy of your organization.
A related confusing question is the plural of data.