Sunday, November 13, 2011

Common Sense and the Medias

On a recent Common Sense podcast ("Second-Guessing the Navigator"), Dan Carlin, somewhat in response to a piece by David Brooks in the New York Times about "red [state] inequality" (and the tacit goal of addressing societal problems), discussed how part of the problem we face is that those who are donating to the politicians and implicitly setting the agenda do not have an interest in, for example, improving education in America (especially when it allows for the excuse of outsourcing jobs under the guise that Americans are not educated enough). If the government is to solve these problems (and if not the government, then who?), who is setting the agenda to get the solved?

This is not going where you think it is, but before we get there, briefly I will note some other things he discussed in his monologue:

There's also the struggle between democracy (the will or the majority) and liberty (the freedom of the individual). The government needs to protect the minority from the majority, but what about when the minority is the mega-wealthy?

The 99% want the 1% to pay their fair share, but if the 99% could vote to make the 1% pay 99% of their income in taxes, would that be fair? Is the "tyranny of the majority" what keeps the powerful from getting and staying too powerful?

As he puts it, is it safer for everyone that power be in the hands of the 1% or in the hands of the 99%? Carlin isn't comfortable with either, but he is ready for there to be a change from the system we've had.

It's certainly a worthwhile listen, whether you agree with him or not.

But with all of that in the monologue, it wasn't as inspiring for me as the beginning of the podcast, before Carlin even started talking.


The show starts with an short introduction by the "announcer," not unlike one would have on radio (Carlin's background is in traditional media). [Listen to it here, and keep listening to the rest if you have time.]

In that introduction he used the phrase "If podcasting is like the other great medias…"—yes, with a clear "s" at the end of "media."

And I paused.

It's not that I fail to grasp that the common usage of "media" in contemporary parlance is as a collective singular noun ("people in the media," etc.), in this instance it clearly seemed to be reference other broadcast or print formats (presumably newspapers, radio, television, and so on), each of which is a medium and collectively would be the conventional plural of medium: media.

And yet there it was, in a clearly pre-recorded segment (with implicit intention): medias.

Taking an already plural word that seemed to be referring to the plural of different mediums rather than the collective singular and tacking an "s" on the end of it, presumably to make it extra plural. Except I don't think that was what was intended. I think it was first a conflation of collective "the media" for a bunch of mediums, and then thinking that somehow a term that encompasses everything (misused as it was) could be made plural.

It's not worth dwelling on the rhetorical aspects of it (as we've noted on many occasions), but there was something about this coming from a clearly intelligent person (whose show is ultimately about stopping and thinking about the issues we face) that did make me (as I mentioned) pause.

Perhaps it's an attempt at coining a new term (or rather, a new usage of an existing term), but I must say my common sense cannot listen to that and conclude there is no need for it, and it simply sounds awkward to my ear. It's his podcast and he can do as he wishes (and maybe this is part and parcel of being how he refers to himself, a "free thinker"), but I must say my free thinking (which admittedly is very influenced by convention in this case) doesn't think it something that should catch on.

I'm not so petty as to stop listening merely for that, of course, and all this really reveals more about me than it does about anything else, but I guess it does go to show that sometimes one undermines oneself (whether a bit or a lot) in tiny ways by tiny decisions (or oversights, depending on whether they were actually decisions or accidents).

Still, as one who listens to a number of podcasts (part of the "new media") partially because of the way it is not like traditional talk radio, I will admit that I listen in spite of that "announcer" at the beginning of each Common Sense. This one merely provided an active distraction for me, as this post is evidence of the way all of this kept me from listening for 20 minutes as I digressed about the terminology in the intro. Seriously.

Be happy you do not have my brain.


It is worth noting that at the tail end of the introduction the announcer, after comparing Carlin to Milton Berle and Orson Wells with a joke about how the current state of podcasting is akin to being a street performer trying to make a living off donations, quips that "new media is great."

So there is at least that modicum of consistency in the intro, with "media" as a singular term.

1 comment:

  1. Ugh, "medias" would bother me too. It's like having a misspelling on a resume. I wouldn't hire a person who had misspellings on their resume, not in our industry. Attention to detail is paramount.

    And I didn't know anyone actually reads David Brooks. Or the New York Times. Must be that 1 percent people are talking about. Although if the 1 percent are supposed to be rich, most rich people read The Wall Street Journal - only the chattering classes who consider themselves "intelligentsia" read the Times.


So, what do you think?