Gotcha Journalism

A September post on the New York Times' small business blog ran with this title:

Eagle-eyed readers, however, noticed that the URL said, "Social Media Is Easier Than You Think."

Which is correct? "Social media are...," or Social media is...?"

There are two linguistic schools of thought on such matters. One would say that the correct form would be "Social media are...," because media is the Latin-derived plural for medium. Plural words, of course, take "are."

The other side prefers to accept language as it's actually used and believes native speakers are the ultimate authority on what's correct. Since "Social media is..." sounds more natural to many people's ears, it's fine, even preferable. People often speak of media as a singular entity (like government), Latin origins be damned.

Here at The Awkward Adverb, we're not going to come firmly down on one side or the other. We will, however, fault The New York Times for inconsistency. Whatever version its editors deem correct, the publication should stick with it.

This error may be minor in the grand scheme of things, but it's always fun to say "Gotcha" to an august institution like The New York Times.