Is Twitter an editorial media?

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Ten days ago, Éric Freyssinet raised that question, which matters because Twitter might lose its immunity to libel suits under U.S. law if the company were acting as a publisher rather than as an "information service provider":

(Here's an image of the tweet, in case Twitter is down…)

But this is Language Log, not Defamation Law Log, so the topic here is the singular phrase "an editorial media". And as usual, the point is not to complain but to inquire.

Obviously the phrase was unexpected enough to make me notice it. Merriam-Webster says:

The singular media and its plural medias seem to have originated in the field of advertising over 70 years ago; they are still so used without stigma in that specialized field. In most other applications media is used as a plural of medium. The popularity of the word in references to the agencies of mass communication is leading to the formation of a mass noun, construed as a singular.

there's no basis for it. You know, the news media gets on to something
—Edwin Meese 3d
the media is less interested in the party's policies
—James Lewis, Guardian Weekly

This use is not as well established as the mass-noun use of data and is likely to incur criticism especially in writing.

But what triggered my novelty response was that  Freyssinet used media as a count noun, not a mass noun.

The OED notes the count-noun version, glossing media as "The main means of mass communication, esp. newspapers, radio, and television, and (from the later 20th century) content accessed via the internet, regarded collectively; the reporters, journalists, etc., working for organizations engaged in such communication. Also, as a count noun: a particular means of mass communication." Relevant citations include:

1927 Amer. Speech 3 26 One of the best advertising medias in the middle west.
1973 ‘R. Macdonald’ Sleeping Beauty i. 9 ‘You from a media?’ ‘No, I'm just a citizen.’

That's all I have time for this morning — but I'm curious about how widely the count-noun version has spread. And a general point to be pursued at greater length is the nature of morphological sub-cultures.

Some relevant past LLOG posts:

"Pseudo-Latin Plurals", 4/23/2004
"Octopussies", 4/24/2004
"More pseudo-Latin plurals", 4/25/2004
"What's the plurals of syllabus?", 10/4/2010
"Data", 8/10/2015
"Strictly correct plurals of flower names", 9/21/2016



  1. John Baker said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 7:37 am

    For what it’s worth, ”an editorial media” is an eccentric use by this particular writer and not a normal legal usage. A Westlaw search found not a single example of “an editorial media,” other than in phrases such as “an editorial media presence.”

  2. Bob Ladd said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 10:17 am

    Part of the problem is that medium as a singular count noun is at least partly pre-empted by the existence of the meaning "person who allegedly communicates with spirits". Given that many speakers of English are probably unaware that media is historically plural and wouldn't normally come up with a Latinate singular form anyway (cf. a bacteria, an alumni, etc.), anyone who might be tempted to produce something like an editorial medium would probably decide it sounds weird and use singular media instead.

  3. SS said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 10:36 am

    I think what may be happening is that the author was referring to Twitter as "an editorial media platform" and just omitted the first usage of that word so as not to be redundant, i.e. "would actually make #twitter an editorial media [platform], and no longer a social media platform".

  4. SS said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 10:39 am

    ^to add to my earlier comment, I think the author also misplaced the comma so it should read (without the implied first "platform"): "would make #twitter an editorial media, and no longer a social media[,] platform"

  5. Mark Liberman said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 11:51 am

    @SS: Good point — you might be right.

    However, the example led me to find lots of count-noun media examples, e.g. NetBackup status code 406: "A server that is not a member of the server group that owns the media performed an operation on a media".

  6. Coby said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 12:00 pm

    Guessing that Éric Freyssinet is French (or francophone, anyway), I'd like to point out that singular média is standard French.

  7. Coby said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 12:14 pm

    I'd like to add that a francophone, even one versed in Latin, would be very unlikely to think of média as the plural of médium. Besides, the word for 'medium' in the usual English sense (not to do with spiritism) is moyen, as in moyens de communication.

  8. Jerry Packard said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 1:05 pm

    We have McLuhan’s ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man’ and the iconic ‘The medium is the message’, but ‘The media is the message’ would never fly, so an interesting question would be whether McLuhan intended the ‘media’ in ‘Understanding Media’ to refer to the OED first or second definition.

  9. Cervantes said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 2:31 pm

    Of course people do this all the time with Latin plurals. People say "a symposia, "a strata," and so on. They've heard the plural more often and don't have access to the singular. These, obviously, are not excusable as mass nouns.

  10. Jon W said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 2:43 pm

    This is Language Log, not Defamation Law Log, but I feel compelled to point out that Freysinnet's apparent view that Twitter's removing his tweets would change its status to that of an "editorial media" or "publisher" or something like that, and thus forfeit its section 230 immunity from defamation, is blatantly and mind-achingly wrong. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming . . .

  11. Thomas Rees said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 3:21 pm

    Éric Freyssinet is indeed French, and in fact a French policeman (gendarme), so presumably he’s not talking about US law, which does not – yet – apply universally.

  12. Bloix said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 4:13 pm

    Jon W – the owner of twitter aggressively expresses his own political opinions, retweets (and thus greatly amplifies) opinions that agree with him, and suppresses the opinions of those he disagrees with. Doesn't seem "mind-achingly wrong" to me.
    PS- never heard the expression mind-achingly before. Mind-numbingly (meaning boring), yes, but mind-achingly?

  13. Jon W said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 4:21 pm

    Thomas Rees — Indeed. I was confused by ML's opening sentence, which referenced U.S. law.

  14. Jon W said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 4:30 pm

    Bloix – I agree with your comments about the owner of Twitter, but Freyssinet was making a statement about the law — indeed, clicking through to the Twitter thread reveals that he understood himself to be making a statement about U.S. law. The statement about U.S. law is wrong.

    Mind-achingly appears not to be a common phrase, but it captured how I felt.

  15. Rick Rubenstein said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 4:47 pm

    Inconclusive; we need more datums.

  16. Paul Garrett said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 9:00 pm


  17. Steve Morrison said,

    December 29, 2022 @ 9:12 pm

    Not directly relevant, but people often alter the Latin phrase in medias res to in media res.

  18. F said,

    December 30, 2022 @ 5:46 am

    Even less directly relevant: I had a colleague who insisted that the plural of "status" is "stati".

  19. Cervantes said,

    December 30, 2022 @ 8:29 am

    What's the plural of doofus? Doofi?

  20. Chester Draws said,

    December 31, 2022 @ 12:12 am

    no longer a social media platform

    It's the "no longer" that intrigues me.

    Twitter has released many examples of legal tweets being deleted before Musk too over. Why is it now different?

    It's never been illegal to make incorrect medical statements, but during Covid many were suppressed. You might well argue that they should have. But deleted they were.

  21. John Swindle said,

    December 31, 2022 @ 5:19 am

    I'll have two media and a large, please.

  22. Viseguy said,

    January 1, 2023 @ 2:22 am

    The datumescence in this thread bodes well for the New Year, I'd say. But I feel compelled to put in a plug for criterions as the plural of, well, you know.

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