When my students refer in passing to “the media,” I know what they mean, but I ask them to be more specific, noting that handwritten notes, carvings on stone tablets, and papier mâché are all examples of “media.” So I agree with this WashPo observation that the term is so general it is meaningless. Not too long ago “the press” was a perfectly well-understood nickname for print journalists. When working as a radio reporter I was trained to avoid terms like “press conference” or “press release,” and instead say “media conference” or “media release,” on the grounds that our operation didn’t use a printing press. So, in my reckless youth it seems I played a small role in generalizing the term “the press” and replacing it, in the public’s mind, with “the media.” Terms like “news media” or “tv journalism” or “broadcast news” or “mainstream media” or “digital journalism” or “magazine reporters” are more specific, but even so they still cover a lot of ground.
Those who work in the media don’t gather in our huddle rooms each morning and light up the teleconference lines with plots to nettle and unsettle you. There is no media in the sense of a conspiracy to tilt perception. | Instead, we are tens of thousands of people making millions of individual decisions about how we perceive the world and how to characterize it. We all don’t agree on how to frame a candidate, an issue or last night’s ballgame. | So even if something on Fox News alarmed or infuriated you, Fox isn’t “the media.” Nor is NBC or MSNBC. Nor The Washington Post, the New York Post, the Denver Post or the Saturday Evening Post. | Lumping these disparate entities under the same single bland label is like describing the denizens of the ocean as “the fish.” It’s true, but effectively meaningless. —Washington Post