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OCHIENG: Forget the talk, the media are always a unit

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By PHILIP OCHIENG
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Many Latin nouns borrowed by English end with an UM and are pluralised by replacing the UM with an A.

Thus media is the plural form of the word medium. The Nation newspaper and the Voice of Kenya Radio are two media.

Yet in East Africa’s newspapers and other information media, the plural word media is frequently followed by singular verbs.

The media is “is a claim frequent in our newspapers, especially from the mouths of our politicians. Encouraged by lackadaisical sub-editing, our reporters, feature writers and columnists worsen the situation by allowing the word media and other such plural Euro-Mediterranean nouns to take singular verbs. It is thus that the illiterate locution “the media is…” occurs so frequently in East Africa’s English language information systems.

Such a locution originates, especially, from the torrential mouths of politicians and priests, those who speak as if they have never even heard of the word “comma”.

Yet, no, the word media is plural and, therefore, cannot be followed by the verb “IS” or any other singular verb. Clearly, the correct locution is: “The media are…”, not “ … The media is…”

THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE

Why? Because media is merely the plural form of the singular Latin noun medium.

Thus, if “the medium is the message”, as one noted Western social commentator has alleged, then we are in deep trouble because, through such a locution, the message must be crooked and unhelpful to any society of human beings.

Yet, quite surely, the medium is essential to the message because, in an increasingly small world, no message can travel without a medium.

Moreover, contrary to what many Western classrooms allege, the medium is not the message. As the term implies, a medium is only a means by which the real message travels.

That is why a country’s information systems must claim the fullest freedom for themselves.

For, the media are the pathways by which human individuals can pass on essential knowledge and skills to one another to help their society to better its collective future rapidly.

Nevertheless, although primitive human societies never possessed any media comparable to today’s, such specific message systems as they deployed — like drums and horns — served them adequately.

Being social, human beings desperately depend on messages and information from and to one another.

Every member with any knowledge or skill or special experience dutifully passed it on to the collective because the sharing of such intra-specific information and skills is among the essential definitions of humanity.

Such sharing of environmental knowledge and technical skills is clearly what increases a society’s powers over its environmental challenges.

The greater the number of members with such knowledge and skills, the more efficient the society becomes.

I stress it because that should be the content and importance of our own country’s whole information training and education system.

Real knowledge — not the hollow propaganda of the party leader — should be the chief task of any of our country’s education and information instruments.



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